Scripture is absolutely essential to our growth and maturity as Christians and critical for our understanding of and intimacy with Jesus. True Christian discipleship hinges upon God’s Word. But the reason we get into Scripture is because we want to grow in intimacy, oneness, and relationship with the Author.
If that is true, then how do Christians interact with the Word for growth? How do we build our lives around Jesus Christ by getting into His Word?
I’ve found seven key ways to interact with God’s Word that lead to greater growth and intimacy; I call them the seven Rs of relationship. If you do them not out of obligation or duty but to actually know Jesus Christ, they are guaranteed to lead you into greater relationship and closeness with Him.
Read God’s Word
Reading God’s Word is essential to the Christian life. If we truly believe the Bible is God’s words (which it is), then we should delight in spending time in the Book.
Yet most of us treat Scripture like our English literature textbook in high school—it’s there when we absolutely have to look at it; otherwise, it makes a great doorstop. But God’s Word is not Shakespeare or Whitman; it is the very words of our King. And His Word says that it is living and active (Hebrews 4:12) and that we should delight ourselves in it (Psalm 119:16, 24) because it is sweeter than honey (Psalm 19:10 and 119:103).
Charles Spurgeon, the great prince of preachers, once declared:
True Bible-readers and Bible-searchers never find it wearisome. They like it least who know it least, and they love it most who read it most. They find it newest who have known it longest, and they find the pasture to be the richest whose souls have been the longest fed upon it.
Do you read God’s Word? If not, I would encourage you to get into a daily habit of basking in the richness of His truth. Even if you are a slow reader, you can read through the entire Bible in a year if you’ll commit to about ten minutes a day.
I’ve written several articles on reading God’s Word (find them at deeperChristian.com/bible), but here are a couple ideas to get you started:
- Begin today. While we all have reasons why tomorrow is a better day to begin, one thing I’ve found in my own life is if I don’t start today, “tomorrow” rarely shows up.
- It doesn’t have to be complicated. Bible reading can be as simple as starting in Genesis and reading through Revelation.
- Read different translations. Sometimes reading a different translation will cause things you normally miss to jump off the page. I often switch the translation I read each year to keep it fresh and illuminating.
- Try different approaches. Reading from cover to cover isn’t the only way to read Scripture. Try reading chronologically or with a “Bible in a Year” plan where you read a little bit of the Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs each day.
- Go fast. Another thing that has greatly helped me is to take seasons of life and read through the Bible quickly, e.g., the entire Bible in 90 days or the New Testament in one month.
- Repeat, repeat, repeat. Another practice that has been a rich blessing for me is to pick a book or section and read it often. For example, take one book (or section) and read it through daily for a week. Take the New Testament and read it through once each month for a year. Regardless of how you choose to read the Bible, repetition is a great teaching tool, and reading through Scripture over and over again will only deepen its richness and truth in your life and expand your understanding of it.
Reading the Bible without meditating on it is like trying to eat without swallowing.
– Anonymous –
Beware of saying, “I haven’t time to read the Bible, or to pray”; say rather, “I haven’t disciplined myself to do these things.”
– Oswald Chambers –
Memorize God’s Word
Many of us cringe when we hear the word “memorize.” I admit it is not one of my favorite words, and memorization has been difficult for me throughout the years. But one thing I’ve found is that when I write God’s Word upon my heart, it transforms my thinking and daily living.
We live in a time when memory isn’t needed. We have Google, Evernote, and our smartphones to do the hard thinking for us. And yet, while we may not use our brains as often as we should, they have incredible power to think, reason, and memorize. God made our brains capable of storing information and quickly retrieving it when necessary.
You are not at a disadvantage in the memory department.
I once challenged a group of teens to memorize a lengthy Bible passage. Most balked and complained, declaring they couldn’t memorize a passage that long. Yet I found it interesting that these same individuals who reportedly could not memorize Scripture were the same teens who could quote sections from the latest movie, could sing the lyrics to countless songs, and had sports statistics memorized for numerous athletes.
We can memorize, but the reality is that we only memorize things we deem important and valuable—or that which is repetitive and gets stuck in our minds whether we want it to or not (like the song “It’s a Small World After All”).
Here are six quick tips and reminders to help you get started.
