God, in His goodness and wisdom, has given us tools that are designed to help us become disciples. He’s not asking us to make bricks without straw, but he’s given us everything we need for life and godliness. (2 Peter 1:3) As we’ve already seen, Jesus has given us His Spirit to help us. One of the other gifts God has given us is Scripture – his written word.
We can’t become fully devoted followers of Jesus without the Bible, but knowing the Bible won’t make us disciples, because discipleship transcends information. Jesus made that point when he confronted the Pharisees about the way they were using the Bible. To them, he said, “ You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life, and it is they that bear witness about me yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” (John 5:39-40) The Pharisees knew their Bible better than most of us never will, but knowing the Bible isn’t why Jesus gave us the Bible. According to Jesus, the Bible is a means to an end, and the end is Jesus. We have the Bible so that we come to Jesus and find life!
This begs the question: how can we read the Bible in a way that helps us become disciples? Let me propose the acrostic R.E.S.T as a way to read the Bible in a way that helps us follow Jesus.
First, we must READ. During different seasons of life, you may want to read at different paces. At times you may want to read shorter passages slower and in a deeper way, and at other times you may want to work through reading the entire Bible in a year. The important thing is that you have a plan. What I’ve found is without a plan, we tend towards sporadic and inconsistent time in the Word. There are some great apps that have many plans to choose from, my favorite is YouVersion. Start by picking a plan to follow.
Second, we must ENGAGE the Scriptures, meaning that we must think about what we’ve read. It may mean studying (a study Bible can be helpful for this), looking for themes in what we’ve read, making observations about the text, following cross-references, or doing a word study. The important thing is that we allow what we’ve read to sink into our mind and heart and that we think deeply about it.
Third, we SIT with Jesus. Many methodologies take Jesus out of the picture. This is his Word, and we must come to it with the conviction that Jesus wants to speak through it to us today. After reading and engaging, spend some time praying and asking Jesus what he wants you to hear. It might be one word or one phrase that the Spirit will highlight for you, but trust that Jesus has something unique for you as you seek him through his written word.
Finally, TRUST and obey. When reading Scripture, we must make it a point not to be only hearers of the word, but also doers of the word. (James 1:22) What if we assumed that there was a step of obedience Jesus was inviting us to every day? That would change the way we read the Scriptures. After sensing from the Lord what step of obedience he’s calling you to take, make it your intention to take that step.
Read. Engage. Sit. Trust. Try reading the Bible using this methodology and see if it helps you become a disciple of Jesus.
Pastor Ryan Paulson