How to Read the Bible Devotionally Pt.Ⅰ
Updated: Mar 16, 2021
Grace and peace to you all.
As I mentioned in the previous blog I chose the topic of devotional Bible reading (you may also think of it as worshipful Bible reading) to officially begin our new Bible study. I believe it is appropriate for us to consider and discuss how to read the Bible for ourselves privately before we really dive into Bible studying publically. The heart of this blog post is to show us all how to read the Bible as a Christian, and why we do so, so that we may enjoy God privately (in our own lives) and publically (within our local church).
Before I begin writing directly on the topic at hand it is essential to note that this blog will mainly focus on what I will call the \”Minimalist Method\” for devotional Bible reading and will deal with Maximization and Supplementary techniques in part two of this blog post. And our discussion will primarily focus on part one; the discussion questions in part two we will consider optional.
To illustrate what I mean by this consider your average, daily intake of food. At a minimum, our bodies need three meals a day (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) in order to properly function. And there are many different ways of maximizing our daily minimum intake of food; IE each meal should have a good balance of various vegetables for vitamins, various meats for proteins and fats, and bread for carbs. Merely eating three times per day will give you the absolute minimum to sustain your life but having three properly balanced meals per day will maximize that daily minimum. And if you wish to absolutely ensure that you are intaking all that you need for a good, healthy, (Lord willing) long-lasting life you can also take various dietary pills, vitamin pills, or protein shakes. All of these serve as supplements to your daily, balanced intaking of food.
It is similar with the Christian life. The Christian needs to be taking in the word of God by consistently reading the word of God. That is the minimum of what we need to \”abound in love\” (1 Thessalonians 3:12-13) or \”grow in grace\” (2 Peter 3:18). But we can also maximize our consistent, minimal, taking in of the word by also making use of things like Study Bibles, Commentaries, and various Theological books, or proper Devotional books. And on top of that, we can also supplement our consistent intake by making use of things like journaling, reading and memorization of Scripture, Creeds, and Catechisms, and Hymn singing. All of these things are good and beneficial for the Christian but they can not replace or supersede, the simple reading of the word of God. Thus, this blog will chiefly be focusing on how to devotionally read God\’s word (the Minimalist Method).
Now that we understand the basic intent and direction of this blog post let us consider the topic at hand by defining our terms. Briefly, let\’s define the word of God by looking at 2 Timothy 3:14-17 which reads,
\”14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.\”
Here, Paul exhorts Timothy (a young pastor and dear brother to Paul) to continue on/persevere in reading and studying of the \”the sacred writings\” (IE the Old Testament as well as the New Testament that had been written at that time) and gives at least 4 reasons to do so:
The Scriptures are from God (3:16) and given to him through his Jewish Mother, Eunice (2 Timothy 1:5).
The Scriptures are able to make him \”wise for salvation\” IE give the knowledge/instruction to obtain salvation.
The Scriptures are \”breathed out\” by God. As Princeton Theologian B.B Warfield puts it, \”The Bible is the Word of God in such a way that when the Bible speaks, God speaks.\”
The Scriptures are useful for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness; so that we may be \”complete\” or not lacking anything we need.
Therefore, the Bible is God\’s word to us for our edification and salvation.
Now that we better understand what the word of God is, and used for, let us consider what it means to devotionally read it.
Picture in your mind two men, one is an Atheist and the other a Christian, and they both sit down one day to read their Bible. What is the distinguishing difference between their time spent reading? The Atheist merely let his eyes gloss over the words on the page; he did not seek, nor hunger, for God; he gave no careful attention to His word, and he found no joy in it. While the Christian saught for God, studied the Scripture, and savored both of them. Allow me to expound on this.
Seek: The Christian made the conscious decision to set aside a good time and a quiet, comfortable place where he could attentively read his portion of Scripture for that day.
Study: During his time of reading he was active, not passively, reading the text. That is, he asked questions about the text to gain a better understanding of it. Questions like:
What does this passage say about God?
What does this passage say about man?
What commands of God does this passage contain?
What sin does this passage tell me to forsake?
What promise of God does this passage contain?
Does this passage show the need for a Savior?
How does this passage relate to Christ and His work (His birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension, intercession, etc).
Savor: The Christian \”delighted\” (Psalm 1:2) and enjoyed his time in the word. Perhaps this day he did have a joyous, mountaintop moment with God. But perhaps not; perhaps it was just perfectly average and plain. He is still happy in God all the same. Because he went to the Scriptures to find God and enjoy time, explicitly and exclusively, with Him. He did not come to the Scriptures looking for an experience, and therefore he is glad.
We read the Scriptures devotionally not to become masters in Theology, not to win debates online but rather we read devotionally to know God privately and personally so that we can enjoy Him publically and communally (especially within the church. But this applies to other areas of life as well such as Bible Studies, work, or any other sphere of our lives).
Now that we know how to read devotionally I want to spend some time on why we read devotionally. We read for ourselves and we read for the sake of the church.
We Read for Ourselves.
Why do we read for ourselves? Briefly, (and without getting too ahead of myself in our discussion schedule) let\’s look at Romans 8:28-29 which reads,
\”28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.\”
God\’s loving purpose in saving you from His own, holy, just, and perfect wrath was so that He would form Christ in you (for this is what being \”conformed to the image of [Christ]\” means). Through all the hardship, trials, temptations, joys, and banalities of our day-to-day lives, God is working in and through all of them so that you would love and live as Christ did for us in His earthly ministry. This thought will be expounded upon once we reach our discussion on \”What it means to be a Christian\” but I trust this thought will suffice for now.