1. The Author Lives Inside
A key to Scripture memory is realizing that the Author Himself lives inside your life through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Though you could memorize Scripture in your own wisdom and ability, what if you didn’t have to? God wants you to know His Word, and He will enable you to memorize and recall it (which is a good reason to always start your times of memorization in prayer).
2. Start Slow
If you haven’t memorized much lately, you will find that starting slow will help. Our memory is like a muscle that needs to be exercised and strengthened for optimal performance. Don’t start with an entire paragraph; start with a first verse or two and then continue adding more.
3. Understand Context
When you memorize longer passages, it is helpful to know the context and flow of what you will be memorizing. Before you start memorizing a paragraph or even an entire book, read it through several times. Personally, I would encourage you to read through the passage/book daily, which will not only help you memorize faster but will also ingrain it deeper in your heart and mind. When you know the flow of thought and the overall context, it will help you keep things organized as you memorize. If you have time, learn some details behind the book itself. For example, if you were going to memorize a passage in Philippians, find out why Paul wrote the book of Philippians, who the Philippians were, where Paul was when he wrote it, etc.
4. Recite, Read, Listen, Quote
Memorizing a single verse is relatively easy, but memorizing longer passages is far more challenging. The key is consistency in your memorization, and having a plan can make things a lot easier:
- Give the priority of your memorization time to reviewing old verses. Begin each day’s memorization with a review of the verses you have already learned.
- Memorize the verse numbers. This could seem tedious and like a waste of time, but I promise it will help you later on in life (and it actually makes memorization easier in the long run). It will also help you to not forget a verse in a long passage, and it helps to know exactly where a specific verse is found when you quote it to someone.
Suggested Daily Procedure:
- Recite the previous day’s verse 10 times out loud; look at your Bible if you need to
- Recite all the verses in the passage/book that you’ve memorized (remember to say verse numbers)
- Read and say today’s (new) verse 10 times out loud—it is really helpful for you to see and hear it
- Quote the new verse 10 times out loud without looking
- Recite the entire memorized passage including the verse you learned today
Another Method and Suggestion:
- If the above is a bit too intimidating to start with, begin by taking one day a week in your devotional time to purposefully memorize God’s Word. Take a section of Scripture (more than one verse) and read the entire thing aloud several times. Try to repeat the passage, read it through again, repeat it again—go back and forth until you have the entire passage memorized.
- It is important to review this passage throughout the week (not just in the weekly memorization time)—and driving, showers, mowing the lawn, etc are great opportunities to review the memorized passage.
5. Repetition is good … over time
Saying a verse fifty times in one day is good … but not as effective as saying that same verse every day for fifty days. This is a long-term process, so don’t pack everything into one day. If you follow the suggested daily procedure above, you will eventually be spending the bulk of your memorization time quoting previous verses—which is exactly what you want!
Use “down time” throughout your day to recite verses you’ve memorized. Some experts suggest saying a verse every day for 100 days, but whether you recite a verse/passage once a week or every day, it is important to review and recite it often to keep it in your memory.
6. A few fun (and helpful) ideas
- Write today’s verse(s) on an index card so you can keep it with you to look at throughout the day. Being able to review verses/passages while you drive, wait in line, take a shower, or brush your teeth is a great way to take advantage of time.
- If you have a problem keeping the words in their correct order, write down the first letter of each word on a card. For example, Philippians 1:1 (NKJV) would be as follows: PATBOJC, TATSICJWAIP, WTBAD.
- If you are an app fanatic, there are a couple good Scripture memory apps, such as Verses & Scripture Typer. They have different helps, games, and ideas to aid your Bible memory.
- I love to listen to the Bible in my car. Getting an audio Bible with the same translation that you use to memorize can help you hear the book in a different way … and it’s a fun challenge to try to quote the verses alongside the audio—it forces you to speak faster than you normally would when reciting the verses. I recommend the Word of Promise Audio Bible if you memorize from the NKJV.
- Need some other helpful memorization advice? Check out these posts.
What are you waiting for? Grab a passage you’ve wanted to memorize and start today!
Let us strive, every year we live, to become more deeply acquainted with Scripture.
– JC Ryle –
Study God’s Word
Reading God’s Word is not a substitute for studying God’s Word. While reading the Bible is absolutely essential and you should have a plan to consistently read Scripture, going beyond the surface into Bible study will open up the text and your understanding in ways you never thought possible. And studying God’s Word doesn’t have to be complicated. It is easier than you think (though it will take work).
