I have never been able to have consistent 30-minute daily devotions. I can’t get up early. I can’t keep my day that organized. And I stink at self-discipline. I finally stopped reading Bible study help books because they usually boiled down to some method that I could only keep for a week or so. And yet, I’m about to suggest a method to you for your own Bible study that has been helpful to me. Before you yell, “hypocrite!” I propose that my method is a bit different and hope you will find it a helpful starting point in your own study.
Method: Start with Jesus. Then let Jesus guide you from there.
Does that sound simplistic and corny? If so, I apologize. But this is truly my Bible study method--I love Jesus and I desperately need Him. If you too love and need Jesus but are struggling to find Him in the Bible, let me point you to a concrete starting point. The Gospels!!! Start with Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and let them point your way through the rest of Scripture.
Many of us who come from churched backgrounds tend to skip over the gospels. Instead, we attempt “harder” books in our study. But we really need to understand the Gospels. So unless you read through the gospels in the last 2 years or so, I HIGHLY recommend taking some time to park there. Spend some time just enjoying Jesus. Despite the fact that I heard every Bible story in Sunday school growing up, I am constantly amazed at all the details I’ve missed about Him and His ministry.
Once you’ve read through Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, I recommend a second reading of them. But this second time, note each time Jesus quotes an Old Testament passage. For instance, Jesus quotes Hosea 6:6 in Matthew 9:13 when He says, “Go and learn what this means, 'I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.' For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners." In my ESV journaling Bible, the link to Hosea 6:6 is noted by a tiny superscript letter of the alphabet, so you have to be looking for it to notice it. But if you’ll take the time to follow these links between the Gospels and the Old Testament, you’ll be amazed at how each little piece starts to fit together over time, revealing the grand theme of Scripture to you.
Once you’ve finished with the Gospels, I recommend taking the same approach with Romans and Hebrews. Read through them. Then read through them again paying attention to any cross-references to the Old Testament. Both Romans and Hebrews will explain the Old Testament to you better than any commentary ever could.
How long should it take you to get through the gospels, Romans, and Hebrews? Well, since it took me 3 years to read the one-year study Bible, I’m probably not the best person to ask. Personally, I read until something strikes me that I need to think about. I don’t multitask very well, so if I read too long and cover too many ideas, nothing stays in my mind. My goal is to read until something about Jesus strikes me and then contemplate it as long as I can. My thoughts often get snatched quickly from my mind by the chaos of life, which makes the journaling function of my Bible very helpful to me at this stage.
So there it is. I hope something in this loosely defined “method” is an encouragement to you in your own pursuit of God.