READ AND HEAR THE BIBLE
from Behold and Become: Reading Scripture for Transformation
by Jeremy M. Kimble
Engagement with Scripture begins with the skills of reading and hearing. To truly grapple with the contents of all that God has said, we must engage in consistent reading and listening to what the Bible has to say. These skills serve as a baseline for the remaining points in this chapter; if we want to engage strategically with the Bible, we have to start here.
Reading the Bible
First, in relation to reading the Bible, it must be admitted that we are not always adept readers. Gordon rightly maintains,
Culturally, then, we are no longer careful, close readers of texts, sacred or secular. We scan for information, but we do not appreciate literary craftmanship We don’t really read texts to enter the world of the author and perceive reality through his vantage point; we read texts to see how they confirm what we already believe about reality This explains, in part, the phenomenon that many Christians will read their Bibles daily for fifty years, and not have one opinion that changes in that fifty year span. To employ C. S. Lewis’s way of stating the matter, they “use” texts but do not “receive” them.
He presents quite the pessimistic view, but there is certainly truth to what he is saying. We can often come to familiar texts expecting that we already know what they say. Instead, we need to read for genuine understanding, that is, to receive the passages under study for what they truly say and embrace and live out the truths they convey. So, what are some ways we can engage in reading the Bible that will produce good fruit?
First, we need to read the Bible consistently. We must be a people who joyfully dwell on God’s Word day and night (Ps. 1:2), and that requires a reliable and constant plan for reading. Mathis observes, “At the end of the day, there is simply no replacement for finding a regular time and place, blocking out distractions, putting your nose in the text, and letting your mind and heart be led and captured and thrilled by God himself communicating to us in his objective written words.”
So, whether digitally or on the printed page, we must read the Bible regularly. And our diet of reading should include both survey reading (multiple chapters in one sitting) and slow reading (a smaller portion read several times in one sitting). Mathis refers to these aspects of reading as raking (survey reading) and digging (slow reading). He states, “Without raking, we won’t have enough sense of the landscape to dig in the right places. And without digging, and making sure the banner of our theology is securely tethered to specific biblical sentences and paragraphs, our resources will soon dry up for feeding our souls with various grains and tastes.” Take up and read Scripture consistently for your whole life.
Next, if we are going to read Scripture consistently, we need to read with a plan in mind. It is one thing to be exhorted to read, but many of us have had the experience of a renewed vigor to read Scripture, only to sit down at a table in the morning to do so, but with no real plan of how to do it. Where do you start? How much do you read each day? What if I don’t understand what I am reading at certain points? Thus, we need a Bible reading plan.
A simple internet search for “Bible reading plan” renders thousands of results. There are many ways people have proposed reading the Bible through, from going straight through from Genesis to Revelation, reading some portion along with a Psalm each day, doing some portion from both the OT and NT, to even reading up to four different places in the Bible each day (e.g., McCheyne Bible reading plan). One can even customize their own reading plan at the pace they want to go. Whatever the plan might be, we need to choose one and then, by God’s grace, engage with Scripture day by day in accordance with that plan. Pick a time, pick a place, pick a reading plan, and read for the rest of your days to behold the glory of God contained in his Word.
We need to read the Bible consistently, with a plan, and also with a heart that is ready to be challenged and be changed. One can read consistently and stick to their dedicated blueprint for getting through the Bible in a year, but if our heart does not come to such reading expectantly and ready to respond, we read in vain. The psalmist prays, “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law” (Ps. 119:18), and “Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul” (Ps. 143:8). This is a heart of expectation, one that comes to Scripture ready to receive the Word and respond to it, and this must be our attitude. For as Piper makes plain, “Our ultimate goal in reading the Bible is that God’s infinite worth and beauty would be exalted in the everlasting white-hot worship of the blood-bought bride of Christ from every people, language, tribe, and nation.” As we read the Bible again and again, year after year, with the right demeanor and heart to see and delight in the Lord, God will teach us (1 Cor. 2:6–16), change us (Isa. 55:10–11), and use us to make his Word known to others for their everlasting enjoyment in God.
 T. David Gordon, Why Johnny Can’t Preach: The Media Have Shaped the Messengers (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2009), 49–50.
 David Mathis, Habits of Grace: Enjoying Jesus through the Spiritual Disciplines (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2016), 45.
 Mathis, Habits of Grace, 51.
 For one site that includes multiple Bible reading plans, see https://www.ligo- nier.org/posts/bible-reading-plans.
 John Piper, Reading the Bible Supernaturally: Seeing and Savoring the Glory of God in Scripture (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2017), 39.
This post is adapted from Behold and Become: Reading Scripture for Transformation by Jeremy M. Kimble. If you are interested in adopting this book for a college or seminary course, please request a faculty examination copy. We will also consider requests for your blog or media outlets.
The Bible is not merely for information but for being saved by God and changed through his words
Believers know the Bible is powerful–but how so? And how does God save people and transform lives through Scripture? Author and theology professor Jeremy M. Kimble integrates an evangelical doctrine of Scripture with a robust, coherent practice of engaging with Scripture.
Behold and Become contends that the Bible, which is God’s self-revelation, coupled with the Spirit, works to produce salvation and growth in godliness. Believers will see how sound beliefs about Scripture correspond with practices that allow for God’s transforming work, such as:
- How the Bible’s inerrancy demands our careful attention to the biblical authors as theologians
- How the Bible’s efficacy operates within the doctrines of the triune God and the church
- How the Bible’s authority directs our focus toward who God is and how he acts in the world
We become like what we behold. Rather than passively assume the animating power of the Bible, Behold and Become guides readers to make Scripture’s vitality an overt part of their theology of Scripture and practice of Christian life.