I don’t remember when or how I started reading the Bible regularly. I wish I could say that it’s because it was so long ago, but it wasn’t. I had been reading parts of the Bible on and off for some time and was listening to many good commentaries about Scripture and in particular about Bible Prophecy. Many are getting the feeling that we’re in the last days talked about in many places in the Old and New Testament and the urge to “read ahead” to learn about what’s to come is strong.
For some, this is fine. If that’s what it’s going to take to get someone immersed in the Word of God, so be it. The Lord sets the path. We have the free will to follow it or not.
A friend I was dining with a while back at a conference asked the group about where to start with reading the Bible. I thought I gave him a good answer at the time, but I realize now that it was simply not enough. I hope he did start on his path. If not, I hope he reads this. The important thing to note is that God determines when and how we are going to be shown the Word through the Holy Spirit. His plans for each of us are already set forth for us. We just have to be open to receiving the message. However you decide to start in your Bible reading journey and path to Salvation through belief in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you must know that reading or hearing the Word is not enough.
Jesus explains this in Matthew 13:
The Parable of the Sower
13 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. 2 And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach. 3 And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. 5 Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, 6 but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. 7 Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8 Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9 He who has ears,[a] let him hear.”
The Purpose of the Parables
10 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 11 And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12 For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says:
“‘“You will indeed hear but never understand,
and you will indeed see but never perceive.”
15 For this people’s heart has grown dull,
and with their ears they can barely hear,
and their eyes they have closed,
lest they should see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their heart
and turn, and I would heal them.’
16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. 17 For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.
The Parable of the Sower Explained
18 “Hear then the parable of the sower: 19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. 20 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, 21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away.[b] 22 As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. 23 As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”
With this understanding in your heart, let’s go over the seven steps that I feel compelled to share with you. No advice from any man will be as powerful as what is placed on your heart by the Holy Spirit, but if this can come in handy in finding the right path that will lead you towards God’s plan for you, then we both are blessed.
If you are just getting started in your journey, you may not even know how to pray. Jesus talks about this in a few different places and you will read them at some point in your journey, but for now it’s easy enough to know that you simply pray from your heart. At this early stage, you probably don’t know a lot about the Biblical truths of repentance, humility, and being open to the Word, so those might be a good place to start.
Acknowledge to the Lord the reality that you are a flawed sinner, that you are coming to realize how much you need Him, and that you pray for Him to guide you as you read His Word. Pray from your heart and let Him touch your soul.
2. Pick a Translation
Different people like different versions of the Bible. Some prefer some versions for certain parts and other versions for other parts. My wife has several Bibles around her whenever she is studying the Bible.
A great resource and place to start in picking your translations is Bible Gateway. Genesis 2 is a great chapter through which to compare the different versions. Some are very plain and straightforward in today’s vernacular such as the English Standard Translation. Others are to the point, including the Complete Jewish Bible. Then, there’s always the King James Version, my personal version of choice. It is more flowery and quite old-school-gentile in nature, but I like it.
Once you pick a version that resonates with you, it would be a good idea to research the version on the internet. Find out the history, how it was translated, and who did the translating. Find out the circumstances behind the translation. This will help you have a better understanding of why certain words are used and what they might have meant at the time of translation. This can be extremely important.
For example, the King James Version of Genesis 1 uses the phrase “replenish the earth” in verse 28.
28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
This might lead some to believe that there was life on earth before and now Adam is supposed to “refill” it based upon the modern translation of “replenish”. However, in the days when the King James Version was written, the word “replenish” only meant to “fill”, not to “refill”. It wasn’t until the 19th century that Sir Francis Bacon added the second meaning to the word to mean both “fill” and “refill”.
3. Pick a Style
My wife does not like to listen to the Bible through audio versions. She’s a reader. She goes at the pace she wants to read, stops and rereads things she wants to know more clearly, and bounces around to different parts of the Book to cross-reference. I prefer to sit back with a cup of coffee and listen to audio versions. If something catches me, I pause or rewind.
Both ways work. Whichever best fulfills your needs, that’s the right way for you. Don’t get stuck on this part. It’s only as important as in preventing the hassle of doing something you don’t want to do. If you simply don’t like to read or don’t like to listen, don’t let one or the other prevent you from being exposed to the Word.
4. Set a Schedule
This doesn’t have to be a chore, but it does need to be consistent. There are very few days that ever go by when I do not read something from the Bible, even if only a passage or two. Of course, going through entire books in a sitting, a day, or a week is fine as long as you keep it up.
For those who work off of schedules, make sure to set aside time every day for Bible study. Every day. EVERY day.
5. Take Notes
Write in your Bible. Keep a notebook. Have a file opened on the computer. Do whatever it takes in order to take notes. I cannot express the level of regret I feel when I think to myself, “I need to remember to do more research on that when I’m done with this chapter,” only to forget what it was I wanted to learn. It was important at the time, but if you don’t get it down on paper or computer, you might forget it.
When you really get going with the Word, you’ll find that there are important things that happen along the way. You might want to research something further. You might want to keep a particular verse in mind to sit and memorize later. You might want to share a particular verse with someone who could really benefit from hearing it. With notes, you have a much better chance of not missing out on these opportunities.
6. Ask Questions
There are so many bad things that have happened in society as a result of technological and social “advances”. One of the good things that has come out of it all, particularly the internet, is the access to information and people.
If you have questions, you can ask the data sources like Google or Wikipedia. You could ask direct questions on Quora or Yahoo Questions. You could find a Bible study forum and ask the members. Remember, none of these (not even Google) are perfect. There can be a ton of misleading information and people out there taking you down the wrong path. There are so many diverse opinions. It’s important to let the Holy Spirit guide you with discernment between the messages that you’re supposed to hear and those that are intended to mislead you.
7. Pray Again. And Again. And…
…again. Keep doing it. Don’t just do it before and after a Bible study session. Do it when you wake up. Do it when you go to bed. Do it when you’re about to do anything at all. Do it and praise the Lord when good things happen to you. Do it and praise the Lord when bad things happen to you.
The Bible and prayer go hand-in-hand. As you continue to explore, you will find that praying becomes easier. You will find that reading becomes easier. Let the Spirit guide you and stay true to your tasks. Even now might be a good time to reread the scripture from Matthew above.
God Bless you in your journey!