I don’t know about you, but sometimes reading the bible can feel really difficult. In fact, it can seem not abnormally difficult: reading a passage and instantly forgetting what it was about. Why is this? After years of thinking that ‘I should’ read it or pushing myself to go through the motions of passive quiet times it can feel like as soon as I start to read the bible my brain switches off! It’s so strange. It’s like we’ve accidentally trained ourselves to fall asleep whilst reading the Bible. Perhaps the small font doesn’t help or the daunting size of the book(s). Perhaps there is some element of spiritual attack, but I think it’s more than that.
I passionately believe that the same Holy Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead, inspired the bible writers to record God’s word and can empower you and me to ‘dig in’ to all he has for us each day. Personally, I can’t do life without God’s word! The lies of the enemy fly at us each day, so we need to dig deep and ‘be transformed by the renewing of our minds’ (Romans 12:2). But how? Certainly not by reading out of duty or passively.
Actually, reading the bible maturely just uses simple skills that we all use every day. Skills, we use to have a phone call, read a text or Google something. In every-day life, we make decisions about who’s speaking to us and why. We think about the context; we ask questions. That’s what we need to do with the Bible. Allow the Holy Spirit to switch your brain back on and start asking questions.
Unfortunately, it can be common for many of us to treat the Bible as sort of individual ‘magic’. We find a verse and quickly try to apply it to ourselves, often missing the vast, majestic story we find ourselves in. It is true that the Holy Spirit can often help apply or illuminate bits of the Bible to us. But it is also important to deepen your understanding of how to read the Bible or you could turn to a verse telling you to go out and marry a prostitute (Hosea 1:2), kill foreigners (Deut 20:17) or strike a child (Prov 23:13). You would certainly get yourself in a mess if you did those things! So, with 66 books, written across thousands of years, using at least three languages and up to 10 types of genre … where do we start?
I want to give you a simple 5 steps for helping you ‘interpret’ (understand then apply) the bible and get more out of it. I pray that this will enrich your relationship with God, empower your everyday life and grow you in your journey following Christ. Mostly, these 5 steps just help you to switch your brain back on! They’re just about asking questions. It’s called the ‘interpretative journey’ and can be used on your own or in a group (which is mostly the best way to read the bible, by the way).
Come back and check out the blog next week to learn the five steps!