How and where should a new believer start reading the Bible?
– JB from Chicago, Il.
Part 1: Let the Holy Spirit guide
Part 2: Helps and guidelines
Let the Holy Spirit guide (Part 1)
Are you the new believer or are you asking for someone else? Either way, I always like to say that you (or they) have made the best decision of your life and you have a great future ahead of you. Also, reading the Bible is certainly one of the first things you should do after asking Jesus Christ into your heart and making him Savior and Lord.
As far as where and how to begin, I will share my own little story about that. My cousin was advising me right after I asked the Lord to come into my heart and he told me to dig up my old Bible from college. Just picking up a Bible and opening to anywhere seemed overwhelming to me and I asked him what to read.
He said; “Well, you might want to start with the first three chapters of John.” So I found the Bible and found the book of John and read those first three chapters over and over and over again. I did that for four or five days and I carried the Bible with me everywhere. I even slept with it across my chest and if I woke in the night I would read it again.
The next time I talked to my cousin I told him what I was doing and he laughed and said; “You can go on you know. You can continue reading chapter four and finish John to the end.” It might sound silly now that I took the advice so literally but it was actually the Holy Spirit at work. It turned out to be exactly what I needed.
I believe God used my cousin to direct me to the book of John because I was involved in all sorts of New Age beliefs at the time. John is the most “theological” of all the Gospels and the book begins with a very clear picture of Jesus as God, the Word, Creator, Life and the Light. The truth collided quickly with my faulty thinking and enabled me to correct it as I was just starting out.
Therefore, I don’t believe in “one answer fits all” to the question you asked. While I needed those first three chapters of John you may need Luke or the book of Acts or Deuteronomy. As a new believer, this is the perfect time to start hearing with your spiritual ears and trusting and getting to know the Holy Spirit. He’s the answer guy!
Helps and guidelines (Part 2)
If you are advising someone else about where to start, pray and then tell them whatever comes into your mind. As a default position I would say you could not go wrong with the gospels first – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
The new believer will usually find that the Bible comes alive for the first time after they are saved. What was gobbledygook before now makes sense. It is very hard for the natural mind to see things with spiritual understanding. After being born again, many things clear up because now the Holy Spirit has done a work.
The other question you asked is “how” to read the Bible starting out. You don’t need to get real fancy with it at first. Just read. Read a little and stop and think over what you read. Ask the Lord; “What does this mean?” and start listening. Sometimes a verse will seem BOLD on the page or seem to jump out. When that happens pay attention. God is drawing it to your attention for a reason.
Try to form a habit early on of reading the Bible every day. This should last for the rest of your life and will keep your soul washed and your spirit nimble. It will be harder to fall away or embrace false teaching if you stay in the Word continually.
Last of all remember this: “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)