One of the most rewarding and transformational things I have done in the past decade is to study Scripture. It has increased my understanding of and love for truth, given me a vision for living a godly life, and given me an incredible passion for Jesus Christ.
Remember, the reason we get into the Word is not for mere academics but to know Jesus. Even in Bible study, the purpose isn’t just head knowledge but greater intimacy and relationship with God Himself.
A lot could be said about how to study the Bible, but here is a simple introduction to get started: three questions to ask yourself every time you study Scripture:
1. What does it say?
— Observation —
Simply, what do you see in the passage? What does it say?
For example, Acts 1:8 says: “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
While many observations can be made from this single verse, a few obvious ones are:
- Who: Jesus is talking to His disciples
- When: right before Jesus ascends into heaven
- Jesus is promising that His followers will receive power
- Jesus also says that His followers will be witnesses
- The power and witnessing comes as a result of the Holy Spirit coming upon their lives
- Jesus’ structure for where witnessing will happen begins at the place of “home” (Jerusalem), extends to the surrounding area (Judea), into the territory of people Jews didn’t associate with or were “enemies” of (Samaria), and finally to the end of the earth
- Interestingly the layout of the Book of Acts follows this same structure—the book begins in Jerusalem, extends out into Judea, then into Samaria, and eventually the ends of the earth.
The purpose of the question “What does it say?” is to get you to see what is in the passage itself. Sure, you’ve read it a couple of times, but grab a piece of paper and pen and begin to list everything going on. You’ll be amazed at how much you discover.
Ask yourself questions. The best observations come from asking good questions. The more you ask questions and think about the text, the more it will cause you to seek out answers, and in the end, you’ll have a greater understanding of the passage. Here are some questions to get you started:
- Who, What, Where, When, Why, How?
- Who is the focus in the passage? Are there people present who aren’t talking or who aren’t the focus of what’s happening?
- What is happening?
- Where is it taking place? Is there anything significant about the location that you can discover?
- When is it happening?
- Why? What is the significance?
- How? Who is responsible for the action? How is it going to happen?
- Is something being said? If so, who is speaking? Who is the audience?
- What do the words mean? Look up words you don’t know, or better yet, get on a website like blueletterbible.org to type in the passage and look up Hebrew/Greek definitions, descriptions, and where else in Scripture that word is used. Click here for help.
- Is there anything I can discover through the grammar? (Yes, sometimes grammar is important.)
- Is there any historical or cultural background that I need to know?
- Is there anything from the context that might affect my understanding of the passage? (Context is critical!)
Remember, you are not making any conclusions, you are not interpreting what the passage means—you are only observing.
Observation is the stage that takes the longest time. Don’t rush! If you plow through observation to get to the application, you will often miss the depth of truth Jesus wants to reveal.
2. What does it mean?
— Interpretation —
Once you’ve read the passage several times and walked through the observation stage, you are ready to ask yourself, “What does it mean?”
We are not asking, “What does it mean to ME?” Rather, we are asking, “What did it mean to the original audience to whom the author was writing?”
This is key! The author wasn’t writing specifically to you; he was writing in a particular culture, with a particular thought process, with a particular reason in mind. So if you were in Corinth and received one of Paul’s letters written to the Christians in that city, what did that passage mean to that group?
You need to keep in mind that the author was trying to make a point. He had something specific he wanted to tell his readers. What is the gold nugget of truth in the passage?
You’ll find as you make observations and begin to ask, “What did it mean to the original audience?” that a concept or truth will begin to surface, giving you an “aha!” moment.
Now take that concept/truth/principle and summarize it in a single sentence or short paragraph.
3. What does it change?
— Application —
At this point you’ve made a bunch of observations and allowed the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth contained within the passage; now (and not before) you can ask, “What does it change in me? How does this apply to my life?”
If you walk through the earlier questions, this one becomes rather easy. Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” If we approach the Word with open arms, willing to be revealed, pierced, and transformed, you can bet God will do it! Once you discover a principle or concept from within Scripture, it demands a response.
Even before you get to this question, you will often find yourself squirming in your chair knowing exactly what the Holy Spirit is pressing and revealing in your life. When He lifts up the concept or principle and examines your life by it, do you measure up? Will you allow Him to do whatever is necessary in your life to shape you as a man or woman of the Word—with the nature, heart, mind, and attitude of Jesus?
Don’t skip a step; each is important and builds upon the one before it.
If you would like more help learning how to study the Bible, click here for a list of great resources.
A readiness to believe every promise implicitly, to obey every command unhesitatingly, to stand perfect and complete in all the will of God, is the only true spirit of Bible study.
– Andrew Murray –
Delight In God’s Word
God is clear that we are to find delight and joy in His Word. What is interesting is that reading and studying the Bible is not a punishment; it should be one of our greatest joys and one of the things we look forward to most. Never once have I looked at a piece of dark chocolate and cringed, wishing I didn’t have to eat it—I always delight in partaking of its chocolatey goodness.
The Psalmist explained this concept using the sweetest thing he knew about: honey. But if I may take the liberty to turn it into 21st-century chocolate language, the Psalmist says:
How sweet are Your words to my taste,
Sweeter than chocolate in my mouth!
Psalm 119:103 (paraphrase)
When we have a proper understanding of God’s Word, we discover that we are to relish it. It is to be our delight and joy because it reveals Truth (Jesus Christ) and thereby gives us life.
Jesus declared in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” and the Word of God points us to the Way, Truth, and Life (Jesus Christ).
Do you treasure God’s Word? Do you come to Scripture with joy?
Here are 29 ways God tells us to interact with Scripture. Listen to how many come back to the idea that we are to relish, delight, and find life and joy in its pages:
- Treat God’s Word as precious (1 Samuel 3:1)
- Let God’s Word reside on your tongue (2 Samuel 23:2; Psalm 119:42; Luke 12:11-12)
- Allow God’s Word to perform all that it promises, let it build the temple, let it be verified in your life, and let it bring you God’s rest (1 Kings 8:20, 26, 56; 1 Corinthians 3:16)
- Conform to the pattern for carrying the Holy Presence of God (1 Chronicles 15:15)
- Praise God’s Word (Psalm 56:4, 10; Acts 13:48)
- Publish (proclaim) God’s Word (Psalm 68:11; Acts 4:31; 8:4; 2 Timothy 4:2)
- Heed (listen to) God’s Word (Psalm 103:20; 119:24; Isaiah 66:5; Luke 10:39; John 5:24)
- Allow God’s Word to try your soul, purify your heart, and prune your life (Psalm 105:19; John 15:1-2, 4)
- Hide God’s Word in your heart—protect it as your most sacred possession and let it keep you from sin (Psalm 119:11; Colossians 3:16)
- Delight yourself in His Word (Psalm 119:16, 24)
- Never forget God’s Word (Psalm 119:16; John 15:20)
- Keep God’s Word (Psalm 119:17, 101; John 14:23; Titus 1:9; 1 John 2:5)
- Let God’s Word be your strength (Psalm 119:28)
- Incline your heart to the Word (Psalm 119:36)
- Trust in and build your life upon God’s Word (Psalm 119:42)
- Hope in God’s Word (Psalm 119:81)
- Search God’s Word (Psalm 119:82)
- Love and delight in the purity of God’s Word (Psalm 119:140)
- Meditate upon God’s Word (Psalm 119:148)
- Tremble before God’s Word (Isaiah 66:2, 5)
- Let God’s Word be the joy and rejoicing of your heart (Jeremiah 15:16)
- Let God’s Word be your food, sustenance, and life (Matthew 4:4; Psalm 119:50; Jeremiah 15:16)
- Be continually mindful of the Word, abiding in its reality and truth (John 15:4-5)
- Receive God’s Word gladly (Acts 2:41)
- Receive God’s Word with all readiness, searching it daily (Acts 17:11)
- Receive God’s Word in affliction (1 Thessalonians 1:6)
- Receive God’s Word as the Word of God (1 Thessalonians 2:13)
- Correctly understand, divide, and interpret the Word (2 Timothy 2:15)
- Be doers of the Word (James 1:22-23)
The more you love the Scriptures, the firmer will be your faith. There is little backsliding when people love the Scriptures.
– DL Moody –
Declare God’s Word
God’s Word has an amazing aspect to it—when you read, study, and are transformed by its Truth, you can’t hold it in! Scripture creates a volcano within your life and has to come out.
