In order for us to grow to maturity in Christ, believers need to spend time with God in His Word. Like many other areas of the Christian life, this is one of those areas where we assume that everyone else knows how to do this. The reality is that many Christians don’t know how to read or study the Bible and see it as being quite intimidating. That’s why I believe that a plan for reading Scripture is helpful. The most simple method that I have come across was developed by David Platt using an acrostic of the word “R.E.A.P.”
First, we must READ a selected passage of Scripture. We must be sure to carve out some time in our schedule each day to spend with God in prayer and reading. This is where a reading plan is helpful. It breaks up the reading into manageable portions. Most reading plans, such as the Scarlet Thread plan, are made up of no more than two to three chapters a day. We shouldn’t hurry through the reading so we can move on the next thing on our list, but should take the time to read slowly, carefully, prayerfully, thoughtfully, humbly, and joyfully.
Second, we must EXAMINE the text in its proper context. The goal of our reading is to get to the original meaning as intended by the author. We don’t want to practice ‘eisegesis,’ which means we read into the text what is not there. Instead, we want to be faithful to the actual meaning of the passage, asking questions such as:
- What is happening in this passage?
- What words or ideas seem to be particularly important?
- What does this passage teach me about the gospel? About God, man, Christ, and the necessity of faith?
There are some wonderful tools to help us establish literary, cultural, historical, and theological context. A good study Bible with explanatory notes can be a very good help with understanding context and meaning. It will provide you with some key insight into literary issues, history, and help with theological concepts that are developed throughout the text. It will also provide you with helpful outlines of the individual books of the Bible, which will further aid you in your study. Other tools include a Bible dictionary, and background commentaries. Check out the picture to the left of this page for an example of these tools.
Third, we must APPLY the truth of the passage to our personal lives. Once we get to the meaning of the text, we apply its rich truth to our lives through the power of the Holy Spirit. We personalize the passage and seek to answer questions such as, “What am I being commanded to repent of? What am I to start doing or stop doing? What am I being called upon to believe?” Remember that the goal of reading the Bible is never knowledge alone, but knowledge that leads to transformation. The book of James reminds us that we are to be doers of the Word, and not hearers only.
Last, we must PRAY and worship God through Spirit-empowered obedience. Time in the Scriptures must lead us to love God more and more. Before we leave our time of reading, we ought to just spend a few minutes worshiping and exalting Jesus Christ for who He is and all that He has done. We ask the Lord to empower our obedience and give us strength for all that the day has in store.
All of this is a helpful plan for how you can R.E.A.P. from your personal Bible study. You can find a PDF file of this simple plan under the “Resources” tab up at the top of this page. Once you are there, click on “Personal Worship Guide” in order to download. You can also follow the link that I’ve provided to a more in-depth guide that is provided by Radical.net.