Why It's a Good Thing For God to Shatter Our Self-Delusion

It is through the true knowledge of God that we see ourselves. We as human beings are prone to self-deception.  We see what we want to see and how we want to see it.  We may perceive that we are righteous, good people and project that idea every where we go.  Yet, perception is not reality.  Humanity is spiritually blind, unable to see who and what we truly are.  Not only are we sinful creatures, we are completely oblivious to it.
When it comes to theology, it is not merely a task in which we seek to understand God, but also to see ourselves.  For it is only in the light of his glory that we grasp a true vision of ourselves. Think to the prophet Isaiah. When he received a vision of the holy God on his throne, what was his response? An overwhelming sense of the weight of his own inadequacy before the God of the universe. His sin became like a millstone around his neck that forced him to his knees.  Was Isaiah more sinful when he arrived in God’s presence than any other point in his life? No, he was just simply made more aware of it.

The Problem of Comparison: Basket Ball and 1st Graders

When we compare ourselves to other people we can seem righteous or even blameless.  We can point to others and say, “I’m better than that guy, at least I didn’t ________”. We compare ourselves to other men to attempt to rationalize the delusion of our own righteousness.  Yet, when we compare ourselves rightly to an infinitely holy, tracendent, and pure God, we don’t quite measure up.  Let me give you an example.  I love getting to play basketball against children.  Why? Because I rock at basketball when I play against kids.  I’m taller than them. I’m stronger than them. I’m faster than them.  I dominate them. Now if I walk away from playing basketball with a bunch of children and say to myself “You know what, I’m pretty great at basket ball, I think I’ve got a chance to make it in the NBA I’d be a legend”.  You and I both know that this is foolishness.  How should I really test my basketball skills? Well I need to play one of the greats – a Michael Jordan, a Kobe Bryant, or a Lebron James.  The true measure of my greatness in basketball can only be seen in light of the greatest players of all time.  Although I may be able to dominate some 1st graders in a game of basketball, Lebron James would dominate me like I was a 1st grader.
So too it is when it comes to our spiritual lives.  When we compare ourselves to other men, we may seem impressive in our righteousness, but when we stand before a holy God we are overwhelmed in by our inadequacy.  We must see ourselves in light of who God is. This is the only way we can grasp a true knowledge of ourselves.  So theology not only helps us know who God is, but helps us to know ourselves.  The only way we can accurately see ourselves is by knowing God.
In the words of John Calvin,  “The inference to be drawn is that men are never duly touched and impressed with a conviction of their insignificance, until they have contrasted themselves with the majesty of God.” (Institutes I.i.3)  We will never see ourselves as we ought until we see ourselves in light of God’s glory.  It is then and only then that we recognize our poor and lowly state.  It is only in the radiant splendor of God’s glory that we realize how destitute and impoverished and desperate we really are.  Why would we want to think this way about ourselves? Isn’t it better to go on with the delusion of self-righteousness rather than to be exposed for who we really are? No not at all, we do not want to be so foolish as to ignore reality itself.  Do we not have pity on those who are blinded by their own delusion? 

Singers Who Cannot Sing

Think about the show American Idol.  Do we not all fill sorrow for these poor people who think they can sing like Aretha Franklin only to sound like a dying cat? Isn’t the most loving, and helpful thing for that person is to shatter the delusion they have been believing, that they can sing? We need to see ourselves as we truly are.  We cannot live in a fantasy world of our own making, because if we are not shattered from our self-delusion than far worst consequences will result than just simply being mocked on national television, we will experience the fire of hell for all eternity.  
Yet, for those who grasp truly their spiritual poverty there is hope. It is only by getting an accurate picture of ourselves that we see we have any need for the Gospel. As we grasp a vision of God, we see our own sinfulness and we see our great need.  This is why Jesus announced in those beatitudes, “Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:3). For it is only by seeing our spiritual poverty that we are ready to be filled with a gifted righteousness purchased by Jesus Christ. To see ourselves as we truly are is the only way to be saved from ourselves. When the delusion is shattered and we realize the emperor has no clothes, then alone will we reach out to the hand of the savior and take the freely offered garment he offers us.  

