Welcome back to our series on the five habits of a healthy Christian. Now we’re going to cover Habit 3, which is daily Scripture reading. What we mean by this is a regular time each day when you read the Bible. It’s usually best to have some kind of plan or goal that you’re working towards, so you can make steady progress in your knowledge of God’s Word.
Biblical Encouragement to Read Scripture
The Bible tells us that we should read God’s Word again and again, so that it can form our hearts and shape the way we think. A great passage in this regard is in Deuteronomy 6. It says:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:5–9).
Notice here the close connection between loving the Lord and having God’s Word in our hearts. They go together. What is described here is an immersive learning of Scripture, passing on the Word of God by inundating ourselves with it at all times of the day and all places in our home.
The Psalms begin with a programmatic statement of the kind of person who is truly blessed and happy. It’s the person whose “delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:2). This makes Scripture not just something we read every now and then, but it commends to us an almost obsessive level of focus on what God has said. We’re just always reading it and thinking about it, turning it over in our minds and applying it to every area of our lives. This keeps us rooted, as the next verse in Psalm 1 says, the person who delights in God’s law and meditates on it “is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers” (Psalm 1:3).
In 2 Timothy, one of Paul’s important exhortations to Timothy is to continue growing in his knowledge of the Scriptures because these are “able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15). The reason why Paul tells Timothy to focus so heavily on the Bible is because it tells us of the salvation that only comes through Jesus Christ. We can trust it because, as Paul says, “all Scripture is breathed out by God and 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 Timothy 3:16–17). So Scripture comes from God, it is breathed out by His Spirit. That means we can trust it and treat it as our authority, since every word of it is inspired by Him. It will tell us what to believe, how to live, and how to be ready for every good thing God has prepared for us to do.
Biblical Examples of Responding to Scripture
There is a close connection between hearing God’s law and doing God’s law in Scripture. A great example of this is King Josiah. The book of the Law had been lost for a period of years in Israel’s history, meaning that the people were doing what was right in their own eyes, without any authority or clear word from the Lord. But when King Josiah rediscovered the Law and heard it read, it affected him profoundly. First, he wept over his failure to measure up to God’s righteous standard. He made a new covenant with the Lord (2 Kings 22:11–13, 18–20; 23:1–3). Then Josiah began smashing the idols that God’s people had wrongly worshipped (2 Kings 23:4–20). Not only did he wipe out idols, but Josiah then reinstituted the right worship of God according to the Law, following it carefully (2 Kings 23:21–25).
This is such a perfect picture of how we’re supposed to treat Scripture. When we read it, if we’re really hearing it rightly as a revelation from God to us, then we will align our desires and our thoughts and our entire lives with what God has said in it. We will weep with conviction over our failures, and take the steps necessary to cut out idols. We’ll turn to God to worship Him alone, in Spirit and in truth. This is what we mean by seeing Scripture as authoritative. Through it, God speaks to us. And when God speaks, we must listen and respond. That is the path of life! We see the same pattern repeated when Ezra read the Law to Israel upon their return from exile. They began to weep as they understood what the Law meant, but Ezra comforted them and guided them to begin following it again (Nehemiah 8).
We also see the power God’s Word has in the life of Jesus. In His temptation, Jesus quotes three times from the book of Deuteronomy to refute the lies of Satan (Luke 4). He is modeling for us how to crush the schemes of the devil in our own lives, by having God’s Word deep within our hearts and recalling it in a time of temptation. Jesus quotes from the Psalms while He is on the cross. And Jesus opens up the Scriptures to the disciples on the Road to Emmaus, showing how they point to Him. Luke 24 tells us, “And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:25–27).
This episode on the road to Emmaus shows us that we need to have a profound humility as we approach reading the Bible. Without faith, and without Christ opening our eyes, we cannot read it rightly. We need God’s help to be able to understand and to be able to begin to see how everything in the Old and New Testament points to the person and work of Jesus Christ. Forgetting this was the great error of the Pharisees. Jesus told them, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me” (John 5:39). We don’t read Scripture each day to puff ourselves up with more pride over our knowledge. We read Scripture each day to humble ourselves before a holy and righteous God, to look for a source of life that we can find nowhere else. Our goal is not to master the Word; our goal is to be mastered by the Word.
Biblical Goals of Reading Scripture
When we think about reading Scripture and why we should do it, a great study would be to just read through Psalm 119 and reflect on the many different ways that the psalmist explores the benefits of reading God’s Word. Here are several that I noticed. We read Scripture:
- To keep our way blameless and pure (Psalm 119:1, 9)
- To gain an upright heart (Psalm 119:7)
- To be free from sin (Psalm 119:11)
- To gain God’s commendation (Psalm 119:22)
- To find life (Psalm 119:25)
- To understand God’s ways (Psalm 119:26)
- To be strengthened (Psalm 119:28)
- To separate truth from falsehood (Psalm 119:29)
- To be reminded of God’s promises (Psalm 119:38)
- To be reminded of God’s love and salvation (Psalm 119:41)
- To find hope (Psalm 119:49)
- To find comfort (Psalm 119:50)
I just listed 12 things, and we’re not even a third of the way through the Psalm! What comes through again and again as you read Psalm 119 is the delight the psalmist has in God’s Word. He realizes just how desperately he needs it and how amazing it is that God has given it to us.
Practical Guidance & Encouragement
Now I would like to give you a few practical pieces of advice that have helped me as I’ve tried to develop the spiritual habit of reading Scripture each day.
One thing I’ve learned is that it can be very beneficial to read Scripture in the morning. This helps you abide in Christ and be filled with the Holy Spirit throughout the day. Reading God’s Word before you start into the activities of the day really facilitates a close connection with the Lord. When I go a few days without doing this, I can really feel the withdrawals and sense of disconnection. Find a time and a place when you’re least likely to be distracted, so that you can really focus in and meditate on what you are reading.
A simple method to structure your daily reading is the H.E.A.R. method. “Hear” is an acronym that stands for: Highlight a key verse or verses; Explain the meaning in context; Apply these verses to your life; and Respond to God in prayer. Writing these down on a piece of paper or in a journal can help you internalize and remember what you learned, and then you can always go back to it later.
It’s also really helpful to have a reading plan. Whether it’s an aggressive plan where you’re trying to read several chapters a day, or whether you’re reading a chapter or just a few verses a day, the key is to have a plan and stick to it. There are many great plans out there, but the important thing to begin with is finding something manageable in order to develop the habit.
Another important principle to keep in mind is: if you are not filling the well, it’s hard to draw anything from it. Unless you are filling your heart and mind with God’s Word each day, it will be hard to bring biblical truth to bear on the situations you face. When you hit a crisis or a major decision, if you’ve been regularly storing God’s Word up in your heart and letting it form your mind, you will have a better idea of what God would have you do. You will also have words from the Lord that you can use to encourage others.
The more that you read God’s Word, the more your inner life and the way you live will reflect Christ. Not only will God work through you in powerful ways, but you will also experience greater joy. You’ll be reminded each day just how much God loves you, that He is always working, and that He offers you a hope that cannot ever be taken away.
So I want to encourage you—take the next step in forming this habit. If you don’t currently read Scripture each day, start small and set yourself reminders. If you’ve been reading the Bible regularly for a while, then take it up a notch. Try to read a little more or consider adding weekly memory verses into your routine. Or you can do a more in-depth study of a particular book in Scripture. There’s always more to learn!
This has been our third habit in the five habits of a healthy Christian. I hope it’s been helpful for you! Next time we’ll talk about habit 4, which is giving. See you then.