One of the best things Christians can do to stir their affections for God is to read books focused on Jesus. These books help us follow Paul’s pattern of looking up to Jesus as the means by which we start looking like Jesus. “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ” (Col. 1:28). Nothing refreshes the heart like a few sips of Christ’s glory.
John’s purpose for writing the gospel: “these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ” (John 20:31).
John’s background for his book: “the framework for Jesus’ understanding of his own mission is shaped by the Scriptures mediated by the Jews” (D. A. Carson).
John’s 2 questions for the reader to wrestle with: 1) Who is Jesus? 2) What do I do with his words/teachings?
“If the Word does not dwell with power in us, it will not pass with power from us.” John Owen
As believers, all of us desire to be in the Bible more often than we are and with greater depth and intimacy than we do. But we don’t all struggle with the same challenges with our Bible reading.
For one person, their biggest obstacle might be not knowing how to read, interpret, or understand the Bible. They’ve never been equipped to do so, which results in regular frustrations of putting the Bible back down without having a clue what they read. For others, it might be distractions from a phone blowing up with emails and text messages. Each of us have unique circumstances, varying levels of maturity, and our stages of life might differ. This is important because if we want to go deeper in God’s Word, we have to diagnose what’s personally keeping us back. We need to ask, “What are my biggest obstacles to more consistent and more meaningful times reading God’s Word?”
If you’re looking to grow in studying the Bible, here are some recommended resources. There are countless books, sermons, podcasts, articles, and blogs available on the topic, so this is just to get you started.
A common approach to studying the Bible is the Inductive Method. The goal is to draw out and rightly interpret a passage, not read into it or force our own meaning into it. While people use various words or acronyms to explain steps in the Inductive Method, the most simple is Observation-Interpretation-Application. In this post, I’ll provide suggested questions for learning how to make observations in a passage of the Bible. The observation stage asks, “What do I see?”
I first listened to Marilynne Robinson’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel Gilead on Audible and now have read it, alongside her two follow-up novels (Home and Lila). The trio share overlapping characters and stories from the vantage of three different characters. It’s similar in ways to what Wendell Berry has done with some of his Port William characters in his stories and vignettes.
A key part of understanding what we read is to read the Bible reflectively. The questions below are not exhaustive, but they provide a framework of Look, Understand, Apply, and Pray to guide your reading. Find ways that help you study and apply God’s Word. Take notes; write down thoughts and prayers; ask questions; chew on or meditate on what you see; and ask a friend or use a good Study Bible or commentary if something doesn’t make sense.
We all need encouragement to read the Bible regularly. Maybe one thing that’s kept you from consistent Bible reading is not knowing what to read or where to turn. The nice thing about a reading plan is it provides a starting point. It takes out the question, “What should I red today?”
“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us).” (Matthew 1:21-23)
Each Christmas or Advent season we sing about Jesus our Immanuel. God with us. We find comfort in the incarnation behind Christmas. God’s stepping down to Earth to be with us by becoming one of us in Jesus. But how is Jesus really God with us?