Faith is the Catalyst to True Rationality

Is Christianity reasonable? It seems the tension between faith and reason has escalated every year since the dawn of the enlightenment. Do religious claims have any sort of epistemological legitimacy? Is Christianity simply a fideistic jump into presuppositions that must be believed before they can be understood? Or, can Christianity be believed and accepted by the fierce consistency and coherency of the evidentalist apologetic seeking to prove the case for Christianity? These questions have been wrestled and debated by theologians and philosophers much greater than I, yet I think there is an epistemological legitimacy to the Christian faith that necessitates both presuppositions received by faith and the convincing evidence and truthfulness of rationality. I believe we see both of these elements clearly in the life of Paul and his life will serve an illustrative purpose in understanding the reasonableness of Christianity.

The Rational Mind of the Apostle Paul

The apostle Paul stands before Agrippa in Acts 26 defending his missionary work and his teaching concerning The Way. The defense he gives, as recorded by Luke, is his testimony of his conversion. He appeals to the king and appeals to the Old Testament, the prophets and Moses, concerning the death of Jesus and his resurrection. (Acts 26:22). Fetus, Pauls accuser, states and loudness and anger tells Paul, “you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind.” Paul was a well-educated man trained by Gamaliel himself and trained as Pharisee. Paul had an education that few were privileged too in his day. Festus accuses that Paul’s great academic training has led to his current state of insanity. On a side note, many Christians today think so very similarly to Festus thinking that intellectual pursuits concerning the Christian mind are determined to lead either to cold rationalism or a dangerous heterodoxy. Paul certainly didn’t see this as the case. Paul responds to Festus claiming that he is not out of his mind, “but I am speaking true and rational words”. Paul not only sees his arguments of Jesus as the Christ as true, but rational.

Paul the thinker, was skilled in presenting a rational case and an apologetic for the Christian faith. His missionary strategy involved him going into the Jewish synagogue and lecturing on the Messiah in the Old Testament only to conclude that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ. Paul believed that his arguments from the Old Testament were both convincing and rational. Even in his appeal to Agrippa, he calls him to see the truthfulness of the Gospel because of the of the consistent and coherent arguments he makes from the Old Testament Scriptures, which were a source of authority both Paul and Agrippa shared.

Paul did not see the Christian faith as anti-rational. Anyone who has ever given Paul’s writings in the New Testament even a cursory read knows that the man was fiercely argumentative and ruthlessly logical. Yet, neither too did Paul adopt an epistemology of rationalism. Although Paul believed deeply in the rationality of the Christian faith he knew that convincing arguments were never enough to convince anyone to make Christ their Lord. Paul himself knew this better than anyone. His own conversion testifies to the inability of reason to lead him to the Christian faith. His dedication and intellectual pursuits as a Pharisee did not lead to his conversion, but his conversion came on that dusty road to Damascus. It was there that Saul of Tarsus had an encounter with the resurrected Christ appearing before him in the blinding light. That moment for Paul changed the trajectory of his life. His talents and abilities trained and refined by Gamaliel have now been opened up to a new reality – a reality in which Christ is Lord. Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus led him to pour his intellectual ability into defending and preaching a Gospel he not only now knew to be rationally true, but one in which he experienced its truthfulness.

An Experience of the Knowledge of God

This experiential component of the Christian faith was incredibly crucial in Paul’s thinking. For Paul, true knowledge was not simply accepted mental facts or data about God, but the facts and data should lead to an intimate experience and knowledge of the divine, hence, Paul’s emphasis in knowing Christ in Philippians 3. He counts everything as loss for the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus his Lord. This is no mere cognitive knowledge but an intimate knowledge that deepens as he is united to both the painful sufferings of Christ and the incredible victory of his resurrection. As he shares in the sufferings and victory of Christ he receives a deeper knowledge of God. Paul’s life and thinking is a reminder that reason and experience should not be dichotomized. When it comes to the knowledge of God both are crucial.

