The Bible is one of a kind. With over 5 billion copies sold it’s by far the best selling book of all time. It’s also the foundational text for the world’s 3 major monotheistic religions. Over half the people on earth regard it as a sacred text. All this is objectively true.
But the Bible is also subjectively unique. For thousands of years, people’s lives have been transformed by the Bible.
This makes sense when you consider the Bible itself claims:
- To be the source of life and enlightenment (Psalm 19.7)
- To renew our minds and help us avoid dangerous groupthink (Romans 12.1-2)
To enable us to live a life approved by God (2 Timothy 2.15)
These are just a few of the many reasons to value the Bible and make it part of your life. However, it’s not enough to believe the Bible is special. We must engage with it.
So if you’d like to see your own life transformed by the Bible, here’s how to read the Bible to it’s fullest.
Have a System
The best way to make the Bible part of your life is to have a system. I wrote an article earlier this year explaining why you should build systems that match your values. But the bottom line is that the Bible is too important to approach in a random or casual way.
Having a system will help you read the Bible consistently. And consistency is important because Jesus taught we don’t live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.1
As someone once put it, “The Bible is meant to be bread for daily use, not cake for special occasions.” Therefore, having a system will help you read the Bible on a daily basis. And that kind of consistency—over time—leads to mastery.
I’ve put together a simple system that has helped me read through the Bible almost 30 times over the past 30 years.
Decide ahead of time the when, where, and what.
When will you read the Bible?
Where will you read it?
What part of the Bible will you read?
Be thoughtful about choosing the time of day and the place where you will read. When is your mind most alert? Where can you read with the fewest distractions?
For me, I get up just a little earlier than others in my home and I read at the breakfast table, or on our outdoor patio. I also make sure to leave my phone in a different room. This means my mind is alert and undistracted.
If you really want to learn the Bible you can’t just flip it open and read random parts. A system will help you read through the entire Bible from Genesis to Revelation.
I love using something called the paperclip method.
When I start a new Bible I put paper clips in Genesis, Matthew, and Acts.
This is inspired by Ephesians 2.19-20: “You are fellow citizens with the saints, and members of God’s household. You are being built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone.”
Everyday I read a small section from the prophets (Old Testament), the apostles (New Testament) and Christ Jesus (Gospels).
How much do I read? Here’s how I break it down. I read:
– 2 chapters from the OT
– 1 chapter from the NT
– 1 story from a gospel (about 10-15 verses)
This means I read a little over 3 chapters each day. That may sound like a lot but keep in mind Bible chapters are short. It usually only takes me around 15 minutes to read each day.
And if you read a little over 3 chapters a day, you’ll read through the entire Bible in a year!
But the Bible is designed to give you a 360° view of God and his plan. When you read certain books over and over, while ignoring others, you get an imbalanced view of God.
Now I know when, where, and what I’m going to read. I’m sitting at my breakfast table, I’m undistracted, and I’ve got my paper clips.
The second part of my system is to pray and ask God to teach me.
It seems so simple but this is an important step! In Luke 24.45, it says “Jesus opened the minds of his disciples” so they could understand the Scriptures.
I can read the Bible but I need the Lord’s help to understand it.
So I say a simple prayer like this: “Lord Jesus, please open my mind and help me understand what I’m going to read today.”
The third part of my system is to read in the places where I have my paperclips. I pay attention when reading but I don’t go slow. I read at my normal pace.
But as I read, I underline or highlight words and phrases that stand out to me.
I like to use these amazing pens to underline. They come in lots of colors and don’t bleed through the thin pages of my Bible.
What do I underline? Here’s a recent example. I was reading in Mark 7, and verse 8 stood out to me:
“Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.”
I underlined this verse, and then continued reading.
There are different ways to break down the Bible as you read. Maybe I’ll write another article at some point describing filters you can use to make better highlights.
But for now, simply read at your normal pace and highlight or underline the things that stand out to you.
After I’ve read, I go back and review the things I underlined. This fourth part of my system helps me reflect on what I’ve read so I can remember it.
Review, so you can reflect, so you can remember.
For the verse I underlined in my example from Mark above, I thought about how the people did not reject God’s commandments. They simply neglected them. And I realized that when we neglect God’s commandments, the only thing we have left to hold on to are the traditions of men.
Reviewing what you underlined is how you digest what God has taught you during your reading. If you read but you don’t underline and review, there’s a good chance God’s word will go in one ear and out the other.
Once I’ve spent time reviewing what I underlined, I pray and ask God to help me live it in my daily life.
The last part of my system is to share what I’ve learned with at least one person that day.
Jesus said, “What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim from the housetops.”2
Jesus teaches us so we can share with others.
You may have a hard time remembering what you read but you will almost always remember a conversation you had. You remember what you share. Try it and you’ll see what I mean.
Every day, share one thing you read with one person.
You Can Do This Too!
The Bible is an amazing book that will transform your life if you read it consistently.
- Plan: Know when, where and what you’re going to read
- Pray: Start by asking the Lord to teach you
- Underline the things that stand out as you read
- Review what you underlined
Share what you learned with at least one person every day
Are you willing to commit 15 minutes a day and follow the simple system in this article? If so, you will learn to read the Bible for all it’s worth.