How to Read and Understand the Bible in 4 Simple Steps

Dr. Max Anders

How to Read and Understand the Bible in 4 Simple Steps

There are four steps to mastering the Bible so well that the Bible masters you:

1. Read the Bible
2. Study the Bible
3. Memorize the Bible
4. Meditate on the Bible

Seems simple. Obvious, even, for those who have been Christians for a while. Yet very few people take all four steps. Many take one step. Some take two steps. Very few take all four steps. As a result, very few people ever experience the full life transformation, the fellowship with God, the spiritual stability and strength, the power in ministry, the joy in worship, and the spiritual prosperity that the Bible promises to those who master it so well that it masters them.

 

Step #1: Read the Bible for Breadth of Knowledge

To begin a mastery of the Bible, you must read the Bible. This may seem self-evident to some, but to others who have never developed the habit, it is groundbreaking. Some Christians do not read the Bible, or they only read snippets that are attached to daily devotionals. This will not get you where you want to go. You must begin to read the Bible widely. It is only by covering a lot of territory in Scripture that you gain a breadth of knowledge.

If you never read the Old Testament, you will never have a general knowledge of it. If you only read the Gospels, or the Epistles, you will never have a basic grasp of the other sections of the Bible. As a result, your life will be untouched by important truth, plus your ability to connect the dots from various different Scripture passages—a critical component of a mature Christian experience—will be limited.

The good news is that there is a simple way to read for breadth of knowledge. If you read the Bible for five minutes a day, you will read the Bible over thirty hours a year! (5 minutes × 365 days = 1,825 minutes divided by 60 minutes per hour = 30.4 hours!)

Think of it!! Thirty hours a year! Perhaps no other discipline will provide a breadth of Bible knowledge more easily. If you want to master the Word so well that the Word masters you, begin by reading it.

 

Step #2: Study the Bible for Depth of Knowledge

Few of us can gain a depth of knowledge without sitting under skilled teachers. So, for most people, they must sit under effective preaching from the Bible and be involved in a Bible study taught by an effective teacher. For maximum benefit, Bible study must have assignments that get you studying and interacting with the Bible on your own. To gain a depth of knowledge, you cannot be passive. You must become active in the process of deepening your knowledge.

If this is new to you, begin by attending a church that is committed to teaching the Bible, not only from the pulpit during sermons, but also in small groups or Sunday school classes. You might also find helpful information in Christian bookstores or online. More seasoned Christians might be able to give you helpful suggestions as well. If you are an avid reader, there is a wealth of knowledge available to you as well through good books available online or at Christian bookstores.

 

Step #3: Memorize to Master the Bible

I used to think that it was better to have a lot of verses memorized, but in my effort to have as many verses as possible memorized, I had them memorized shallowly. I might have to struggle to get started, or get partway through a passage and have to paraphrase the rest. Now, I realize it is much better to have fewer verses memorized very deeply—that is where the power comes from. Rather than memorize a mile wide and an inch deep, it is better to memorize an inch wide and a mile deep. That is a key difference, because until we memorize verses deeply and spend time meditating on them, the truth of the passages does not seep deeply into our subconscious to influence our thoughts, attitudes, actions, and emotions.

When we memorize Scripture this deeply, it will often then jump into our minds as our first reaction to life’s circumstances, helping guide our decisions and influence our emotions. Even Jesus, when He was tempted by the devil in Matthew 4, quoted Scripture in response to the temptation. When we know Scripture well enough to quote it immediately in response to life’s challenges, the Bible begins to take on a power that it did not previously have in our life.

Memorize one verse so that you can say it without hesitation. Then, memorize another, but link it to the first. Then memorize a third one, but link it to the first two, and so on. Keep doing it the rest of your life. Pretty soon, your command of Scripture will be a mile wide and a mile deep.

Just as reading the Bible five minutes a day soon begins to accumulate impressive results, so does memorizing verses at a manageable pace. As we keep up the practice, adding verses that are important to us without dropping off the old ones, we find that we will eventually have many, many verses memorized very deeply. That is the ultimate goal.

 

Step #4: Meditate for the Bible to Master You

Many people know passages of Scripture, but have not spent enough time meditating on them enough for the truth of the passages to penetrate deeply into their mind and heart.

In the book Change Your Heart, Change Your Life, Gary Smalley makes a compelling case for meditating on Scripture. He states that what we think about all day long, over long periods, eventually seeps into our heart as controlling beliefs. When we learn the right thoughts and mentally chew on them over and over, day after day, they lodge in our hearts as beliefs, and these beliefs become the controlling influences of our lives. If we do not think about Scripture enough, the truth of Scripture may be in our heads as knowledge but not in our hearts as deep, controlling beliefs.

Smalley challenges us to meditate, think about, ponder, and recite Scripture until the Scripture becomes a path in our minds and hearts . . . then ponder it some more until the Scripture becomes a road in our minds and hearts . . . then ponder it some more until it becomes a four-lane freeway. Then, and only then, will the Scripture migrate from information in our heads to deep, controlling beliefs in our hearts.

Through my experience in teaching this material, I have learned that most Christians are busy—so busy that they have difficulty disciplining themselves to implement the four-step process of mastering the Bible so well that the Bible masters them. If that is the case for you, I offer two responses. First, I encourage you to start, even on a modified and very small level. Start by reading the Bible five minutes a day. Choose one verse to memorize, and begin meditating on it. Also, make sure you regularly attend a Bible-teaching church where you can get good instruction in the Bible.

 

Just Get Started! 

Once you get started, it is easy to expand your efforts. The key is just to start! That way, it will help prepare you for the next major issue that rocks your boat on the sea of life. You will be way ahead of the game in dealing with it.

If you commit yourself to this four-step process, you will begin to master the Bible so well that the Bible begins to master you. And as the Bible begins to master you, you will enjoy the inner peace, love, and joy that is the fruit of the Holy Spirit. In addition, you will experience a peace and power in life and ministry that the Holy Spirit gives to those who meditate on and practice His Word.

Taken from 30 Days to Understanding the Bible by Max Anders. Copyright © 1988, 1994, 1998, 2004, and 2018 by Max Anders. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson. www.thomasnelson.com.

About the Author: Dr. Max Anders is the author of over 25 books including 30 Days to Understanding the Bible. He has taught on the college and seminary level and is a veteran pastor. Max was also one of the original team members with Walk Thru the Bible Ministries. He provides resources and discipleship strategies at MaxAnders.com to help people grow spiritually.

About 30 Days to Understanding the BibleIf you’ve ever confused the ark of the covenant with the ark of Noah, or Jericho with Jeroboam, Max Anders’ classic book, 30 Days to Understanding the Bible, is for you. In just fifteen minutes a day, you’ll learn the Bible’s key people, events, and doctrines to get more out of God’s Word. Learn more at http://biblein30days.com.

Photo Credit: ©Thinkstock/Sasiistock


Originally published November 14, 2018.

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