It must be remembered that when it comes to conversion scripture emphasizes that this is a divine work of God. It is an act of God’s grace that penetrates the depravity of the human heart. No one is ever convinced into the kingdom of God, rather they are converted. Just as we do not choose our physical birth, neither do we choose our spiritual birth. Jesus tells us that the new birth is like the wind. The spirit blows where it wishes. (John 3:8) Although Christianity is rational, it cannot be accepted apart from the new birth. It is only when a man or woman is born again that their faulty presuppositions due to the noetic effects of sin are replaced within divinely given eyes to see the truth and reasonableness of the faith.

Jonathan Edwards famous illustration of honey serves as an important distinction:

There is a difference between having a rational judgment that honey is sweet, and having a sense of its sweetness. A man may have the former, that knows not how honey tastes; but a man can’t have the latter, unless he has an idea of the taste of honey in his mind. So there is a difference between believing that a person is beautiful, and having a sense of his beauty. The former may be obtained by hearsay, but the latter only by seeing the countenance. There is a wide difference between mere speculative, rational judging anything to be excellent, and having a sense of its sweetness, and beauty. The former rests only in the head, speculation only is concerned in it; but the heart is concerned in the later. (JER, 112)

Just as a man may be told about the sweetness of honey, he does not truly know its sweetness until he experiences it himself. The same is true when it comes to an understanding of God. Apologetic and evidences for the truthfulness of Christianity can be presented powerfully and persuasively, but the human mind cannot accept the rationality of Christianity until a work of God has first taken place in the heart. Only by the work of the Spirit of God can a man move from an distant and dry intellectualism to a warm personal experience of divine grace.

This connection between the rationality of Christianity and the need for experience leads to a few practical application that must be remembered.

1. Conversion is a Super Natural Work of God

Apologetics is a worthwhile field of study. It is essential to provide a defense for the rationality of the Christian faith. Christianity is reasonable and explain the best the world as it is. Yet, we must be careful that we don’t turn conversion into a work of philosophical argument to be made. Conversion is not a work of the convincingness of man, but of the convincing calling of God. Conversion is first and foremost a supernatural work of God. Does this mean however that the quest of apologetics is purposeless in evangelism? Certainly not.

2. Apologetics Can be the Means Used By God to Convert the Lost

Apologetics is not a waste of time. Although the rational faculties of man have been severely distorted due to the Fall, in the words of Francis Schaeffer, man is not a zero. He is still made in the image of God and is a rational being. Often in presenting an apologetic case for the Christian faith, the Spirit will use the evidences for the truthfulness of Christianity to save.

3. Christianity is Reasonable

The Christian faith has a solid case for its reasonable and has epistemological credibility. The foundation for Christian epistemology comes from divine revelation both generally in the created order and specifically through His Word. The truth that has been given by God himself provides a firm footing to climb high on the mountain of God. There is a tendency among some Christians to elevate religious experience to idolatrous levels that not only go beyond the revealed truth of God’s word, but are contradictory to it. Although we want to achieve a balance between Christian reason and experience, it is crucial that personal subjective experiences do not rest in the chief seat of epistemological authority. Scripture understood through Spirit enlightened reason is always where we must begin when it comes to the reasonableness of Christianity.

Faith is the Catalyst to True Rationality

Christianity is rational, but its rationality can’t be fully comprehended by a divine work of grace. However, once God’s grace has been given to illuminate the human mind it is discovered that faith does not the antithesis to reason but rather the gateway to true rationality. It is by faith in Christ that the mental faculties of the human mind are regenerated to work properly and begin thinking clearly. Faith is the catalyst enzyme unlocking the true reasonableness of the human mind. It is only by a divine work of God bringing us to faith that we can see the inconsistencies and incoherence of our former worldview and see the incredibly rational and convincing understanding that Jesus is Lord. In the words of C.S. Lewis, "I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

A Reformation Day Tribute: Martin Luther and the Righteousness of God

Today is Reformation Day! It is a day theat commemorates the beginnings of the protestant reformation as a German monk named Martin Luther intended to start a theological debate as he nailed his 95-Thesis on the door of the church.  We are greatly indebted to men like Martin Luther and the other reformers who began to rediscover a the light of the true Gospel that had been shrouded within medieval scholasticism.  The key doctrine that Luther rediscovered was the doctrine of Justification by faith. As Luther began to study the Bible, particularly Romans he was greatly disturbed by one particular phrase, "The Righteousness of God".  By divine Grace this phrase began to become the sweetest of all phrases as he began to learn that we received the righteousness of God by faith in Jesus Christ.  All of this is by the grace of God.  I'll let Luther himself describe this discovery later in his life,

