The most common question I get asked in reference to studying the Bible is, “Where should I start?” It really is a great question. I’m sure that if you were to ask Google the same question, you’d get a million different answers. Back in 2010, I went to the doctor for a checkup because I wasn’t feeling particularly well. I am diabetic…sharing my own medical info is not a HIPPA violation, right? Let’s hope not. When I arrived at the doctor’s office, they documented all of the normal assessment stuff: height, weight, blood pressure, and temperature. Since I am diabetic, they also pricked my finger to do a quick blood draw to test my A1C, in layman’s terms, it’s an assessment of my blood sugar levels over the prior 3-months. All of my stats were outside of the healthy range except for my height and temperature. I was way overweight, my blood pressure was high, and my A1C was twice as high as it should have been. I was dying slowly and needed to do something to stop the process, and hopefully reverse some of the damage.
I left the doctor’s office that day feeling defeated but determined to do something about it. I began researching diets for diabetics, exercise plans for diabetics, and anything else related to healthy living for diabetics. All of that research led me to a new diet and exercise routine that helped me lose nearly 80 pounds over the next calendar year. Needless to say, my weight, blood pressure, and A1C drastically improved and my doctor was very pleased. When people ask me where they should start reading the Bible, I typically ask the question, “What is it that you need?” Some may disagree with me on this approach and that is ok. Like I said, Google where to start reading the Bible and you’ll get a million different answers. Most often, people turn to the Bible for one of two reasons: they are new to the faith and want to learn more or they are facing a trial or temptation and want to know what the Bible has to say about it.
For the person that is new to the faith and wants to learn more, I usually point them to the Gospel of John. The Gospels are the first four books of the New Testament and tell the story of Jesus from His birth through His eventual death, burial, and resurrection. Each of the four Gospels is written to a slightly different audience. The Gospel of Matthew is written to a Jewish audience and focuses more heavily on things that would be important to that audience, like Jesus genealogy, since the Messiah was to come through the lineage of King David, and Jesus’ interactions with the Jewish religious leaders. The Gospel of Mark was written to a Roman audience. The Romans were warriors and conquerors, so Mark focuses heavily on Jesus’ miracles like calming the storm and walking on water, to show Jesus power over natural things. The Gospel of Luke was written to a primarily Greek audience. The Greeks were academics so the Gospel of Luke is written as a historical account of the life of Jesus. The Gospel of John was written to introduce Jesus to the world, so John establishes Jesus’ deity, God’s plan for our salvation, our need for a Savior, and shows how Jesus is the Savior. I encourage new believers to start with the Gospel of John so they can see that God had a plan to redeem them all along and that Jesus came to redeem them and reconcile them to the Father.
For the person that is facing a trial or temptation and is wanting to know what the Bible has to say about what they are facing, I encourage them to search for the answers they are looking for. Once they find the answer, I encourage them to memorize the verses that relate to what they are facing and to use them the way Jesus used Scripture to rebuke the devil when He was tempted in the wilderness. Our journey through the Bible is a life-long journey and like any long journey we tend to reference the portions of the map that relate to where we are in that moment. Are there other ways to study the Bible? Absolutely! You can find a plan that leads you through the whole Bible in order of the books or in chronological order. There are also plans that lead you through Scripture based on topics or seasons such as Lent, Easter, or Advent. The greatest piece of advice I can give you about studying the Bible is to simply do it. You need to get started. When I left the doctor’s office feeling defeated, I had to develop a plan of attack. Maybe that’s where you are now. You feel defeated in life and you are developing a plan of attack. You realize that the Bible is the key to your plan. That’s great, but it won’t do you any good if you don’t start working your plan. As much as I wanted to get healthy, I would not have lost a single pound if all I ever did was plan. I had to start working out and eating well. You have to start studying God’s word and getting to know Him through it. All of Scripture is profitable and useful according to 2 Timothy 3:16-17, so you can’t go wrong no matter where you start. Just realize that some places are easier to start than others. If you’re not sure where to start, start with the Gospel of John. Get to know Jesus, your Savior, in a new way. If you need help with knowing how to interpret what you read, I wrote a couple of blogs to help you with that: Why are Some Parts of the Bible So Weird and What if I get it Wrong. Both will help you properly interpret what you are reading and give you the confidence you need to keep studying.