You may recognize the image above as the cover art for Neon Bible, indie-rock band Arcade Fire’s sophomore album released in the spring of 2007. It is a great album. Recorded in an old church, many of the songs possess a tone of spiritual angst and searching. The title track pulsates with mellow, cryptic, and unnerving lyrics that leave the listener wondering, “What does it mean?”
Sometimes – perhaps more often than we’d like to admit – this is our experience when reading Scripture. At times, the language and style of writing is cumbersome, the context is foreign, and the purpose of a given passage is not always immediately clear. And so we are left wondering, “What does it mean?”
Inquiring as to the meaning of Scripture is fundamental to our understanding of God. But the search for knowledge can become discouraging if the means (the Bible) seem only to frustrate the end (one’s relationship with God). Rather than feel defeated, we must simply learn how to read, interpret, and apply Scripture. Like any fruitful discipline, it is a skill that requires practice, dedication, and patience.
The following guidelines have been adapted from Tim Keller, a pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. They may be helpful to you as you learn how to read Scripture. These four points will frame your time of study, meditation, and prayer as you work through a given Bible passage.
- Adoration – How can I love God on the basis of this passage? What is in here that I can praise Him for?
- Repentance (through which we ask for forgiveness) – How do I fail to realize this truth in my life? What wrong behavior, harmful emotions or attitudes result when I forget this?
- Gospel Thanks – How can I thank Jesus as the ultimate revelation of this attribute of God (point #1) and the ultimate answer to this sin or need of mine (point #2)?
- Aspiration – How does this show me what I can be and/or what I should do? How would I be different if this truth were powerfully real to me?
This is not the only way to study the Bible, just one example. But my hope is that through it you will be able to develop the skill of relating to Scripture as nourishment, not mere information. If you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to post them here or email me directly (firstname.lastname@example.org).