I had certainly wanted to understand Paul in his letter to the Romans. But what prevented me from doing so was not so much cold feet as that one phrase in the first chapter: "The righteousness of God," which I had been taught to understand as the righteousness by which God is righteous, and punish unrighteous sinners....

As last, as I meditated day and night on the relation of the words "the righteousness of God is revealed in it, as it is written, the righteous person shall live by faith" I began to understand that t"righteousness of God" as that by which the righteous person lives by the gift of God (faith); and this sentence, "the righteousness of God is revealed," to refer to a passive righteousness, by which the merciful God justifies us by faith, as it is written, "the righteous person lives by faith." this immediately made me feel as though I had been born again, and as though I had entered through open gates into paradise itself. From that moment, I saw the whole face of Scripture in a new light...And now, where I had once hated the phrase, "the righteousness of God," I began tool and extol it as the sweetest of phrases, so that this passage in Paul became the very gate of paradise to me.

This beautiful doctrine, so central to the Gospel, is something we protestants tend to take for granted, but on this reformation day may we praise the Lord for showing to a German monk the glorious truth that sinners are justified and given the righteousness of God through Jesus Christ.  Happy Reformation day!

Redefining Love

There is nothing more beautiful than the love of God.  The love of God is essential to the Christian faith, yet how often we misunderstand this robust, multifaceted love.  DA Carson was right when he calls the doctrine of the love of God “difficult”.  The reason God’s love is so difficult is because it is actually offensive to most westerners who operate with a reductionistic understanding of love.  Love is one of those words that gets thrown around a lot.  We will within the same breath say we love our children and that we also love pizza.  Love is a word that gets tossed around so much that is has largely lost meaning.  The word “love” itself seems to be ambiguously and subjectively defined by the individual.  For someone love might mean a sacrifice, for another it may mean freedom, for others it may mean restrictions and boundaries, for others it may be an emotion or feeling.  Whatever our personal understanding of love, we tend to reduce love to fit our own personal wants and wishes. To make understanding the doctrine of the love of God even more difficult, we fail to recognize how much our cultural presuppositions influence the way we think about love.  Just as one drop of food coloring can transform the whole color of a bowl full of icing, so does our culture comprehensively influence all our thinking.  To be ignorant of the cultural influences that pressure us and surround us will always result in a convoluted mess.  Although we cannot remove all our cultural influences from our thinking, we must seek to remove the cloudy lens of our present day to see the Scriptures clearly.

One of the great challenges is defining terms.  Since love is such a junk drawer term, is it even possible to come up with a definition? Can there be an objective definition of what love is or is it a fluid word that simply adapts to our wishes? Well to give up the possibility of objective definitions is to simply dive into the chaotic emptiness of the postmodern predicament – meaninglessness.  Yet, though we may be confused about love, we know that love is a meaningful word.  It is an important word.  We should not give it up simply because it is complicated to disentangle bad definitions or to correct grievous misunderstandings.

Who defines love? Or perhaps the better question is this, who is the authority that establishes a definition of love? A scripture that is well known and often quoted is 1 John 2:8 “God is love”.  Although we need to understand what John means by “love”, we all know this, love is an essential characteristic and quality of who God is.  It is essential to his being.  So to provide a definition of love we must not look to our culture, but rather to the very character of God.  Yet, what we will find is that the love of God is actually offensive to our modern times.  The love of God, both at the same time, condemns us and redeems us.  It is a love that both forgives us and sanctifies us.

What is Love?

