Many Christians struggle to read their Bible consistently. In the midst of the craziness of chasing a career, raising a family, or pursuing deeper relationships, Christians, of all ages, often fail to spend time with God.
During my sophomore year of high school, I began to realize how God has called His people to spend time in the Word, but I was busy. I was a high school athlete and spent most of my waking hours of the day studying, working out, or eating. A friend of mine pointed me to the advice of John Piper. Dr. Piper famously tweeted,
If you must choose between Bible and breakfast, choose Bible. And grab an energy bar. Then plan better. Man shall not live by bread alone.
When I read this, I was convicted of the way that I had allowed food to become an idol in my life. Dr. Piper’s words reminded me that the breakfast I would eat each day would not satisfy me. Ultimately, I needed the word of God. The words “grab an energy bar, then plan better” rang in my ears.
These words reminded me to reorient my day around the Word of God. God does not desire that we would completely forgo the needs of the body, but rather that we would prioritize the needs of the Spirit. This is important for us to remember because Scripture reading is an essential and formative discipline.
Three Daily Practices
At first, the idea of reorienting your day around the Word of God can be quite daunting, but I promise that it is worth it. In order to grow in our affection for God through the Scriptures, we need to do more than just read a random chapter of the Bible each day. We need to meditate, memorize, and study the Scriptures. I believe these are three important practices that every Christian should work to implement into their daily walk with the Lord.
I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
If your story is anything like mine, you grew up in the Church, begrudgingly memorizing Bible verses. Even after I felt a calling in my life towards ministry, I struggled to love Scripture memorization. Yet, the Bible is quite clear that Scripture memorization should be an ordinary practice.
In Psalm 119:11, David declares that he has stored up God’s Word in his heart in order that he might not sin. In Colossians 3:16, Paul commands the believers to “let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly.” Throughout Scripture, God is inviting His people into the practice of Scripture memorization.
If you are new to Scripture memorization, consider memorizing a verse each week. Rather than memorizing one random verse after another, consider memorizing a passage or chapter over time. Both methods can be helpful, but the latter will allow you to see the context around the passage.
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.
Meditation is not a uniquely Christian practice. However, while New Age meditation focuses on clearing your mind from conscious thinking, Christian meditation focuses on “set[ting] [our] minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:1). The goal of New Age meditation is an empty mind, while the goal of Christian meditation is a mind full of Christ.
In short, the act of Christian meditation is focusing our hearts and minds on God through the Scriptures. In order to do this, Christians must spend time thinking upon the Word of God each day. This meditation on the Scriptures helps to remind the people of God of the truth of the Lord.
Recently, a pastor provided a helpful paradigm for approaching Scripture meditation. Many of you are probably familiar with the A.C.T.S. model for prayer. This helpful approach rightly encourages us to adore God for who He is (adoration), confess the ways that we have fallen short of His righteous requirements (confession), thank Him for the grace He has shown to us (thanksgiving), and humbly bring our requests before Him (supplication). By using this structure, we can focus on the text through the lense of these four groups.
If you are new to Scripture meditation, consider praying through the text as you read it. Read through a Psalm slowly and spend time praying after each verse. The goal of this practice is not to rush through, but to focus your mind upon the truth of the Scripture.
Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.
-2 Timothy 2:7
Scripture memorization and meditation are essential and formative practices, yet we are missing something. By memorizing and meditating upon the Word of God, we know the Bible and we have reflected upon it and the wonders of God, yet something is lost. Piper wrote,
Every book worth reading beckons with the words, “Think over what I say.” When my sons complain that a book is too hard to read, I say, “Raking is easy, but all you get is leaves; digging is hard, but you might find diamonds.”
As Christians, we must dig deep into the Scriptures, studying them for the depth that they bring and trusting the Holy Spirit to light up the cave so that we can see the diamonds for what they really are.
There are many helpful approaches to studying the Scriptures, but OIAM is a simple, four-fold approach that has been useful in my life and in the community group I lead.
I love the simplicity of this model, but even more than that, I love the way it leads Christians into Scripture meditation. In this model, ask yourself three questions and then pray through the passage.
- What does the text say?
- What does the text mean?
- How does this affect us?
A Challenge to Reorient Your Life
For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.
The Bible is life-changing. Please stop flipping your Bible open, skimming through it effortlessly, and leaving it unchanged. When we do this, we are like the man who looks at himself in a mirror yet leaves and forgets what he looks like.
Rather, let’s cultivate patterns in our lives to spend time with the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe. To meditate upon the Word of God, to memorize it, and to study it. These are three great ways to read your Bible, three practices that I imperfectly commit to.