Believers can learn how to read the Bible with the purpose of transformation when they learn these 5 memorable steps for unpacking scripture.

How to Read The Bible: 5 Memorable Steps to Transformation

By Chip Ingram

Many believers aren’t sure how to read the Bible and apply it to their lives, and they’re trusting others to tell them how. Today, learn to unpack truth and timely applications from any portion of the Scriptures. 

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When asked, people within the church have a hard time answering some basic questions about the Christian faith. Questions like:

Who is Jesus? Who is Jesus to you? Why do you believe that?

We might have a quick Sunday school answer, but many of us would have a hard time articulating these answers and backing them up with Scripture

Churchgoers have made it our practice to believe what others have taught us about Jesus and the Christian faith, and we seldom question their explanation. Consider the variety of ways we receive teachings —

  • Family and friends, both in our childhood and currently
  • The church community, small group members, and pastors
  • YouTube Channels like the Bible Project™ that exist to teach scripture
  • Podcasts, articles, books, and study guides on every subject under the sun
  • Christian music, TV shows, streaming programs, and movies

I’m thankful for these resources — they’ve impacted my life in great ways! 

But nothing can replace the actual words of the Scriptures — whether it’s the accounts of Christ’s life and death or the thousands of years we awaited Him, we can’t really know who Jesus is unless we study His Word. Likewise, it would be difficult to point to the Bible to explain our faith if we weren’t well-versed on its contents. Needless to say, it’s of the utmost importance that believers get equipped and learn how to read the Bible. 

Below, I’ll share my 5-step method for unpacking the Scriptures. If you want to quickly jump to the steps, use the links below. 

Step #1: Observe, interpret, and apply.

Step #2: Read the passage repeatedly.

Step #3: Make observations. 

Step #4: Clarify relevant questions. 

Step #5: Apply the Scripture to your life.

WHY DON’T MORE CHRISTIANS ENGAGE WITH THE BIBLE?  

Reading the Scriptures would certainly remedy this issue, but statistics tell us that many believers aren’t studying the Word. 

Did you know that Lifeway Research reports that 40% of Protestant churchgoers say they read the Bible once a week or less — or never? 

Why have we taken everyone else’s word for who Jesus is, and what our Christian faith is based upon? Why don’t more Christians engage with the Bible?

It is accessibility? We have quick and easy — and often free — access to the Bible in any form we’d like: paper, audio, apps, podcasts, YouTube. Accessibility is not the problem.

Is it time? Before the pandemic, Americans reported they didn’t read the Bible because they didn’t prioritize it and didn’t have time. So it was exciting to see Bible sales surge during the pandemic. Almost everyone has more time on their hands than ever! And yet, sadly, research from State of the Bible 2020 indicates that we read the Bible less than ever during 2020. Time is certainly not the barrier. 

I believe the reason Christians don’t engage with the Bible is that we lack confidence in reading, engaging, and applying the truths found in the Scriptures. Many believers don’t know how to read the Bible.

I believe many Christians don’t engage with the Scriptures because we lack confidence in reading, engaging, and applying the truths. We simply don’t know how to read the Bible. Click To Tweet

If believers had a simple and effective method to read the Bible in a way that invites transformation, I have no doubt lives would be changed. The Bible is living and effective!

Whether you’re new to the faith or you’ve been in church since you were in diapers, the truth is:

“But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:31 ESV)

Life awaits! We know this, we just need tools to help us engage with the Scriptures better. 

Gain wisdom: 4 Clear Steps To Applying The Wisdom Of God To Our Lives

ENGAGEMENT PRODUCES TRANSFORMATION

Here’s what happened when some college kids I knew started interacting with the Scriptures. 

Years ago, when I was a college basketball coach and a teacher, I found an opportunity to ask the guys, “Have you ever examined what the New Testament says about Jesus Christ?”

They hadn’t. And once I got to know them a little better I said, “So, you mean to tell me you’re here getting a higher education and the most important, most influential person in the entire world — you’re going to take other people’s opinions on who He is? You have never examined the documents for yourself?”

Needless to say, they took the challenge. They wanted to explore what the Bible said for themselves

Every week, we’d read a chapter, discuss questions, talk about the application, and then play some hoops. The next week, the same thing. Week after week, these guys were opening up the Bible and examining the life of Christ. As a result, amazing things began to happen. 

Have you ever challenged yourself to do that kind of thing? To study the Scriptures and not just breeze through them with half understanding? Have you ever studied, meditated, and allowed God’s Word to reveal itself to you?