So what is love? What does the Scripture say about how God loves us and thus how we should love one another? Well to do that we must examine the Scriptures and what we will find is that God’s love is God centered.  It is a holy love, an offensive love.  Let’s examines some key Scriptures.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, ESV)

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,” (Romans 3:23–24, ESV)

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,” (Ephesians 2:8, ESV)

So it seems from these Scriptures that Salvation is solely an act of God’s grace, which it is.  However, it is easy to read these Scriptures and thinks that God merely just wipes the slate clean.  He merely just looks over our sin and just attaches salvation to us.  From our perspective this is what seems to happen, but from the perspective of God something much bigger (and better) is happening.  In order for God to love us, he must make us holy.

God cannot love sinners as they are an offense to his holiness.  So how does God solve this problem? Well enter Jesus.  The son enters into the world and buys our salvation, absorbing the penalty for sin on the cross.  This way sin is not only paid for, but we receive the righteousness of Christ.  Therefore God imputes the righteous beauty of Christ to his bride the church.  When God gifts us with salvation he is not only wiping our slate clean, but he makes us holy.

“When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.” (John 17:1–2, ESV)

“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction:” (Romans 3:21–22, ESV)

“For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers,” (Hebrews 2:10–11, ESV)

“Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.” (Hebrews 5:8–10, ESV)

So what do we see from these verses? We see that salvation is given to unworthy recipients because of the worthiness of Christ.  God’s great love for his people is founded in His love for his son, Jesus Christ.  God loves those who are in Christ, because he loves the holy righteousness of himself.  As Jonathan Edwards says “All God’s love may be resolved into his love to himself and delight in himself….His love to the creature is only his inclination to glorify himself and communicate himself, and his delight in himself glorified and in himself communicated”.

A Holy, God-Centered Love

In other words, God’s love has a God-centered aim. God’s love has a purpose, an end to which it is trying to achieve.  He saves us and imputes to us the righteousness of Christ so that we might be like Christ.  God so loves the image of His son that he multiplies this in love to those who are saved.  So why does God save us and redeem us? He does so for His own glory.  So that the bride of Christ, the church, might praise him and make much of Him.  As the psalmist writes, “Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of your name; deliver us, and atone for our sins for your name’s sake!” (Psalm 79:9). See God’s passion for his glory in Romans 15:8-9, “Christ became a servant ... in order that the nations might glorify God for his mercy”.

So the love that God has for us is a holy love, a love that is aimed at glorifying God.  It is divinely oriented and motivated.  The cross is the great display of God’s love towards us, but its chief aim is to make much of God.  The glory of God is the chief aim of all creation.

So if the love of God is a God-centered love, it is a holy love.  This means that God cannot love in a salvific way that which is unholy and tainted by sin. For the sinner is the enemy of God, continually attacking and marring the beauty of God’s glory.  But God, zealous to defend, redeem, and manifest His holiness sends Christ to save sinners to the praise of His glorious grace!

The cross then is the great intersection of God’s justice and love.  It is the vindication of his holiness and his gracious compassion on sinners.  For at the cross, God’s wrath is satisfied by the blood of his son, and the holiness of the son, which God so delights in, is given to sinners.  So God loves sinners because they are given the righteousness of the son.  Sinners are justified because they possess the righteousness of Christ.  Because the Father loves his holy, obedient son through Christ’s death he loves us who have received the beautiful holiness of Jesus as our own.

You can see how the love of God is surprisingly offensive. The object of God’s love must be holy.  So God’s love not only offers us the gift of salvation, but it states that something is seriously wrong with us.  In our sin we are by nature children of wrath, and it is only through Christ that we can be saved.  It is only those who are in Christ who become the object of God’s holy redemptive love.  If we are united in Christ by faith we receive the same love that God shares in his perfect son, therefore in order to be loved by God we must receive the righteousness of Christ by faith.  We must confess our sin and unworthiness and by faith receive the worthiness of Christ.

A Definition for Love

So what is a good definition of biblical love modeled from the biblical doctrine of the love of God.  I propose this:

True love delights in affection towards its object, giving of oneself for the other’s good in holiness.

