One of the key disciplines which helps you to grow as a Christian and build up your faith to overcome temptation is to read and think about God's Word daily. Many new, as well as old Christians, haven't done much of this on their own. Or they have tried, but given up because they did not know how to go about regular Bible-reading in a beneficial way. One question that many people have, but are too ashamed to ask is, "where should I begin reading in the Bible?" In this post I want to provide just a few simple tips to help you, or someone you know, to get started reading the Bible regularly.
If you haven't read much in the Bible on your own, I suggest you begin by reading section by section through the Gospel of Mark. In most Bibles, Mark is helpfully divided up into sections under different headings. The sections are called pericopes, (puh-rik-uh-pees). Some are short, some are longer, but they all focus on one scene or event in the ministry of Jesus, also usually focused on one particular theme on the identity of Jesus. Mark's purpose is to introduce you to Jesus, the one whom the whole Bible story is about. Mark's writing style is kind of short and punchy, he gets to the point quickly and moves on. Decide to read one section or pericope in Mark each day, and spend time thinking about what you read. Ask questions like: what does this show me about Jesus? What does this reveal about the needs of humanity? What are the different human responses to Jesus? What would my response have been in this situation? What stands out most to me from this passage?
Read the Key Books.
The Bible has a lot of books. All of them contain God's Word and are "Profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work" (2 Tim. 3:16-17 ESV). If you are just beginning to read the Bible and to get familiar with it, you should begin by focusing on these books ahead of other ones.
I've already encouraged you to begin with the Gospel of Mark. Any of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) are great places to start. They each provide a wonderful introduction to the Bible's main character and the Bible's main theme which is the redemption/salvation of God's people. Spending time in the Gospels is well worth it.
The book of Genesis is the beginning of the story of redemption. In fact Genesis means beginning. Reading Genesis will provide you with a wonderful foundation for the rest of the Bible story. It will introduce you to many of the main characters that you will continue to hear about, especially if you then go on to read Exodus, at least chapters 1-20. God reveals himself to us through these books as we read how he reveals himself to his chosen people.
Romans is probably the most significant of the Apostle Paul's letters in the New Testament. In it you will find a powerful exposition of the gospel as well as how to walk in the obedience of faith. It is definitely in the category of the most significant Bible books to read and get familiar with.
Psalms is the prayer book of the Bible. In the Psalms we find God's people crying out to him, trusting in his promises, praising him, and expressing every emotion we have throughout our lives. Reading the Psalms will help you to know God and yourself in relationship to God. I would encourage you to always be reading the Psalms. Whatever other book you are reading in the Bible, always read one or more Psalms each day along with it. The lyrics of the Psalms will begin to become the lyrics of your life. You've heard that "Eating an apple a day will keep the doctor away?" Well reading a Psalm a day will keep despair away.
Of the prophets, I believe reading Isaiah, especially chapters 40-66, will help you to see how God was revealing his plan of redemption to his people many years before the Son of God came into the world. In reading the prophets, I would start with Isaiah, who is the longest of them, so focusing on chapters 40-66 might be most helpful for you.
Another key New Testament letter is the short letter of James. This brief letter helps us to understand that we are saved by faith in Christ alone, but true faith in Christ is never alone, it always is accompanied by doing good works of faith. James provides a very helpful teaching on living out the Christian life before a watching world.
Just like Genesis is the beginning of the story of the Bible, the last book of the Bible provides us with the end of the story. The book of Revelation is significant because if shows us what is to come and is an awesome "revelation" of our King, The Lord Jesus Christ. Reading and meditating on this book will be a great blessing to you and will fill you with hope, enabling you to endure the hard trials of following Christ in the midst of our secular culture. It is also one of the most entertaining and enjoyable books to read.
These are the key books that I would encourage someone to begin to read and get familiar with if they have not read much in the Bible before.
Develop a Reading Plan
Finally, here's just a few tips to help you get started reading the Bible regularly. Not having a plan is much the same as planning not to do anything.
Decide ahead of time what you are going to read, find the page in your Bible where you will start reading and place a bookmark there. Decide when you are going to read. Decide how much time you are going to spend reading and thinking over what you read. Decide how much you are going to read. Decide where you are going to read. And finally, tell another believer about your plans and ask them to ask you about it in order to provide you with some accountability.
Don't bite off more than you can chew. It is much better to decide to read too little than too much. If you begin your reading plan with the great goal of reading several chapters a day or reading through the Bible in a year, then chances are you are going to grow discouraged very quickly as you fall behind in your reading. It will be overwhelming to you to try to catch up and you will most likely end up giving up. I and many other Christians have done this to ourselves before. Learn from us, begin with a small, manageable goal and then gradually work your way up as this discipline becomes more and more of a daily routine for you. One section in Mark is a good place to start.
Always pray prior to doing your daily Bible Reading. Ask God's help to open your eyes to see the wonderful things in His Word (Psalm 119:18). Ask him to give you understanding so that you will keep his law and observe it with your whole heart (Psalm 119:34). Finally pray that the Lord would satisfy you with his steadfast love so that you will rejoice and be glad all your days (Psalm 90:14).
George Mueller, a man filled with faith who led an amazing ministry to orphans in England and whose books have inspired scores of believers to pray and trust God to provide, was a man of great faith because he was a man who began each day reading and meditating over his Bible. This is his testimony of the amazing benefits of regularly reading and thinking over God's Word:
"In what way shall we attain to this settled happiness of soul? How shall we learn to enjoy God? How shall we obtain such an all-sufficient soul-satisfying portion in him as shall enable us to let go the things of this world as vain and worthless in comparison? I answer, this happiness is to be obtained through the study of Holy Scriptures. God has therein revealed himself unto us in the face of Jesus Christ."