Great blog entry from James Macdonald about how to read the Scripture to benefit.
Read it. I suggest taking at least 15 minutes to go through two or three chapters at a time.
Because you’re just starting out, I’ll suggest some questions, and over time you can develop your own.
- “What portion of my reading stands out to me?” You’ll read two or three chapters, and you’ll feel drawn to a certain part. Go back to that part and ask the following questions.
- “Why does this part have my attention?” What is it about this that has caught my attention? To help you answer that question, use the remaining questions.
- “Is there an example for me to follow?” I can’t tell you how many times God’s Word has impacted my life just from saying these simple words: “Is there an example for me to follow?” All of a sudden it’s like—BOOM! It jumps right off the page: “James, you should be more like that!” I love it when God’s Word speaks to me in this way and calls me to be more of what the Lord requires.
- “Is there an error for me to avoid?” It’s very comforting to know that if I have unknowingly stepped in a wrong direction or made an unwise decision, God’s Word can reveal that to me. It’s easy to see the mistakes others make, but much harder to see our own mistakes. This is where the Word of God becomes that “mirror” we talked about earlier. Is there an error for me to avoid?
- “Is there a duty for me to perform?” Is there an action that God’s Word is calling me to take? Is there some matter of importance that I am neglecting in my home or office or in my personal life? If so, I want to know what it is so I can work on it. God’s Word will often reveal a duty we need to perform.
- “Is there any promise for me to claim?” So often God’s Word brings strength and encouragement. As you study the Bible, you will hear the Lord committing Himself to certain things or to act in certain ways. As you come to those promises, you might just acknowledge, “Yes, God! You are like this, and You’ve promised to be this way for all my life, and I trust You.” Your heart will be thrilled as you learn and review the promises of God.
- “Is there a sin for me to confess?” This I suppose is obvious in some respects. You won’t read the Bible long until you come across passages that reveal to you the “error of your ways.” But one of the promises that helps with that is 1 John 1:9, which says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
This is absolutely essential if you are going to benefit from the Bible as much as you could for the rest of your life. Make a plan of action regarding how you will implement what you are learning. Have a journal open beside your Bible and write some notes. Write some thoughts in the margin of your Bible. When the Word convicts you about anger or deceit or selfishness, have a strategy to deal with those sins. Make your plan specific and measurable.
So often people are unsure of what to say in personal prayer. When you are praying back the truths of God’s own Word, you can be confident you are praying as God would have you do. You can also be confident that God will respond to what you are asking if the direction truly comes from His Word.
When you’ve learned something from God’s Word, you have to share it with somebody else. Take time to relay something about your study to your spouse or your roommate or to a friend at school.