To love is to delight in affection.  There is a rejoicing an delighting in the object.  There is strong emotions and a strong desire for the object of ones love. Yet true love not only delights in affection towards its object, but gives for the other’s good.  In this sense, love is altruistic denying the self for the other.  We see this so clearly in the Scriptures, most clearly in the life of Jesus himself who gave of himself on the cross for our salvation.  Jesus loved us and demonstrated that love by his death.  True love is not so much concerned with being loved but with loving, even at great expense to oneself. If you love someone only because you receive benefits from them, then that isn’t really love, is it? If you love your wife only because she cooks you a hot meal and does your laundry, that’s not love, its selfishness.  You are merely loving your wife because you are getting something out of the deal.  True love denies the self and gives to the good of the other.  True love is not a contract but an act of self denial.  All this is for the good of the recipient.

Now, up to this point in our definition few people would have any sort of problem with it.  However the question is this – what is the other persons ultimate good? Here is where the Christian definition of love takes a different turn from the worlds.  True love has at its aim the holiness of the other person.  To reflect God His glory in holiness is the greatest good we can do for one another.  True love does not seek its own good, but another’s. So to love one another means we seek to encourage each other towards holiness.

An Example from Marriage

We can see this in Paul’s teaching on marriage.  In Ephesians 5:25 he charges husbands to “love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her”.  So he charges the husband to this affectionate altruistic love for the good of the wife.  So husbands are to love in a posture of self-denial seeking the ultimate good of his wife.  Now what is that good that true love seeks? Paul tells us in verse 26-27, “that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish”.

Did you catch it? True love seeks the good of the other which is holiness.  Seeking to sanctify the other is the greatest demonstration of love.  Just as Christ laid down his life on the cross, he did this so that he could present the church perfectly holy and without blemish.  The good true love seeks to accomplish in its object is beautification in holiness.  This not only applies to the relationship of marriage, but within the relationship of the church.

We are to be continually building each other up in maturity to holiness.  We love each other as God has loved us, by making one another holy.  You can see this as we begin to think about our relationship towards one another.  To love you as a member of this church does not mean that I allow you to be in sin and not say a word.  To be silent is not to be loving but to be selfish.  What keeps us from addressing one another in our sin with love? Do we find that we would rather just not handle the conflict and get our hands dirty?  Are we friend of damaging our reputation of or are we fearful that this person may hate us after speaking truth? Does our fear of man hinder our ability to truly love one another?

Redefining Love

When we derive our definition of love from the love that God has for us as revealed in the Scriptures, it is far more beautiful than our modern redefinitions of the word.  Love is more than tolerance and it is more than acceptance. Love is a zealously affectionate desire to sanctify, which is the greatest good we can do to another.  Understanding this way changes the way we think about social engagement, marriage and family, and even church membership.  May our understanding of love flow from the great fount of love, the heart of our redeeming God.

How to Read the Bible for Yourself - Part 2

This is part two of "How to Read the Bible for Yourself". To check out part one of click here.

7. Develop the Daily Discipline of Spending Time with God

This is often called a quiet time. It doesn’t matter what you call it but you need to form the habit of daily spending time with the Lord in word and prayer. Bible study can be like any skill. Practice does make perfect. The more you read the Bible the more you will understand and the new treasure you will discover. Not only do you need the Word for your own soul each and every day, the daily discipline of studying the Bible makes you a better Bible reader.

If you have not developed this habit in your life, this is the most important you need to begin to do immediately. You need to study God’s word daily.

8. Get a Daily Bible Reading Plan

Nothing gets done unless you plan. Sometimes the hardest part about Bible reading is, where to begin. A Bible reading plan moves you through different parts of the Bible at a regular, consistent, and daily pace. It can help chart the course for you in what to read each day. If you just simply google “bible reading plan” you can find hundreds of different types. I’d recommend that you pick one that moves you at a good pace throughout all of the Bible. The discipline of using a Bible reading plan forces us to work through passages we tend to avoid. In addition, it helps us from just jumping to our favorite passages all the time. It helps us to come face to face with the whole counsel of God.

Now how much should you read each day? Well it is largely up to you. I you can only handle a chapter or two a day and you really dig in and study it, than go for it. If you read a brisker paced want to take 8–10 chapters a day, than go for it. There is no hard and fast rule to follow here.

