Ditching Personal Agendas When it Comes to Reading the Bible

Bible Study Tips | John Piper Prayer Acrostic Printable | Christine M. Chappell | FaithfulSparrow.com

Recently, I’ve found myself reading straight through 1 Kings during my nightly quiet time. After a season of bouncing around through books of the Bible based upon my “mood-of-the-day,” it’s been nice to park myself in one spot (and stay there) to simply read for enjoyment. At first I wasn’t sure why I was being led to this particular section of Scripture, but the Lord in his faithfulness began to reveal something startling in my approach as of late—I was only searching the Scriptures to seek a better understanding of myself. Instead of opening its pages to look for God and his face, I was stuck in a rut of skimming the Bible for what it had to say about me.

Perhaps you can relate? Do you typically find yourself running to your Bible for comfort, reason, or wisdom? I know I do! God’s Word is certainly for all of those things, and we do well to make it our first place of refuge when we are dealing with troubles, pains, challenges, and difficult decisions. However, should this become our only reason for opening its pages, we’ve succumbed to the lie that the book is purely about our consolation and personal betterment. Yes, it speaks to comfort us in affliction. And yes, it encourages us with the implications of our new identity in Christ—but it is so, so much more than that.

If we’re to read the Bible with awe and wonder, we must ditch personal agendas and look for God’s glory between the lines.

There is something to be said for going through the Old Testament books with an eye on the character of God. Many of the Scriptures in these books do not necessarily point to our own hearts, but rather to the heart of God himself. To sit, read, and ask ourselves what the text is saying about our Heavenly Father can sometimes be much more comforting and life-giving than many other approaches. When we take our eyes off of ourselves and turn them to the Lord, something amazing happens in our near-sighted hearts.

“When the house was built, it was with stone prepared at the quarry, so that neither hammer nor axe nor any tool of iron was heard in the house while it was being built.” 1 Kings 6:7

When I came across this verse in 1 Kings, I fell in love with the wording. Because of my recent propensity to seek myself in the Scriptures, I began to wonder how this verse might demonstrate something about my heart being “constructed.” Yet, I quickly got nowhere with this approach—and for very good reason.

I was kindly reminded by the Holy Spirit that the Bible isn’t always about me.

I had become so prone to bringing my own agenda to my bible reading that I was missing out on God’s glory, regardless of how clearly it was demonstrated in the text. With this insight into my faulty understanding, I finally began to see why I loved this verse from 1 Kings so much: God’s holiness was on solitary, exalted display.

This text isn’t giving me something about myself; It is showing me the beauty and order of God’s greatness. No tools or loud clanking were allowed on the construction site of the Holy Temple. Men were building it, but the noise and method was strictly regulated. There’s a peace and reverence that was taken on by the laborers who were diligently working to make a place for the Lord’s presence to dwell. This was a holy task for the holy God, and he would have the construction limited in its harsh, unsettling commotion. In this verse alone, we can see our Father as a God of peace, order, precision, and meticulous care.

Don’t always approach the Word to feel better about yourself—but to better know the love of God.

If you’re looking to add more enjoyment into your personal Bible reading, why not take a break from self-serving agendas and shift your focus onto falling more in love with your Father in heaven? Here are some questions you can start asking yourself as you move through the pages:

What does this section of Scripture say about the character and/or heart of God?

How does this section of Scripture reveal God’s glory and majesty?

Why am I thankful for having a Father whose character and majesty are as this text is describing?

How does seeing God’s character/glory/heart in this passage help me grow in my trust and love of him?

We should commit to ask ourselves at the end of our reading time, “Am I walking away from these pages in adoration of my Father?”

If the answer is, “No,” it’s possible to turn things around! Resolve to shift the focus of your attention from Who/What/Where am I in this verse? to Who/What/Where is God in this verse? 

Don’t get me wrong: if you are dealing with a season of difficulty, seeking the Scriptures for the comfort of Christ is of tremendous benefit. Yet there is equal benefit from getting to know God more and developing a firmer grasp on who he truly is, as revealed in his Word. As we grow up in Christ, we’ll find that growing in our love of the Lord means to come to know his character more concretely. And funny enough, seeing him more clearly in the Word typically leads to a better understanding of ourselves.

“The word, the character, and the actions of God should be evermore before our eyes; we should learn, consider, and reverence them. Men forget what they do not wish to remember, but the excellent attributes of the Most High are objects of the believer’s affectionate and delighted admiration. We should keep the image of God so constantly before us that we become in our measure conformed unto it.” – Charles Spurgeon

Helpful Tool: Free Printable Bible Insert of John Piper’s Prayer Acrostic

I. Incline my heart to your testimonies. Psalm 119:36 (Since my heart is inclined to sleep and work and lots of things other than the Bible.)

O. Open my eyes to see wonders in your word. Psalm 119:18 (Since my heart is so often dull and blind to the wonders of the word.)

U. Unite my heart to fear your name. Psalm 86:11 (Since my heart is often divided and distracted in many directions)

S. Satisfy me with your steadfast love. Psalm  90:14 (Since my heart is so tempted to be satisfied in other things.)

>>>Click here to download free printable cards featuring this acrostic to insert straight into your bible!<<<

Getting to Know The Character of God as Revealed Through the Scriptures

Click here to download a 30-day prayer calendar of the names and attributes of God, featuring corresponding Scriptures for additional study and guided reading (courtesy of Navigators.org.)