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Learning the Bible

10. How to Read the Bible

The Bible is God's Love-Letter to Me

The Instruction Book

God's direct will and instruction for me is in His Word; the Bible.

As a plane in flight needs a chart and instruction from the tower, so I need to know God's Word for instruction and direction for my life.

Romans 15:4 "For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope."
To keep my direction clear and stay on the Christian course I must know God's Word.

Psalm 119:15 "I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways.."

Psalms 119:105 “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”

The Bible is the light for my way.

Psalms 119:11"Thy word have I hid in mine heart that I might not sin against thee."

God has given His Word in a supernatural way.

2 Timothy 3:16 " All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:"
· Doctrine shows me the path to follow.

· Reproof shows me when I am off the path.

· Correction shows me how to get back on the path.

· Instruction in righteousness shows me how to stay on the path.

2 Peter 1:21"For the prophecy (Word) came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost."

Bible Reading Provides Food For My New Spiritual Nature.

As a newborn spiritual babe I should...
 

1 Peter 2:2 "… Desire the sincere milk of the Word…"

I need to feed my spiritual nature and partake of God's Word as much as possible in order to grow.

Matthew 4:4"Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God."
Jeremiah 15:16"Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and Thy Word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart;..."

2 Timothy 2:15 "Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."

I will study the Bible so God will approve of my work because I truly understand His will in my life.

Bible Reading Provides My Strength.

Reading and knowing the scriptures is the key to overcoming sin and living a victorious Christian life.

Ephesians 6:17 admonishes me to "Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God."
The Bible is my most effective tool to use in my Christian walk and warfare against the devil; It is my only offensive weapon.
 

Hebrews 4:12 " For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."

Biblical Interpretation

Proper understanding of the Bible requires three basic tools;

· understanding of biblical context,

· understanding of historical context, and

· understanding of original languages.

In order to understand scripture I must always take the context of scripture into account. What was the author saying in the whole chapter, the whole book? Who was he talking to? Why?

There once was a man who wanted to know God’s will in his life. He randomly opened his Bible. It fell to the scripture where Judas killed himself. Wondering what this meant for him, he randomly opened his Bible again. This time it fell open to Luke 10:37 “...Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.” Was this God telling him to kill himself? Of course not. I must take scripture in its context. I cannot take a verse here and a verse there and put them together to form a belief. This is mis-handling of the Word of God.

God tells some people to do things He doesn’t want everyone to do. For example, all believers are not to go preach to Nineveh as Jonah was told to do. Nor build a large boat and gather a bunch of animals onto it. Nor lay in the middle of the city, naked, eating nothing but bread and not talking for an entire year like Ezekiel was told to do. I must pay attention to who each scripture was written to and why. The moral lessons taught in every scripture can be applied to my life, but the fact of the scripture applies to who it was written to. This becomes clearer every time I read through the scriptures.

The second rule of biblical interpretation requires I see what was happening in history. For example, when God told Jonah to go to Nineveh (the capital of the Assyrian empire), it was because the Ninavites were very cruel conquerors of the entire region. They would cut the heads off of the leaders of each city-state they conquered and often torture the inhabitants. God was fed up. He sent Jonah to warn them to change their ways- or else. Of course I know that it worked; they repented and God spared the city. Well, for a while anyway. History tells me that the city relapsed into its old ways and was destroyed for its cruelty a generation or so later.

I must understand the history surrounding an event to truly understand what the Bible is telling me. Again, this becomes clearer as I become more familiar with the Word. After I have become more familiar, a good history book or study guide can help me learn the history of the time. There are even some Bibles that are combined with history books so I can have both at once.

The third tool I need to really understand the Bible is a knowledge of original languages. This is not so hard as it used to be. Any Internet-connected computer has access to a Strong’s Concordance (and they are available in book-form from any book seller for as little as $10.00). This is a list of each word in the Bible and its location AND its definition in the original language. I simply look up the words in a verse and see what the original author meant.

Instructions for reading the Bible

I will read the Bible regularly (daily) for:

· Spiritual food and strength.

· Learning more of God and His plan for mankind.

· Pleasure and blessing I receive in my newfound life in Christ.

· Discovering God's promises and deeper truths.



I will read it slowly with a prayerful attitude and open mind.

I will read it where I can concentrate.

I will enjoy what I do understand and leave portions I do not understand until I am more fully acquainted with the Bible and more spiritually mature. I will understand more every time I read it.


I will…

· Read the New Testament through first; then, read some out of both Testaments, a chapter or two out of each every day.

· Read it from cover to cover get the general overall view of God's Word.

· Read the life of Jesus Christ (the four gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John).

· Read about the Early Church (Acts, the two epistles of Peter, the three epistles of John). 

Or…

· Find out the areas I wish to pursue more deeply and use the concordance to help me find relevant scriptures.

I will take the Bible at face value, believe it means what it says, and is not written in riddles or codes. God's purpose for giving me the Bible was to help me understand Him, not to confuse or mystify me.

I will memorize at least one verse every week; starting with my favorites. There is often a list of good verses to memorize in the back of the Bible, plus the Internet has many such lists (Search for “Bible memory verse list”). A box or set of cards called "Precious Promises" or “Daily Bread" is available for purchase at almost any Bible bookstore and may be helpful. Or I can buy Betty Tracy’s book “Thy Word Have I Hidden,” which has at least one memory verse from each book of the Bible (available at http://TheBettysBooks.com)
 

"Forever, O Lord, Thy Word is settled in heaven." Psalm 119:89

"The grass withereth, the flower fadeth; but the Word of our God shall stand forever." Isaiah 40:8

Scriptures to read

· When in sorrow, I’ll read John 14.

· When men fail me, I’ll read Psalm 27.

· When I have sinned, I’ll read Psalm 51.

· When I worry, I’ll read Matthew 6:19-34.

· When I am in danger, I’ll read Psalm 91.

· When I have the blues, I’ll read Psalm 34.

· When God seems far away, I’ll read Psalm 139.

· When I am discouraged, I’ll read Isaiah 40.

· If I want to be fruitful, I’ll read John 15.

· When doubts come upon me, I’ll read John 7:17.

· When I am lonely or fearful, I’ll read Psalm 23.

· When I forget my blessings, I’ll read Psalm 103.

· For Jesus' idea of a Christian, I’ll read Matthew 5.

· For James' idea of religion, I’ll read James 1:19-27.

· When my faith needs stirring, I’ll read Hebrews 11.

· When I feel down and out, I’ll read Romans 8:31-39

· When I want courage for my task, I’ll read Joshua 1.

· When the world seems bigger than God, I’ll read Psalm 90.

· When I want rest and peace, I’ll read Matthew 11:25-30.

· When I want Christian assurance, I’ll read Romans 8:1-30.

· For Paul's idea of Christianity, I’ll read 2 Corinthians 5:15-19.

· For Paul's rules on how to get along with men, I’ll read Romans 12.


I will follow Psalm 119:11 and hide some of these in my memory.

The Bible is the most important document ever written. It is the inspired word of God. God dictated it to righteous men:
 

2 Peter 1:21 “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.”
2 Timothy 3:16 “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”
Without the Bible we cannot know God. It tells us of His character and His will in the world and in our lives.

It is also the foundation for our Western Society, American government, and our culture.

It is the greatest piece of literature ever written containing some of the most beautiful prose and poetry ever written (Psalms, as well as many individual passages, rhyme in Hebrew).

It is essential that we study our Bible regularly. We cannot become too familiar with it. Though biblical knowledge doesn’t always mean Christian maturity, this is how we draw closer to God.