When I opened YouVersion the other day to do my daily Bible reading, I stopped and contemplated my mindset before actually reading the text. I asked myself “How am I reading this passage?” I started to wonder about my motive and my mindset.
It was evident I needed to pray before proceeding. I turned to God and talked to him about various ways I can approach the Bible and asked for his help. I needed his intercession to get my mind in the right, well, mindset.
After a few moments I was able to read the passage for that day.
This got me thinking about how we, as Christians, approach God’s word when doing our Bible reading. I though of five ways we approach the Bible.
Approach 1: We Want to Accomplish a Goal
Goals are good. Goals give up something to achieve. YouVersion will tell you your daily “streak” and how many “perfect weeks” you have (that is, how many days in a row you’ve opened the app). Many people follow one-year reading plans where they read through the whole Bible in a year.
These goals are nice and may make us feel like we accomplished something, but they don’t mean much. I’m up to 204 consecutive days and 31 perfect weeks in YouVersion.
Yay . . . me? I guess.
It doesn’t matter if we finish the Bible in one year, one month, or open our Bible app every day of our lives. If we read to accomplish these or some other empty goal, then we’re not really reading God’s word, we’re inflating our own ego.
Approach 2: We Want to Get Information
I blame social media for this one.
Actually, it’s not wholly their fault. It’s ours.
We live in an information age where just about anything we want to know is at our fingertips. Literally. As humans, we are fascinated by needless or unimportant trivia (we call it “information”). Sometimes we approach the Bible the same way we approach Twitter or Google: we look for some piece of data and them move on.
God’s word is more than a book of facts and trivia; it’s a life-transforming message detailing who we are, who God is, and how we relate to him and each other. Sadly, though, many people come to the Bible looking for some tidbit of data. You can memorize all the information about the Bible you want, but if you’re merely gathering information, then you’re missing the whole point of God’s word.
Approach 3: We’re Looking for a Moral Lesson
Remember those after-school specials from the 1980s? If you’re a Millennial or Generation Z, then probably not. however, I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “the moral of the story is . . . .”
Interestingly, although we’re in a data-centered social media information age, stories still dominate (looking at you Instagram, Facebook, and everyone else who wants me to add “stories” to my social media).
We love stories. We also love stories that inspire us to be a good person. That is, we love stories with a moral.
The Bible is full of stories. The Bible teaches morals. Ergo, the Bible is a collection of moral stories. Right?
Um, yes and no.
Yes, it is full of stories that teach about morals. However, the Bible isn’t about teaching morals; the Bible is about pointing us to Jesus, the Messiah, Lord or lords, Savior, and God the Son. Moral lessons are the result of a right relationship with Christ, not the primary purpose of God’s word.
When we approach the Bible seeking the moral of the story, we’re missing the actual story being told: that of Jesus.
Approach 4: We’re Looking for Lessons to Teach Others
This one hits close to home for me. Each week produce and publish devotionals on my YouTube channel. The passages and lessons I teach come from my daily readings. As such, it’s easy for me to read the Bible focused on the next video.
In essence, I can easily turn the Bible into a holy lesson plan.
That’s the approach I was afraid I was taking the other day, and it’s the wrong one to have. While we should help others learn, the Bible is not a lesson plan to follow. This is why I turned to God and asked for his help.
Approach 5: We Want to Know God More and Fall Deeper in Love with Jesus
Now we’re talking!
This is the right approach. God gave us his word so we can know him, grow closer to him, and develop an ever-growing relationship with Jesus.
This is the approach I’ve recommended in more than one video and article. Before reading, we should ask God to show us what he wants us to know so we can be more like him. We need to let the Holy Spirit draw us closer and closer to God. We need to let Jesus dwell more and more in us. We need to fall deeper in love with Jesus through God’s word.
After praying and telling God my concerns about how I was approaching the Bible, God answered. He readjusted my mindset and helped me see God’s word for what it is: his message to me about Jesus.
I’m sure I’ll have other days where my mindset needs readjustment again. When that comes – even if it’s every day – I’ll depend on God to help me.
How do you approach God’s word? Are you a goal seeker? Information hunter? Moralist? Or are you longing for Jesus?