My personal plan, if you are interested, is that I read five chapters every day. Each year I keep a checklist of every book of the Bible. I tend to focus on one book at a time, meaning I’ll read five chapters from it everyday until I’m done with a particular book. When done with the book I check it off and choose which one I’d like to read next.  This why I have a disciplined structure but still freedom in what I will read. I find this is helpful for me to take breaks from certain genres that tend to be a little more taxing. For example a few weeks ago I read through Leviticus. Although reading it was fruitful, It was mentally draining so I jumped over to the Gospel of John which was narrative and a little easier to read. With the plan I use I’m guaranteed to read the Bible once ever year, and it gives me the freedom and flexibility to go where the Spirit leads.

Whatever your plan, the important thing is that you read the Word every day!

9. Apply it to Your Life with Journaling

My thoughts are often clouded and jump all over the place. Writing helps me focus my thoughts. This is especially helpful with studying and applying the Bible. Taking some time after reading a passage and writing about what I learned can be very helpful. Journaling helps me think through how I can apply it to my life. I’d encourage you to try the same. I am a journal digitally and my go to app for journaling is Day One.

10. Memorize Bible Verses

If you really want to learn to read the Bible for yourself, memorize it. When you memorize passages of Scripture you saturate your mind with the Word. The Spirit then can bring that verse in application to your life at any moment in addition he deepens your understanding of that verse. I’d encourage you to make scripture memory a regular part of your time with God. Start off with taking just a verse a week. Rehearse each day and then review weekly.

For those of you that are serious about Bible memorization, let me encourage you to memorize extended passages of Scripture. This is a discipline I began earlier this year and has done wonders in my relationship with the Lord. For how I’ve gone about it check out Andy Davis’ An Approach to Extended Scripture Memorization. Using his method I’ve memorized the book of Philippians and I’m currently working on the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5–7). It takes a good 20–30 minutes for me to reverse and memorize each day, but the fruit it has brought in my life is worth it.

11. Start a Bible Study with your Friends

We tend to have a “just me and Jesus” attitude when it comes to reading the Bible. Yet, Christ has given us the church for a reason. We need one another and often the Spirit teaches us through one another. If you want to learn to read the Bible for yourself start a Bible study with you friends. Meet before work or on your lunch break with some friends once a week just to study the Bible together. You will be amazed as your friends bring new meaning to a text that you largely missed. Reading in community can be an encouragement to everyone, so start a Bible study with your friends.

12. Get Involved in Your Churches Bible Studies

I’m sure your local church involves a lot of different Bible studies. Get involved in them! Listen to how the teachers of the church interpret the Bible. Ask questions, go deep, discuss the Bible with the people in the class. Learn how to read the Bible from other people. It will help you greatly in reading the Bible for yourself!

13. What How Your Pastor Interprets the Bible When Preaching

If you have a good pastor, he carefully teaches the Bible. I preach every week to my people at Forest Hills and I’m not only trying to teach the what the Bible says I’m trying to teach them how to read the Bible for themselves. So when I have a point in my sermon I want them to see that I’m not making it up, and where it comes from in the Bible. Watch how your pastor reads his Bible, listen how he arrives at the main points and learn to study the Bible like your pastor does. Follow his example.

14. See Jesus in Every Text

All of Scripture points to Jesus. To miss this is miss the message of the Bible. Jesus says, “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, ESV). At another point Jesus on the road to Emmaus showed the two disciples how every Scripture pointed to him. Read your Bible and see how every passage points you to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This doesn’t mean we force Jesus in every passage, but we see how every passage points to him or anticipates him. Much could be said on this point, but for now I’ll point you to a few resources to check out.

15. Read the Bible!

Sounds simple doesn’t it? If you want to read the Bible for yourself, start reading it! If you want to get better at personal Bible study you are not going to get any better at it unless you read it. No one learns how to ride a Bike by reading blog posts, books, and articles on how to ride a Bike. You’ve got to get not he Bike and just start peddling! Bible studies the same way. Start reading the Bible and you will be amazed how God will begin speaking to you through his infallible and inerrant Word.

I hope these fifteen tips have been helpful for you as you try to read the Bible for yourself. What tips would you offer? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!