You may not be called to be a preacher or a teacher—two obvious ways of declaring God’s Word—but everyone who is changed by God’s Word has a pressing within to declare it. This isn’t “declare it or else”; rather, this is more like viewing an incredible sunset.
When we behold an incredible sunset, a “wow” escapes our lips. We don’t try; it just comes out. The same is true when we get into Scripture—when we see Jesus as He is, when we are transformed by His Word, we just can’t help ourselves from telling others.
Whether you have the opportunity to preach, teach, blog, evangelize, or tell your friends and family about the truth God has been revealing and using to transform your life, declaring God’s Word is important to your spiritual growth.
First, declaring God’s Word clarifies and gives us language for what God is doing in us. Second, declaring God’s Word is an avenue for God to use you in turning the world upside down. Our lives as Christians are not to be as a bottle kept on a shelf, a candle hidden beneath a basket, or salt left in a salt shaker. If Scripture and the Gospel are real in our lives, it will be contagious and come out of us—not because we are forced to preach or evangelize, but because we won’t be able to help ourselves. What is this incredible Gospel we proclaim? It is Jesus Christ and Him crucified! It is all about Jesus—His work upon the Cross, the infilling and empowering of His Spirit, dying to self and living a holy life, and being used as His vessel to preach and proclaim Him throughout all the world.
What could we do without the Book
That God gave us to read?
No more than any farmer
Who hadn’t any seed!
– CT Studd –
Build Your Life Upon God’s Word
If we wanted to build a house, we would first set the foundation. If the foundation were weak, the building would be weak.
Scripture is our foundation, our bedrock, for living. It is the truth we boldly stand upon. It is the standard the Holy Spirit uses to test us. It is the very words of God, which all point to Jesus Christ and His work upon the Cross.
Hebrews 4 is an interesting chapter. Many of us know verse 12, which says, “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Yet what is interesting is that it sits in a section all about “rest.”
The chapter opens with the promise of entering God’s rest. Using the Old Testament picture of the Israelites entering the Promised Land and finding rest, the writer of Hebrews talks about the promise for believers of living in a state of rest. Then he transitions and talks about God’s Word.
I find it fascinating that there is a connection between God’s Word and the rest that I experience in Jesus Christ. Like a hospital operating table that I rest upon to allow the surgeon to take his scalpel and make cuts in my body so that healing and transformation can take place, so too I rest upon God’s Word and allow Jesus Christ to take His Word (a double-edged sword or “scalpel”) and pierce my life so that I might be transformed and shaped into His likeness.
I must have a foundation to build my life upon. I need unchanging truth to be the guide of my life. I need security, a rock beneath my feet, to make it through the trials and temptations I face each day. As a Christian, my foundation is Jesus Christ and His unchanging Word. He does not change and cannot lie, and neither can His Word. It is a sure promise that I can take to the bank.
As the old hymn declares,
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus Christ, my righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.
He that would be holy must steep himself in the Word, must bask in the sunshine which radiates from each page of revelation.
– Horatius Bonar –
Be Transformed by God’s Word
Ultimately, my goal is to be transformed into Christ’s likeness. I, who once walked in darkness, am to walk in light, and I need the powerful, enabling work of the Holy Spirit to take my heart of darkness and change my very nature and character. It is not enough to merely have the outward appearance of being different; I must become different on the inside, which is something I cannot do in and of myself.
The key to Christlikeness is to respond to the Word and allow the Spirit of God to transform me. I cannot approach God’s Word with an arms-folded, I-have-it-all-together, I-don’t-need-anything attitude. I must come broken, arms open, willing to respond to the Truth and desiring the Holy Spirit to do His work within me.
When I have an attitude of response—the desire to be transformed—then I can’t remain the same when I get into Scripture. If Scripture is a double-edged sword, then when I get close to it, I will be cut and changed.
Will you approach Scripture with the desire to “come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (see Ephesians 4:13)? Will you allow the Word of God to be the measuring rod in your life that the Holy Spirit tests you against? Will you rest upon and respond to Scripture so He can transform your heart and mind (see Romans 12:1-2; 2 Corinthians 3:17-18, 5:17; 1 John 2:6, 3:2-3)?
The Bible was not given for our information but for our transformation.
– DL Moody –