Sometimes I forget that the Bible is not a textbook. The thousands of books written to help us interpret the Bible, like commentaries, dictionaries, and resources on systematic theology and hermeneutics, will never be as powerful as the Word of God.
Scripture is a treasure of inspired, inerrant truth recorded so we will understand the love of God and his redemption story and, with that knowledge, enter a saving relationship by his grace through faith in Jesus Christ. But that’s only the starting point. As we grow, the Bible will lead us into more intimate relationship with Christ and teach us God’s way to live in the world.
The following are five steps to take as you seek the Lord on every page of your Bible.
Pray for the Holy Spirit’s Guidance
Jesus promised his disciples that the Holy Spirit would be given to them as their counselor, teacher, and guide. Therefore, we can depend on the gift of the Spirit while we read, interpret, and apply God’s Word.
When I began to study the Bible, my interpretations were not always theologically correct. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit still graciously taught me, even when my understanding was not perfectly accurate.
The process by which my theology improved was continued Bible study and the influence of pastors, other Christians, and written resources. This growth takes time, but when the Holy Spirit is at work, he will lead you to appropriate understanding and resources.
The Bible is God’s Word to you. If you get assistance from others too quickly, your perception might be colored by the “answer” before you’ve had a chance to ponder it under the Holy Spirit’s guidance. Commentaries and other resources are tremendously valuable—but don’t let them take the place of spending time in Scripture with the Spirit.
Remember God Is the Main Character
God’s Word is about God. He created the world, as told on its first pages, and he will recreate and restore it. Every word in between provides knowledge of the power, heart, law, grace, judgment, kindness, and mercy of God in his redemption story.
We may think Abraham is the focus of the first half of Genesis, but Abraham is fascinating because he believed God so completely. God was the initiator and power behind the stories of Genesis, and Abraham simply followed him in trust. In Exodus, Moses is the central human character, but once again, God is the architect of events. And so on.
When I look for guidance in the Bible, I remind myself that the Bible isn’t a self-help book; it’s not about me. It will always direct my thoughts to God, not to myself, and will send my gaze upward instead of outward. It may lead me in directions contrary to what conventional wisdom would suggest. It reminds me that when I am weak, then I am strong in God.
Look for Jesus
The Old Testament causes us to long for a Savior who will deliver us from sin. It does this by showing us the painful results of offenses of all kinds, often played out in unforgettable stories. Those stories contain moments of greatness, when biblical heroes depended on God, but they also don’t hesitate to tell of their failures, big and small.
The New Testament introduces us to Jesus Christ in the Gospels, records the beginnings of the early church in Acts, and gives us insight into the growing theology and instruction of apostles through letters to several of those churches. Finally, the end of the story is written for us in Revelation.
Once we truly grasp the message of the ‘New Testament,’ it is impossible to read the ‘Old Testament’ again without seeing Christ on every page, in every story, foreshadowed or anticipated in every event and narrative. (Michael Horton)
The resurrected Jesus took a walk to Emmaus with two of his disciples. They were kept from recognizing him, so “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). (I would’ve loved to be part of that conversation!) Jesus was proclaiming that all the Scriptures prophesied, pointed to, and promised Jesus.
Look for him on every page.
Apply Truth to Your Life
Sometimes I take my biblical knowledge for granted or, conversely, I become prideful and want to apply what I read to other people’s lives. It’s human nature to want to fix everyone else before we apply Scripture to ourselves, but this is not God’s desire for us.
Psalm 119 is a meditation on the wonder of God’s Word. The writer pours out his love, victories, and struggles, and demonstrates his reliance on God’s Word. Scripture sets his mind, heart, and agenda. It is a very personal psalm.
Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day. (v. 97)
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (v. 105)
Every stanza of this beautiful psalm sings the benefits of God’s Word. At times the psalmist asks for teaching, understanding, and direction; at other times he proclaims his obedience, longing, and hope; and throughout he professes his dependence on God’s Word.
It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve read the Bible, or how many passages I’ve memorized, or what I think about someone else’s understanding of Scripture—what’s important is that I’m pursuing a life-giving, growing, intimate, and transformative relationship with Jesus Christ.
Remember the Cross
It is possible to possess a vast knowledge of God’s Word, but lose track of God’s heart.
The heart of God was most clearly expressed at the cross when Jesus died the death that we deserve. Why would Jesus do such a thing? The astonishing truth is that he loves us. He knew we didn’t have a chance of meeting God’s perfect standards on our own, so Jesus willingly endured the penalty for our sins.
Revelation tells us that the first century church in Ephesus forgot to love him. Jesus told the Ephesian church they had worked hard, persevered, did not tolerate wickedness, tested apostles’ claims, and endured hardship for his name. But—
Then Jesus said,
I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. (2:4)
Gulp. I don’t want to be vulnerable to the charge of pridefully forsaking the love of God, even if I think I am upholding his Word. Jesus urged the Ephesian church to remember God’s love, to repent of their sins, and to rethink their motivation for ministry. That sounds like wisdom for all of us.
May our motivation in reading Scripture be love for God, gratitude for Jesus’ saving work at the cross, and dependence upon his Holy Spirit. We can cry out to God and ask him for more of these as we open our Bibles, trusting he’ll supply as we seek him on every page.