How does one transition from just reading the Bible out of habit to truly studying the Word?
I remember in high school being assigned many chapters of many books and many times doing nothing more than skimming the assignment. You probably know what I mean. The teacher’s quizzing and questioning routines became easy to decode. You pretty much figured out how to get around actually doing the work and for the most part you did well in the course anyways. But, there was always that one chapter or that one teacher or that one pop quiz that got you! We can pretend we know all we want until we actually need to know. It’s the same with the things of God. His Word wasn’t a cumbersome assignment meant to make us have homework in place of our favorite recreation. Remember Proverbs 4:20-22, “My son, give attention to my words; Incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your sight; Keep them in the midst of your heart. For they are life to those who find them and health to all their body.” His Word literally sustains us! This is why it’s crucial to really grab hold and understand it instead of simply reading it.
Reading the Bible should never be about crossing an item off our to do list. I used to live like this, thinking I’d get some sort of points with God by accomplishing that “Bible In A Year” program or finishing the daily devotional, treating His Word like an assignment I wanted to get out of the way so I could move on with my day. I’m telling on myself, but I might be telling on you too! Something changed in me when I realized reading the Bible was about knowing God more.
I love what we see in John 14:26, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” I ask the Holy Spirit, who literally lives inside me (and you, Christian), to teach me all things I need to see. He is our GPS, our guide to all things God has to show us and get over to us. Besides this, notice that the Holy Spirit of God wants to bring to our remembrance the things we were told. If we aren’t in God’s Word, putting what He said into our hearts, the Holy Spirit won’t be able to remind us of those things. When I learned this, I realized the importance of knowing His Word! This is why it’s so important to be in church and to listen to the services again and again. This is why we should go back over our notes. The more we hear the Word, the more it gets in us.
All this to say, it’s really a rewiring of sorts, this transition you asked about. We no longer do it for our checklist. If we get to one scripture in an hour but we walk away after spending that time meditating and muttering that to our heart, letting the words illuminate and shine light to our understanding, that’s better than spending that same hour reading a whole book of the Bible. Sometimes less is more! Now, I’m kind of kidding, but really if you do more with less than you’ll do with the more, less really is more. I challenge you to focus on letting each scripture or passage of scripture speak to you. When you read it and another scripture comes to mind, go there. It might just be the Holy Spirit is taking you somewhere! If you end up in 10 books of the Bible reading only 10 verses, that’s ok.
As you begin to start this way, with this new thought process, you’ll notice more and more of the words in the scriptures become illuminated to you. It’s like the Holy Spirit on the inside is highlighting them to you for you to understand. There are concordances and commentaries written by many well studied scholars to help with the understanding of these words and passages. Read several and see what the overwhelming consensus is. As always, test everything against what you know of the Word and present any questions to those the Lord has placed in your life as your spiritual authority, such as your pastors.