In the Lord’s prayer, Jesus tells his disciples to pray “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11 NKJV). The literal meaning of “daily bread” is “food for the day.” We all know that we need the proper amount of daily nutrition for our physical bodies, and it is proper to pray for God’s provision of this necessity. But Jesus is also speaking of spiritual things. Just as our body needs physical nourishment, our spirit needs daily bread as well.
During what is called “the Last Supper,” the meal that Christ ate with his disciples before going to the cross, Jesus referred to Himself as spiritual bread.
“And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19 ESV).
Jesus also uses the metaphor of bread after he feeds the 5,000. The crowds came out to the wilderness to hear Jesus teach, but they became hungry. Jesus prayed over five barley loaves and two fish volunteered by a young boy, and he fed the entire multitude. The next day, the crowd followed Jesus to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus said to them, “You are seeking me … because you ate your fill of the loaves” (John 6:26 ESV). Jesus then contrasted this natural bread with the spiritual bread from heaven.
“The bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to
the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said
to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger,
and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:33-35 ESV).
The Bible is the Word of God—and the Bible says that Jesus is the Word of God. They are synonymous.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God” (John 1:1 ESV).
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen
his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father” (John 1:14 ESV).
So if Jesus is the bread of life, how do we receive nourishment from this daily bread? We do so through spending daily time in prayer and worship and through daily Bible reading and study.
Daily Bible Reading
As we mentioned earlier, Jesus encouraged the discipline of Bible reading and Bible study.
“So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:31-32 NASB).
If we want to walk in truth as disciples of Jesus, we need our daily bread—our daily time in the Word of God.
As with any worthwhile endeavor, it is best to start slowly and work up stamina from there. Rather than jumping right into in-depth Bible study, you may want to begin with what is called devotional reading—reading the Scriptures to learn who God is and what he wants for your life. Here is a recommended reading plan for the new believer or the Christian who wants to grow in faith:
The Gospel of John
Begin by reading a chapter per day in the Gospel of John. The youngest of the original 12 disciples, John was one of Jesus’ best friends. Jesus often chose John, along with his brother James and their friend Peter, to go with Him when He left the other nine to go pray and seek His Father’s will during His earthly ministry. We see an example of this on the Mount of Transfiguration (Luke 9:28-36), and in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:39-46). Because they were so close, John had a unique perspective on who Jesus is. The book of John is quite different from the other Gospel accounts (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), and so it is a good place to start.
After you finish with the Gospel of John, read the Psalms to learn about God’s heart. You will find that the writers of the Psalms explore the full spectrum of human emotions, from the exaltation and praise of God to remorse and guilt for sin and failure as well as fear and anxiety about many troubles in the world. The Psalms are a snapshot of the human condition and our need for a relationship with a loving God.
Move on to read a chapter a day from the book of Proverbs—the book of wisdom—every day. Proverbs has 31 chapters in the book, so you can read one chapter for every day of the month—doubling up on shorter months. Proverbs 9:10 (NLT) declares, “Fear of the Lord is the foundation of wisdom. Knowledge of the Holy One results in good judgment.” The word “fear” in this passage means “reverential awe.” Having this kind of awe of God leads to wisdom, a valuable asset in this life. Studying the sayings from the book of Proverbs is a wise strategy for life.
The Other Gospels
For years, Christian leaders have admonished their followers to “read the red”—meaning the words of Jesus from the Gospels, which many Bibles have traditionally printed in red ink. When you finish Proverbs, move on to the other three Gospels: Matthew, Mark, and Luke. While they are quite different from the Gospel of John, you will notice that they are quite similar to each other. Tradition tells us that Luke, the great Christian writer and historian, interviewed Mary the mother of Jesus, the disciples, and other eyewitnesses before writing his Gospel. Many theologians believe that Peter dictated the third Gospel, and that Mark, for whom it is named, wrote it down. Matthew was another of Jesus’ disciples, and he wrote his Gospel from a very Jewish perspective.
After you’ve completed the Gospels, move on to Luke’s other masterpiece, the Acts of the Apostles (which really could be called the acts of the disciples, since the apostles weren’t the only ones that Luke wrote about). This book is a wonderful retelling of the history of the First Century Church. Since most of these people were disciples, apostles, or eyewitnesses of Christ, they would have been most familiar with His teachings. We gain much insight into the Christian lifestyle by observing the habits and behavior of these early disciples of Jesus.
Next, read the first five books of the Old Testament, known as the Pentateuch—or the Torah to the Jews. Most scholars believe that the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy were written by Moses. These five books contain the creation story, the account of Noah and the ark, the story of God’s special relationship with Abraham, the tale of Joseph in Egypt, the Children of Israel in bondage, the deliverance of the Jews out of Egypt by God through Moses, and the giving of the Law on Mt. Sinai—among other important stories and information. You will likely recognize many of the characters in this rich portion of the Bible and will learn many valuable things about God, the people of Israel, and how this history is vital to understanding the rest of Scripture.
