I’m not a health nut by any means. I love ice cream and chocolate a little too much, but from what I hear, a healthy way to live is to have a balanced diet. Did you know that the same should go for us spiritually as well? I like to say it as “a healthy diet of Scripture”. Let’s be honest- God’s Word can be a bit intimidating. There’s these weird names and big words that we sometimes just don’t get. But there are some parts that are less intimidating, like the book of John. And when it comes to our own personal Bible study, it’s easy to stick to these “easier” books, or books that we’re more familiar with. But dear Christian, can I encourage you to venture out a little? Can I encourage you to have a healthy diet of Scripture?
But a disclaimer first- if you’re new to studying God’s Word, then please, by all means I highly encourage you to start with the book of John, or another book that you’re familiar with. My heart is for you to fall deeply in love with God and the studying of His Word, so the last thing I want is for you to get frustrated on day 1, and give up. When someone is new to studying Scripture, my two suggestions are usually- 1. The Gospel of John. It’s fairly easy to understand, and there’s so much wonderful, rich Truth about Jesus packed away in there. or 2. The book of the Bible that your pastor is currently preaching through. You’ll have some familiarity with this book because you’ll be hearing your pastor talk through it on Sundays; this will probably also enrich your hearing of his sermon!
But friends, once you become familiar with Scripture, I encourage you to wade out into some of the unfamiliar parts, or the hard parts, and here’s why:
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” 2 Timothy 3:16 (ESV). I could pretty much end this post here. Simply, we should have a healthy diet of Scripture because ALL Scripture is God-breathed and profitable. This means that the book of Obadiah is just as God-breathed and profitable as the book of Matthew. In my opinion, if God breathed it, then it’s important for us to read it. We’re missing out on so much Truth when we skip over the hard stuff.
Scripture is not a bag of trail mix. We can’t just pick out the M&Ms. We like to read the parts of Scripture that tell us about peace and that we are loved. Those are wonderful things that we should read about and know. But what about the parts of Scripture that convict us of our idolatry? Or that teach us of God’s wrath on Israel in the Old Testament? Those parts don’t give us the warm fuzzies, so we are tempted to skip over those. But like I said before, ALL Scripture is God-breathed, so we can’t just pick out and choose to follow the parts that make us feel good. In fact, the Bible gives a very strong warning to anyone who adds to or takes away from His Word in Revelation 22:18-19, “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, & if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life & in the holy city, which are described in this book” (ESV).
The Bible is not about us. It’s about God. For far too long, I read the Bible as a book about me. I believed it’s purpose was to tell me how to live and to make me feel better. And while Scripture can do these things, the it is not about us. It is about God and His rescue plan to bring His fallen people back to Him. So, we read Scripture to get to know God (& yes, He will transform your life as you get to know Him), and since this is why we read, we need to read all of Scripture to get to know all of His character. Now, God is so great and mighty, that there are some things about His character that we will never know or truly understand on this side of eternity, but that shouldn’t stop us from getting to know Him as much as we can now. This means that we need to know that the God of the Old Testament who causes mountains to tremble in Exodus 19 is the exact same God in the New Testament who humbles Himself to be born in a manger. Our God is just as holy as He is loving. Our God is full of justice in the same way that He is full of righteousness. He is all that He says He is, and if we neglect to learn about Him for all of who He is, we are not worshipping Him for who He truly is. God is God and we are not. We must worship Him for who He is, all of who He is, and we do this by reading all about Him, in all parts of Scripture.
The Bible calls us to mature. In Hebrews 5:12-14, the author strongly warns against those who are not maturing in Christ. He discusses how his audience should be teachers, eating “solid food”, but instead, they’re still needing “milk”, learning the basics. Just like how my boys have matured from nursing 12 times a day to rummaging the pantry 12 times a day, we as believers should mature from the basic doctrines to the deep theological truths of the faith. And one way to do this is by digging into the parts of Scripture that may seem difficult at first.
We can use Scripture to interpret Scripture. Is there a part of Scripture that’s confusing you or you’re not sure how to interpret it? The more familiar with Scripture that you become, the more it will help you in understanding all of the parts of it. For example, Hebrews discusses how Jesus is our Great High Priest (Hebrews 4:14-5:10). We don’t have these now, so we won’t be able to fully grasp how great and wonderful this is until we go back and read in the Old Testament. After spending time in the Old Testament, you’ll see that Jesus being our Great High Priest means that we can go boldly before the throne of God, that there no longer needs to be a mediator between God and man (because Christ is our mediator), and so much more. There are countless other examples of how understanding different parts of Scripture can help us understand and interpret what we are currently reading.
So, now the question is how do we do this? Does this mean that we should ditch the books we’re familiar with like the Gospels? Definitely not! Like I said, we need a healthy diet of ALL of Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation and everything in between. Here’s some practical ideas:
- Read an Old Testament book and then a New Testament book. Say you just finished studying in Ephesians, then flip to Isaiah and read there.
- Study the Old and New Testaments together. Start at the beginning of each Testament, and read one chapter from the old and one chapter from the new. You’ll learn that the Old Testament is much longer than the New. This also helps break up some of the passages, like all of the numbers in Numbers, that can be sometimes hard to drudge through.
Dear friends, know this is not a race. I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again- there’s no where that says that we have to read through the Bible in a year. If you do, that’s great, but if you spend months deeply studying the book of Jeremiah, that’s also great. This “healthy diet of Scripture” thing is not something that happens over night, or in a day, or even in a year. This is a lifelong process, so please don’t leave here feeling down on yourself about how much you don’t know. There will always be so much that we don’t know. Leave here with a desire to start a journey today of digging into God’s Word, and then continue that journey tomorrow, the next day, and every day after that. This is about taking steps to maturity, not just standing still. Prayerfully, you’ll be able to look back at yourself a year from now and say that you love God’s Word and know it more than you do today. And that by God’s grace, you’ll be able to say that about yourself every year from here on out.
And I cannot leave here without reminding you of this- if you’re a believer in Christ, you have the power of the Spirit! Ask Him which book He wants you to study next. And then study in prayer. Ask Him to illuminate the Word to you. He will! You will not ever fully understand it all, but He will teach you what He wants you to know when He wants you to know it!
Friends, may we leave our milk behind and move on to the solid food. It’s a beautiful thing to mature in Christ. May we not miss out on this.