There are two ways in which to read the Bible. One of them is not very helpful. The other way is useful and will enrich our lives. I used to read the Bible in the first way because I was not familiar with the other. Then I received a letter outlining the other method of Bible reading, and I was greatly enriched. I first want to talk about the way to read the Bible that was not very useful to me.
This way to read the Bible is just to read a chapter according to a Bible reading plan. You just open your Bible, read a chapter – presumably one you already are familiar with –, and then you think you have done your duty. If you had asked me after reading a chapter: “What good did reading that chapter do you?” I would not have been able to give you an answer. I had read the chapter to do my duty. Even if I didn’t say so, I probably thought so. Many think that reading the Bible is a good deed that needs to be done in order to perform one’s Christian duty. Reading the Bible in this manner did not provide lasting benefits for me. The advice given in the letter I received was to read the Bible asking questions and to be engaged in self-examination. After a verse or passage, it is good to ask oneself: Do I possess this? Do I know this? Do I do this? Do I measure up to this? I started reading the Bible in this way. I noticed that the way in which I now read brought more blessing and was more effective and fruitful. I no longer took the Bible and read something for the Lord; rather, I took the Bible and read for me.
When I examined myself and asked: “Do I know this, do this, measure up to this?” then it was as if the Word said, “You have already been a Christian for so long and are still lacking here, don’t understand yet?” It was not as if it were written there, but the Lord Himself through the Word spoke to me. And even without thinking, I started praying: “O, Lord, forgive me that I am not yet where I should be spiritually, that I have not yet received what You are offering me.” And then I pleaded, “O Lord, give me that which I am still lacking.”
In this manner, a dialogue ensued. God spoke to me through His Word, and I spoke to Him in prayer. I was able to grow spiritually because I recognized what I lacked and asked Him for help and renewal.
Let me give you an example of how I read the Bible using questions for self-examination. In my Bible reading plan, I came to 1 Peter 2:7, “Therefore to you who believe, He is precious.” I paused there and asked, “Is He precious to me?” And I was able to answer, “Yes, He is precious to me.” But it did not end there. The thought came to me, “Why is He precious to you?” I thought about it and could say that He is precious to me since He was willing to be born in a manger, leave heaven’s glory, and come to our poor earth. He is precious to me because through His cross, He granted me salvation. He is precious to me because His grave is empty, and He has brought life and immortality to light. I thought, “Is that all?” After thinking further, I answered, “No, that is not all. He is precious to me because He is my guide through life; He answers my prayers; He is my comfort in sorrow.” And again, “Is that all?” “No,” I said, “that is not all, for He is precious because of His Word that speaks to us and also speaks to me. He is precious to me because He has called me into the ministry, even though I resisted at first. He is precious because He gave me energy, grace, and strength for this ministry, not only spiritually but physically. He healed me from an ailment that the doctors said was incurable. So now I have renewed energy to fulfill my duties. He is precious to me because He has allowed me to see the fruit of my labors, people responding to the gospel through my ministry.”
I read Colossians 3:12, “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering.” And now the questions begin: Am I in possession of these? Do I show tender mercies with those around me who are suffering? Do I show kindness in my interactions with those I meet? Do I have the humility to esteem others higher than myself? Do I have meekness, should others treat me badly? When things are not done as promptly or as well as I would like them to be, do I get agitated, or do I portray patience? As I begin my self-examination, I turn to the Lord and pray, “O, Lord, forgive me.” And “O, Lord, give me.”
Don’t you see that this kind of Bible reading is useful for spiritual growth? Such reading of God’s Word brings many blessings. Meditating on the words and thinking about them a bit longer lets us make some precious discoveries.
That was the case, not too long ago, when I read Ephesians 2:19, “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.” “What am I according to these words?” I asked myself. I am a fellow citizen because of His Spirit, whom He has also given to me. He is precious to me because of His blood, through which He cleansed us – even me – from all sin. Again, is that all? No, He is with the saints. I have citizenship in the city of God. I am a member of God’s household. And what does that mean? God is the Father, and I am a member of His family. But if I am a member of His household, do I then need to worry about food, clothes, rent, and things like that? No, parents take care of those in their family. How much more will God the Father take care of those in His household! I was blessed and overjoyed by these thoughts. If we start reading the Bible with questions like these and apply the Word to ourselves, we will be greatly blessed. We will be glad and rejoice “as one who finds great treasure” (Psalm 119:162). When you read your Bible, read it with questions for self-examination.