- First Corinthians
- Second Corinthians
- First Thessalonians
- Second Thessalonians
- First Timothy
- Second Timothy
- First Peter
- Second Peter
- First John
- Second John
- Third John
Now you can wade into the teaching section of the New Testament, known as the “letters” or “epistles.” These letters were written by the apostles Paul, James, Peter, John, and Jude. This is where you get into the nuts and bolts of living the Christian lifestyle. At this point, you may want to look for a Bible study group that can help you wade through the letters to learn what they are all about and how to apply these principles to your daily life.
Old Testament History
- First Samuel
- Second Samuel
- First Kings
- Second Kings
- First Chronicles
- Second Chronicles
The history books of the Old Testament tell of the establishment of the nation of Israel, of the good and evil kings, and of the coming exile as a result of their ongoing sin. This is known as redemptive history, as it looks at this time in Jewish history through the lens of the prophets who likely wrote these books. The prophets compare the acts of the people of Israel at that time with the righteous requirements of the law, giving commentary on those who followed in God’s ways, those who did not, and the consequences of their words and actions.
Old Testament Poetry
- Song of Solomon
As we’ve already mentioned, Psalms and Proverbs are wonderful books to read for daily devotion and encouragement. We add to these the other poetic books of Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon.
Old Testament Prophets
The prophetic books of the Old Testament are both inspiring and sometimes difficult to understand. It is a good idea to read these books with the help of a standard Bible survey book. It might also be helpful to go through this part of Scripture as part of a Bible study group. Remember that while the entire Bible is God’s revelation, not everything in it is written for us today. We can learn from the things written to earlier generations though we can’t always apply those things to our modern lives.
The Book of Revelation
The final section of the Bible, the book of Revelation, is exciting, inspiring, and sometimes difficult to understand. The book is a prophecy or revelation given by Jesus to the apostle John during his exile on the Isle of Patmos. Again, this book is best read with some sort of study guide or as part of a Bible study group with a mature Christian leader. The final lesson from this book is that Jesus will return to earth someday to do away with sin, pain, and sorrow! This is the exciting conclusion to the entire Bible.
Studying the Bible
As you’ve already seen, some portions of the Bible are excellent for devotional reading and other parts lend themselves to more serious study. While this is true, it is also important to understand that the study of all parts of the Bible is important for your spiritual growth. The apostle Paul gives this encouragement to his disciple Timothy:
“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15 NASB).
Studying the Bible will enable to you “accurately handle the word of truth” as you grow in your walk with the Lord. In order to get the most out of your Bible study you may want to join a class through your church or at a local Bible college. You can also sign up to take Bible courses online.
Many good Bible study tools are available to the student of Scripture. One highly recommended method is called inductive Bible study, where the student makes observations of the details of each passage and then draws conclusions. From these conclusions, application is then made to life today. A book that helps to understand this popular method is How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart.
As you begin your study of Scripture, you will learn the terms like “exegesis” and “eisegesis”—which are two opposing concepts in Biblical interpretation. Exegesis is the study of the historical and cultural backgrounds of the author, text, and audience to find the original meaning of the text. This is the preferred form of Bible study where you “have no mind in the matter,” but instead are discovering the truth from within the text itself.
Eisegesis, on the other hand, is the process of interpreting text in such a way as to pursue your own preconceived ideas, agenda, or bias as you seek to prove your theory of the text. It is commonly referred to as “reading into the text” or “proof texting.” This is a dangerous practice in Bible study where passages are taken out of context or twisted to fit a pre-conceived theological idea. Many people have stumbled into error or even abandoned their faith in Jesus by using this faulty method of study.
Memorizing Scripture to Grow in Faith
A final encouragement when it comes to reading and studying Scripture is to develop the practice of memorizing key passages. In the Old Testament, King David made several statements about meditating on and memorizing the Bible.
“I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might
not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11 ESV).
“Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation
all the day” (Psalm 119:97 ESV).
It’s important to understand that though the Bible can be inspirational, comforting, and instructive, it is also our “sword of the spirit” to equip us to fight spiritual battles. As we have shared, the writer of Hebrews declares:
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit (Hebrews 4:12 ESV).
It’s important to read, study, meditate on, and memorize Scripture in order to understand God’s love for you and plan for your life. The Bible is both a wonderful comfort and a mighty weapon. It is the wise disciple who follows Jesus’ encouragement to “abide in my word … and you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32 NKJV).
God’s desire for you is to have an abundant life. Learn what this means and how to walk in this abundance as a part of our final lesson in chapter 11.