If you’ve never undertaken a serious detailed study of the Bible, you’re missing out on what I believe is the most important journey of your life. New Christians, mature Christians, and those who are still searching for God will benefit greatly from taking the time to study the Bible in a deliberate manner. Simply reading a few books of the Bible or a few chapters here and there will not connect you to the deeper understanding that can be revealed in a more systematic study.
Getting started in a deep study of the Bible may seem like a difficult and perhaps overwhelming proposition. It doesn’t have to be. What many people neglect to realize is the need for well qualified teachers along the way. Simply opening up the Bible and reading from page one is certainly beneficial, but you will gain far more if you take this trip with qualified guides. To that end, I’m going to suggest several books in addition to the Bible that will be extraordinarily beneficial in gaining a deeper connection to God.
Keep in mind my book selections and Bible study methods are a personal choice. There are other valuable companion books and other study methods that will work equally well. Before you begin, settle into the understanding that this will be a very long journey. There is no reason to consume all of this information quickly. With prayer and concentrated focus, you will reap profound rewards in every chapter you read. Take your time absorbing this material allowing your life experience to mingle with the teaching; this will magnify its overall benefit.
Before you even open your Bible I’d like you to begin by moving closer to God. To do that, I’d like to suggest you read “Experiencing God,” by Henry & Richard Blackaby. This book will help you identify where God is working in your life – at your church, in the world at large, and within you. You will learn how to connect with God in new ways and how to make adjustments in your life to better perceive His presence. It is of course critical that you take God with you on your Bible study journey and “Experiencing God,” is a perfect tool to use to help you identify and nurture that relationship.
Choosing which Bible translation to read and which Bible to use when reading will make an enormous difference in your study. The King James Bible is perhaps the most recognizable Bible translation, however there are several others that are written in a more modern English style that will be much easier to understand and digest. The most popular modern English translation is the New International Version (NIV) which is a good choice, especially if it is the translation used at your church. My personal favorite modern English translation is the New American Standard Bible (NASB) which I believe is perhaps more true to the original text. The New King James Version (NKJV) translation is also one I can recommend. There are many other translations, but in my view, these are the best choices. Each of these Bible translations can be found at BibleGateway.com and I would encourage you to visit this site and read a little of each translation to help you select the one that is right for you.
In addition to selecting a translation, you will need to decide which Bible you will read. It’s important that you use a study Bible that will provide you with cross references, footnotes, maps, and other helpful tools to help you better understand what you are reading and how it all fits together. If you’re okay with reading an online version of the Bible, BibleGateway.com is a fantastic resource. Each of their Bible translations includes footnotes and cross-references as well as a tool that allows you to listen to an audio version of the Bible. Audio Bibles are a fantastic tool to use along with reading, especially in the Old Testament where there are many difficult-to-pronounce names. If you read along with an audio Bible, all those difficult words will be perfectly pronounced and your experience will be far more complete.
If you prefer to have a book in hand when reading, I’d like to suggest the Ryrie Study Bible. There are many study Bibles available, each with their own point of view. Some are easy to use and others are more difficult because of their more academic approach to writing footnotes. In my view, the Ryrie Study Bible is the most student friendly and provides commentary that is more middle of the road and not slanted to any specific point of view.
Before you begin reading the Bible, spend a few minutes in prayer. Ask for God’s guidance. Ask him to fill your mind with His wisdom and fill your heart with His love. Seek to know Him in a closer more personal way.
Absolutely hands down the best teacher to walk you through the pages of the Bible is Dr. J. Vernon McGee, via his Thru the Bible Commentary. The Kindle version of his five volume commentary, which includes all 66 books of the Bible, is very affordable. Dr. McGee uses the King James translation in his commentary so you may want to have a modern translation of the Bible open at the same time to compare the different versions. Reading through the Bible with Dr. McGee will take considerably more time than reading the text on your own, but it is time well spent. If you do not intend to read Dr. McGee’s commentary, you might want to at least start by reading his introduction to the book you are about to read. You can find his Study Guides for free online at the Thru the Bible website. The Ryrie Study Bible also includes an introduction to each book that is very valuable in helping you orient yourself to what you are about to read. As you may know, there are 66 books in the Bible written by 40 different authors. You’ll want to know who wrote the book you are reading, who the book was written for, and what major themes are found in the book before you begin.
I pray these suggestions provide you with some clear direction that will quickly move you closer to God and get you started on a journey that will change your life. You may want to consider taking the trip with a friend or a group of friends. Fellowship with other believers through Bible study is one of the most rewarding ways to experience God. Finally, I want to encourage you to take what you learn and immediately put it to use serving God by serving others. May you and those around you be richly blessed as every minute of study moves you closer and closer to God.
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV)