How do you use the bible? I always have this want to get into it and read, but whenever I do I feel lost and don’t know where to go.
This is a fantastic question, and one that every new Christian has to ask. I know I did. It can be frustrating to hear people talk about how awesome the Bible is, and how much it means to them, and how much they’re getting out of it, while having no idea how they are doing it. It can be even more frustrating when you ask people about the Bible and they tell you “Oh it’s all great, you can’t go wrong with any part of the Bible!” Which is a double barrel of both annoyingly churchy and woefully unhelpful.
Paul does tell Timothy, in 2 Timothy 3:16, that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” That is true, but there is nothing wrong with looking for a practical place to start.
The best advice I have ever heard, which I have been stealing and telling people for years, is to start with the book of Mark. It is a gospel, which just means it is a biography of Jesus. It is the shortest of the gospels, and it is one of the synoptic gospels, so it shares a lot of content with the books of Matthew and Luke. You will get the basics of who Jesus is and what He did in His earthly ministry, and his death and resurrection. That is a great basis.
After that you can try the book of Romans. Romans is an epistle (a letter) that the apostle Paul wrote to the church in Rome. One of the reasons he wrote to them was to make sure they had a good grasp of the basics of Christian theology. The book of Romans is a great breakdown of those basic tenants of things like Sin, grace, justification, and other theological ideas.
After those 2 books (which won’t take you long), you can start expanding out. In general, the New Testament is easier to understand than the Old, with the notable exception of the book of Revelation. Another general rule: anyone who claims they understand the book of Revelation is lying.
The thing to remember is to take your time. The Bible is a dense book. There is a lot going on and a lot of cultural background. Don’t let frustration get you down. Write down questions and ask them (to your pastor, small group leader, this blog, the Say That podcast), that is what those people are there for.
Go for a chapter a day. That is only a few minutes of reading. Write down thoughts and questions. Pray about what you got out of it and about things you don’t understand. You will be learning more about the Bible for literally your entire life, don’t expect to understand everything out of the gate.
Another good idea is to get a study bible. They are a little more expensive, but they have footnotes that explain cultural and historical things, and have definitions.
The Bible is a big, intimidating book, but if you take it slow and ask questions, you will get more out of it than you can imagine.
-Matt from The Bridge