I’m just going to come right out and say it: applying the Bible to our lives is overrated. When we apply it to Jesus instead, we unlock unexpected insights that prove to be more valuable than practical application. But learning to read the Bible in this new way can take a little practice, plus a few good tools. Here’s what helped me make the transition:
Two simple steps for how to read the Bible with a Jesus-centered approach
First, get a Jesus-Centered Bible.
I mentioned that a few good tools help to shift our focus off ourselves and onto Jesus while reading the Bible. The Jesus-Centered Bible is one of those tools because of its’ unique features that make focusing on Jesus easier.
But first, if you’re thinking, “isn’t my Bible already Jesus-centered?” the answer is Yes–of course it is. There are references and insights about him all the way from Genesis to Revelation, and you can start digging deeper into them right now.
But if you have trouble spotting his story in the Old Testament (which most of us do), or if the epistles of the New Testament seem like they’re as much about the apostles and the early Christians as they are about Jesus, then the Jesus-Centered Bible can help in a way that other Bibles don’t. Because it was created exclusively to frame all the books of the Bible with Jesus as the central character, he’s easier to spot. Blue letters, for instance, reveal him in the Old Testament, and red letters highlight his name in the entire New Testament (a really simple feature that’s surprisingly eye-opening). And throughout all the pages you’ll find commentary and questions directly about Jesus. Even the year-long Bible reading plan features chapters that uniquely focus on Jesus.
Sure you can find him in other Bibles, but the Jesus-Centered Bible makes it really hard to miss him. And that’s what we want.
Second, get a journal.
Whether you normally journal or not, you’re going to want to jot down new insights about Jesus as you read. You can use the journaling method that works best for you, or start with some ideas based on what’s worked for me lately. Regarding the latter, here’s what I do when I’m reading a Bible chapter.
>> I read through the text once just to get the overview.
>> Then I reread it with a question in mind. My favorite questions to ask while reading come from Rick Lawrence’s suggestions in The Jesus-Centered Life. They include:
>> Then I write my observations. Personally I’ve found it helpful to write them like I’m having a conversation with Jesus. For instance, from Colossians chapter three I might write:
- What’s one thing for sure I know about Jesus based on what I just read?
- What did Jesus do/see/say here? What didn’t he do/see/say?
(v1) You raise us to new life with you.
(v1) You sit in heaven in a place of honor at God’s right hand.
(v3) You’ve hidden our lives with you in God. You’re a protector, a guardian.
(v4) You’re all that matters. Anything that isn’t about you doesn’t matter.
(v11) You forgive us. You’re forgiving in nature. You don’t hold a grudge.
(15) You offer peace to rule our hearts. You don’t offer strife or anxiety. You are the source of peace.
(v16) Your message is rich and fills our lives. Your message isn’t shallow. It isn’t deficient. It’s better than the messages from the world/culture.
(v17) You appointed us as representatives. You’re trusting. You’ve entrusted your message to us. You believe in us.
Do you notice how focusing on Jesus in this way shifts the entire perspective? After years of writing more “me’s” than “you’s” in my prayers and journals, this simple tweak has been powerful. In a culture that constantly preaches self-fulfillment, it’s refreshing to realize how liberating it is to not put ourselves at the center. Call it a paradox or heavenly wisdom, but Jesus wasn’t lying when he said that when we die to ourselves, we’ll actually find ourselves. Or, rather, we’ll find him, and our lives tucked in with his.
This Jesus-centered approach to reading the Bible sounds simple enough to start, right? Get your Bible and journal today and spend the next thirty days practicing these two steps.