It’s a common mistake when we study or read the Bible. We try to make it about us. We turn the pages looking for ourselves. We want to know what to do or how to grow. We need peace or assurance or strength. Don’t get me wrong. God’s Word does all that for us and more. But those things are a beautiful, gracious byproduct. (See “Do You Read the Bible All Wrong?”)
Yes, God’s Word is for us, but it is not primarily about us. Going to the Bible with a me-centered perspective hinders us from understanding God’s true meaning. Sadly, we often miss the main point of Scripture – to know the author.
The Bible is first and foremost a book by God about God. The Bible’s objective is to reveal God. To teach us His character, His purposes, His plans, and His ways, including His provision for salvation through Jesus.
God is the hero of every story. David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17:1-49). Daniel in the lion’s den (Daniel 6:1-24). Paul and Silas in the Philippian jail (Acts 18:16-40). Even in the story of Esther, where God’s name is never mentioned, He is the hero. His providential hand is evident in the salvation of His people.
So, let’s see how we can study and read the Bible with a God-centered perspective. (Check out this great resource to help you do this: “Women of the Word” by Jen Wilkin.)
Look for God as You Study and Read the Bible
(See the “4 R Study Method for Everyday Bible Study” for more information on how to study the Bible. Also see “Deep Rooted: Growing through the Gospel of Mark.” This 40-day devotional journey with Jesus is formatted around the 4 R Bible study method.)
Before we can determine what a passage means, we must observe what it says. (See “10 Observation Tips for Better Bible Study” for more on what to look for in a Bible passage.) While, there are a lot of things to observe in a passage, God should be the first thing we look for. Let’s approach Scripture looking for truths that elevate and glorify God. When I read a Bible passage, I use a purple highlighter to mark every truth I see about God. (For more information, see “Bible Highlighting for More Effective Study.”)
- Here are a few specific things you can look for about God:
- His character – What does the passage teach about God’s divine nature?
- His purposes – What do you learn about God’s plans for the world, His people, the lost, His plan of salvation?
- His ways – How does God relate to people? How does He communicate His will?
Respond to What You Learned about God
When we read the Bible, we encounter the God of the universe. That experience should shape us. Redirect us. Drop us to our knees in worship and surrender. But far too often, we add what we learned about God to our knowledge bank without allowing it to change us, to transform us. Our end goal of Bible study is not simply increased knowledge. God wants us to respond to what we learn. But what does that look like?
Here are a few ways we can respond to what we learn about God in His Word:
- Repent – Encounters with a holy God reveals our sin. What do you need to turn away from?
- Worship – The more you learn about God, the more you realize He deserves your praise.
- Believe – Did you learn something about God that you didn’t know before? Adjust the way you view Him.
- Obey – Does new knowledge of His purposes and will prompt a certain action He wants you to take?
What about you? Do you struggle to keep a “God-centered” focus when you read Scripture?