Learn God’s truth and renew your mind with these Gospel of John Truth Cards from our online store. 

REPLACE BIBLE PERUSING WITH BIBLE STUDY

You’re not going to learn what Shakespeare meant by quickly reading through Macbeth. 

In the same way, you will not know what God wants to say to you personally by reading quickly perusing the Scriptures. 

God wants to speak powerfully to you! He wants you to experience Him — not just intellectually, not just cognitively, but intimately. He wants you to experience true spirituality. Do you need:

  • Answers for your struggling marriage?
  • Direction with the terrifying financial issues coming your way?
  • Clarity for resolving conflict with your co-worker?

He wants to give you direction and vision in every one of those areas.

“My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you,
turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding—
indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding,
and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure,
then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.
For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” (Proverbs 2:1-6 NIV)

The author, Solomon, who’s the wisest man in the world, is essentially saying:

God wants to speak to you but He wants you to dig. The jewels are not on the top of the ground. He wants to know you and to reveal Himself to you, and He wants to see that your heart is genuine.

Are you ready to start digging? 

You don’t have to take others’ word for it anymore. Learn the basics of studying the Scriptures on your own, and you will be positioned to transform as you’ve never experienced before.

Solomon said the jewels -- God's revelation -- are not on top of the ground. He wants you to dig for it like silver and gold. Do you have a method for digging? Click To Tweet

BEFORE YOU BEGIN

I like the suggestions made in this Crosswalk article entitled, How to Read the Bible in 6 Simple Steps for Beginners. They wisely suggest starting with a version of the Bible that fits you and then encourage readers to start in any book of the Bible. In other words, it isn’t necessary to start at the beginning and open the Bible to Genesis. 

I’d take it a step further and suggest you do not start at the beginning. Instead, I might recommend opening the Bible to the Gospel of John. In my recent YouTube series, Jesus Unfiltered, I unpack the book of John using the 5-step method revealed here. Check it out to get a real-life sample of the steps in action. 

But first, let’s learn the steps and how to execute each one. 

5-Step Method Unpacking How to Read the Bible 

Believers can learn how to read the Bible with the purpose of transformation when they learn these 5 memorable steps for unpacking scripture.

Step #1: Observe, interpret, and apply. 

Ask yourself what does it mean, what does it mean to me, and what’s the application? Use the next four steps to get you there.

Step #2: Read the passage repeatedly.

Read the passage a few times — briefly, quickly — to get the “big picture” or general idea. 

The first pass-through, I’ll read an entire chapter in less than a minute and identify the major ideas. Next, I read it out loud. Last, I’ll read it slowly and ponder what the passage is saying. 

Step #3: Make observations. 

Make specific OBSERVATIONS about one section of the chapter at a time.

Step #4: Clarify relevant questions. 

Play spiritual “Jeopardy” with the text to clarify what RELEVANT questions God’s truth is answering. What question in my life and my world does that truth answer? 

Step #5: Apply the Scripture to your life. 

Ponder carefully the implications and application of this truth to your personal life, circumstance, and relationships. 

God wants to speak to you. He loves you; He wants to interact with you, and He has solutions for you. 

  • Software solutions 
  • Company solutions 
  • Financial solutions
  • Childhood solutions 
  • Parenting solutions
  • Medical solutions

He wants to whisper in your ear and give you direction and wisdom and help and encouragement. Why? Because He loves YOU.

You are loved: 6 Bible Verses That Reveal Profound Truths About God’s Love For Us

CONCLUSION

I’ve been using this 5-step method to study and apply Scripture to my life for decades. Sometimes I spend 15 minutes doing this and other times I look up and it’s been an hour. But isn’t that what happens when you’re having coffee with your best friend? Sometimes you only have a little time to catch up and other times you spend half the day together. 

He longs to spend time with you and reveal Himself to you. Not just to forgive you, but to do life with you in ways beyond your wildest dreams.

Discover more transformational truths about Jesus and the Christian faith from the Scriptures in my latest sermon series on YouTube, Jesus Unfiltered.

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Gospel of John Truth Cards

Written By

Chip Ingram

Founder & Teaching Pastor, Living on the Edge

Chip Ingram is the CEO and teaching pastor of Living on the Edge, an international teaching and discipleship ministry. A pastor for over thirty years, Chip has a unique ability to communicate truth and challenge people to live out their faith. He is the author of many books, including The Real God, Culture Shock and The Real Heaven. Chip and his wife, Theresa, have four grown children and twelve grandchildren and live in California.

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