Drawing from my own personal experience, I believe there are three main reasons why we should read devotionally. Those reasons being:
We read devotionally for yesterday. You all may or may not know this about me but I am indeed a sinner and I am reasonably sure you all are as well. And if your sinful heart is anything like mine it is not always as faithful, joyful, or trusting as it should be. And as sinners, we find ourselves in much need of God\’s grace, forgiveness, power/strength for repentance and assurance. I read devotionally to comfort my heart for the yesterdays that were less than faithful/godly in my thoughts, attitudes, and actions to find promises of God\’s forgiveness such as, \”I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.\” (Psalm 32:5) as well as 1 John 1:9, \”9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness\”.
We read devotionally for today. James 4:13-16 teaches us that no one is promised tomorrow. Thus, even when I awake in the morning it is the grace of God. A new day is given to me to love, enjoy, and serve God. But there are many days when I wish I did not wake to a new day for it is better to go home and be with the Lord (Philippians 1:23). But yet I am still here; and I need to lay hold of the promise of God\’s presence in my life in Isaiah 41:10, \”fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.\” And another promise that my life is not as futile as it may seem in 2 Corinthians 4:17, \”For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.\”
We read devotionally for tomorrow. Needless to say, we do not know what tomorrow will bring. That is why I must wisely spend my time today preparing my heart for whatever may come tomorrow. Consider Christ\’s command to us to not be anxious \”about your life, what you will eat or what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not more value than they?\” (Matthew 6:25-26). Or perhaps I will read to lay hold of future treasures such as, \”…and those whom He justified He also glorified\” (Romans 8:30). Perhaps I need to shore up against future temptations; I might look to Matthew 5:29 to remind myself that it is \”better that you lose one of your members than that your body be thrown into hell.\” (NOTE: It is wisest to begin fighting against temptation before the actual temptation arrives. For the Lawer does not learn the Law while taking the LSAT. Nor does the Athlete learn the rules of the game during competition).
In sum, we read for ourselves for yesterday for promises of forgiveness, we read for today to hold fast to faith and His \”precious and very great promises\” (2 Peter 1:4), and we read for tomorrow to lay hold of future treasures and to stand fast in future trials and temptations.
2. We Read for the Local Church
We also read devotionally for the Local Church. Praise God we are not Christians in a vacuum/left completely to ourselves. We are the \”called out ones\” of God. What I mean is this: God, by His grace, saved you to form Christ in you. God also did the same for me for the same purpose. Thus, we (as the church) are to help one another become more like Christ. We do not read merely to better ourselves but to be more Christ-like in our love toward one another. God saved us so that we could be conduits of His love/grace to one another. God saved you so that you can love me and so that I can love you. The more Christ is formed in you the more sanctified and graced by God I am for it.
A brief note on consistency in our devotional reading is in order. To illustrate the importance of consistency in reading the word consider this parable:
Once upon a time, there were two morbidly obese men and they both went to see a doctor one day. The doctor after recording their weight said to them both, \”If you want to live you have to lose weight.\” They both agreed with the doctor\’s assignment of themselves. They leave the Doctor\’s office and set out to lose weight.
One of the two men begins a daily, but simple, exercise routine of waking up every day and going for a brisk half-mile walk until he reaches a more healthy weight. Soon enough, the half-mile becomes easy and he increases to a one-mile walk and soon after that, a five-mile walk and soon after that, he begins to run some of the ways. The other man sets out to run 10 miles every day no matter what. But he soon realizes that he can not run 10 miles at all; indeed he can hardly run a quarter mile and soon becomes discouraged and gives up altogether.
It is obvious which of the two men is the healthier one. Likewise, in our own Christian life. It is far more preferable, and profitable, to consistently read a little of our Bibles rather than try to set out on some grandiose, hyper-spiritual, white-knuckle \”Read the whole Bible in a month\” plan. Whenever you decide to read and however much you decide to read it is best to ensure that it is consistent and profitable over the long-term rather than the short term.
You will notice I have not written much on prayer in regards to our devotions. This blog was chiefly focused on reading devotionally; perhaps there will have to be a blog on devotional prayer and meditation as well. However, for now, I will write briefly on the role of prayer in our reading.
Pray before, during, and after your reading.
Pray before you begin reading that the Spirit would \”enlighten the eyes of your heart so that you may know what is the hope to which He has called you\” (Ephesians 1:18).
Pray during for the Spirit\’s aid in helping you understand the passage and that its\’ truth would stir your heart to worship and abundant joy in God.
Pray after that you might have the love and grace, wisdom, and discernment to live out the meaning of the text.
Whatever and whenever you pray do ensure that you pray! God bless your time reading and enjoying His word.
Here is a list of various articles I used to help brainstorm this blog post as well as a previous blog post on the RANSOM bible reading method. (For anyone who wasn\’t present for that study I would highly commend it to you for your edification because not only does it expound on many of the main ideas present in this blog but it also includes a Church History lesson as well!)
Interview: I Read the Bible & Feel Nothing; What Should I Do?
Part two is available on the Blog; where I discuss practice wisdom in regards to Maximization and Supplements for our Devotional reading. And I have some recommended resources in regards to those as well.
Tell us a little bit about you and how you do your devotional Bible reading; what is your plan/process for doing so?
After reading through this blog post; is there any way you could improve on your devotionally reading? (IE find a better time/place; more quality and less quantity time reading; etc.)
I defined the Bibles as, \”God\’s word to us for our edification and salvation.\” In your own words, how would you define what the Bible is?
I listed a couple of reasons to read. Can you think of any others that were not presented here?
Would you all like to have a blog/discussion on devotional prayer and meditation at some point?