Today’s post is by Dave Jenkins. Dave is the Director of Servants of Grace Ministries. He and his wife are members at Sovereign Grace Fellowship in Nampa, Idaho. You can follow Dave on Twitter at @DaveJJenkins.
I graduated from seminary on May 11, 2012, and, since then, friends have asked me:
“What’s the biggest transition you’ve had since graduating?”
Before I go into my answer to that question, I need to give a little background. I graduated high school in June 2000 (I’m thirty-one years old) and ever since graduating high school I’ve either been a full or part time student. The past two months have been the first time in my life where I wasn’t taking one or more classes at a community college, university or graduate school. So when my friends ask what the greatest transition has been for me, my consistent answer has been I’ve been enjoying my Bible reading a lot more. Depending on your own experiences, my answer may or may not surprise you.
In school, I spent a lot of time reading and re-reading the Bible over and over again. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy reading the Bible during this season of life; I’ve always enjoyed reading it. But after reading it academically for five years, I got to the point where I was reading more out of obligation than delight.
In the months since graduating, my passion for reading the Bible has only increased as I spend quality time every morning read the Word. If you’ve ever lost your passion, I hope the following helps you find it again, too.
First, grow in a love relationship with the Author of Scripture.
If a young woman received a love letter from her fiancée, she would eagerly read it since she is in love with the letter’s author. She would read and re-read those precious words, reading “between the lines” to discover the full richness of her lover’s message. Similarly, if we love God, we will find delight in the inspired words of God. Psalm 119:10-11, “With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” Love God and love His “love letter” to you—the Bible.
Second, have a personal relationship with God.
Even more basic than this loving God, the author of Scripture, the reader and interpreter of Scripture should strive to truly know God through Jesus Christ the Lord. You should have a deep and intimate relationship with God who inspired Scripture through the Holy Spirit (John 17:3; 2 Timothy 3:16). It is vital to remember that joy comes through the work of the Holy comes in our lives (Galatians 5:22). If you truly know God, in Christ Jesus and through the Spirit, you will be more prepared to rejoice in your Bible study.
Third, approach your Bible reading with worshipful awe.
It is vital that you have a proper attitude and frame of mind and heart as you open the pages of Scripture. For example, God says “But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word” (Isaiah 66:2b). Here we see that the one who comes to the Word should have a humble, contrite, and fearful (or respectful) attitude. You should approach it with a worshipful attitude, a fearful and respectful attitude, a submissive and yielding attitude, and a love for the God of Scripture.
Fourth, consider it an amazing privilege to read and study Scripture.
Until about the year 1500, the common person didn’t have the Scriptures in his or her own language. It took centuries before the Bible was translated and circulated in many of the world languages. Today, you have a priceless gift in your hands! You can read the Word of the living God and understand the Scriptures yourself, apart from false religious leaders censoring what you read! With this privilege comes tremendous responsibility.
Fifth, develop a real interest as you read a portion of Scripture.
Some people complain that their reading is dry and boring. It need not be this way. Develop a captivating interest in what you are reading. Ask yourself: “Why did Peter deny Jesus in this passage?” “Why did the Pharisees react so vehemently against Jesus as He declared His relationship with the Father?” “What was the nature of Judaizers that Paul seems to regularly combat?” Also, notice the choice of vocabulary, the connection between sentences, and the development of the argument in each book. This will arouse your curiosity, awaken your interest, and give you the joy of Bible discovery!
Sixth, ask the Lord to give you true joy as you read the Scriptures.
We know that spiritual joy is the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23; Acts 13:52) that comes through Jesus Christ (Philippians 4:1). Ask God to stimulate this joy in your heart as you open yourself to His divine Word.
Seventh, find a quiet place and time to spend quality time reading the Scriptures.
You should be undisturbed in your reading so that you can think through the text as you read it. Don’t allow background noise, music, TV programs, or conversations to disturb your concentration. Even a crying baby can interfere with your focus on the text. Find a time when you can be alone and also a time when you are most awake and alert in your reading. For some, this may be at 5 AM and for others it may be 10 PM, while for others it may be lunchtime or some other time during the day.
Eighth, begin your time in the Bible with prayer.
Before you begin to read verses or chapters for the day, pause to ask God’s blessing on your reading, the clarity of your thought, and the conviction that the Spirit brings through the Word that He inspired. The psalmist prayed, “Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Your law” (Psalm 119:18). Don’t just rely on your reading ability; depend on God to enlighten you as you prayerfully read.
Ninth, examine the Bible portion carefully and prayerfully.
Don’t read the Bible as you would cursory read the newspaper. Recognize that the Scriptures are God’s inspired revelation of His will. Every word has been inspired by the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16-17) and should be scrutinized with intensity. “One who looks intensely at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:25). Read to see and understand what the Bible writers wrote.
Tenth, determine to read for spiritual benefit from the Lord.
Paul writes, “Whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4). The Bible gives encouragement, but it also gives us warnings (1 Corinthians 10:11), all of which are profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). Scripture gives us wisdom that leads to salvation (v. 15). The Word of God nourishes us (1 Timothy 4:6) and helps us to grow (1 Peter 2:2). If you keep the spiritual benefits of your Bible reading in mind, you can develop an unquenchable appetite for the Word. This will bring true joy!
Finally, always remember that you are seeking to know God’s will and obey it.
You should always bear in mind that you are not reading for mere curiosity, or to “do your duty,” or to compete with others. Instead, you are earnestly seeking to know what pleases God! We will be judged by Christ’s words (John 12:48), thus we should intently study that word to know it thoroughly. The Scriptures will keep us from sin: “Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11). One time, someone wrote inside a Bible: “This Bible will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from the Bible.”
At times, every Christian goes through periods where reading the Bible becomes a duty instead of a delight. But I believe that by applying some of the above suggestions, you’ll find a fresh interest and passion for reading and studying the Word of God.
As you continue to grow in the Scriptures and the grace of God, you will come to have a burning desire to read, study, learn and meditate on His Word. A.W. Tozer said, “The Bible is not an end in itself, but a means to bring men to an intimate and satisfying knowledge of God, that they may enter into Him, that they may delight in His presence, may taste and know the inner sweetness of the very God Himself in the core and center of their hearts.” As this happens, you will come to have a real enjoyment of His Word, a genuine delight in searching the Scriptures, and delight to understand and obey the Word of God.