Many of us avoid studying our Bibles because we have other books occupying our quiet-time. Don’t get me wrong, devotional books and blogs are an incredible tool! The words and guidance of others can be helpful, intriguing, and educational. I have been blessed by the works of many encouraging authors. But these Bible studies and devotional books should be used in addition to reading the actual WORD OF GOD for ourselves.
The Bible urges us to grow in our faith, not remain immature within our understanding of God. Just as a baby grows from drinking milk to eating solid food, we too must grow in our consumption of the Word of God:
For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.
Verse 13 says we must drink milk, yes; but not only milk, also meat. I don’t think we move away from sound teaching and helpful studies (Proverbs 11:14). I do think God is calling us to grow in our understanding of His Word, to further our knowledge as Christians.
So where does the devo-book come in? If God’s Word is the meat, then perhaps the Holy Spirit can use the encouragement of helpful authors as complements to the main course:
Appetizing Devotionals: These books are written to encourage the Christian through short, malleable bits of inspiration. God’s Word is presented in snippets: a short verse or concept from the Bible (e.g. God’s love, or “I can do all things…”). The bulk of a devotional book is the story or metaphor, which expounds on the verse or concept. Many devotionals are about the person reading, not about God per say. While this is not inherently wrong, watch out for books that tell you what you want to hear.
A devotional that speaks the Word of God (instead of the word of ME) make FANTASTIC appetizers. It’s a great way to utilize all the devo books you got for graduation, for being single, or having a baby. Read the verse and encouragement for the day. Let it whet your appetite for more, then flip open your Bible to that passage, Philippians 4:13 for example. Read the entire chapter containing that verse (Philippians 4). Then, read the beginning of the book, or even the whole book, containing that verse (Letter to the Philippians).
Understanding the context, intended audience, timeline, author, and holistic message of the passage, you will start adding “meat” to your spiritual diet. Reading the passage for yourself will also expose false devo-books that promote false ideas instead of the truth of Jesus Christ.
Try these tasty appetizers on your spiritual taste buds:
- My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers
- Jesus Calling by Sarah Young
- Taste and See by John Piper
- Have a Favorite? Comment below!
Bible Study Cutlery: Expositional Bible Studies are studies written by scholars or educated writers that unpack Biblical truths. These books, which serve as curriculum in many instances, require the reader to study a specific section of the Bible at a greater depth. A good Bible study resource will focus on scripture says, and the application thereof. A poor study will pivot around what people say (including the author) and how our perspective is “backed up” by the Bible.
A good Bible study will function like a sharp steak knife: they help you consume the meat of God’s Word effectively. Use them without the Bible, and you’ll get that scraping sound a knife makes on an empty plate.
Sharpen your meat-cutting skills with these bad boys:
- Creation Unraveled by Matt Carter and Halim Suh
- James: Mercy Triumphs by Beth Moore
- Mark: a 12 week study by J.I. Packer and Dane C. Ortlund (this resource is available for free download here!)
- Check out others from “Knowing the Bible” series, here.)
- What has helped you the most? Share with us by commenting below?
Delectable Christian-Living Dessert: Typically, books on Christian-Living don’t necessarily focus on one scripture or passage. Rather, they expose a theme or characteristic for Christ-centered living. I like to think of these books as dessert! After studying the depth of scripture for some time, I slide my current book off the shelf, curl up with some tea, and soak in some great wisdom. Again, these books don’t replace my study of Scripture, but they help to paint a clearer picture. I try to look up the verses I am not familiar with, and scrutinize the context in which the author is using them. Over all these books are like teachers, pastors, counselors. Like dessert, we should never expect complete nourishment to come from these books alone, but they can act as icing on the cake, or a helpful snack between meals.
Here are my favorite flavors:
- Gospel by J.D. Greear
- Crazy Love by Francis Chan
- The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness by Timothy Keller
- Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper
- Weird by Craig Groeschel
- Real Marriage by Mark and Grace Driscoll
- Is there a delectable book you savor? Comment below.
Again, if you are struggling to read the Bible for yourself, maybe it is time to change it up. Put down the filler-food (just for a little while) and fill up on the life-giving meat of God’s Word.
Still not “getting there?” If you still catch yourself gravitating away from reading the Bible for yourself, perhaps you are struggling with a different issue. Press the “Follow” button to get updates on more topics for for the Bible Study Struggle.