For many, the Bible is a fact book or textbook; it's merely a resource to help people understand the spiritual events of the past and incorporate those facts into their life. The Bible never moves from a source of information to a source of transformation. Because of this reality, many Bibles sit on dusty shelves or in catchall drawers—they're rarely read or referenced. Seeing the Bible as merely a sourcebook impairs a person from grasping the real value of the Bible: spiritual transformation and growth.
On the other hand, if the Bible is something more than just a fact book, then those who will engage, study, and meditate on the Bible will find themselves growing spiritually. As the research in Transformational Discipleship stated, "When believers are willing to place their lives on a collision course with God's Word, then transformation can occur." The Bible is essential to spiritual transformation.
Paul told Timothy, "All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work" (2 Tim. 3:16, CSB). The Scriptures are beneficial or useful to shape a person spiritually and lead them into greater holiness and spiritual vibrancy. Simply put, there is no spiritual growth apart from the Word.
Three Ways the Bible Brings Spiritual Growth
Because the Bible is God's very Word and is "living and effective" (Heb. 4:12, CSB), it is the primary means God has chosen to reveal Himself to us and to shape our lives to know, understand, and follow Him. Engaging and studying the Bible can lead to spiritual growth in at least three ways.
The Bible reveals to us the greatness and goodness of God.
The first way the Bible brings spiritual growth in our lives is by telling us about God Himself. Through the pages of the Scriptures, we read about the nature and character of God. From the first verses of the Bible, we understand that God is the perfect Creator and Ruler over all things. We see through the pages of Scripture the character of God as "compassionate and gracious…slow to anger and abounding in faithful love to a thousand generations, forgiving iniquity, rebellion and sin" (Ex. 34:6–7, CSB). We also see His justice in condemning sin and humbling the arrogant. The Scriptures reveal to us God as the Good Shepherd, the Faithful Provider, and the Rock of Refuge for all who will trust in Him. He is demonstrated as the One who is all-powerful, all-knowing, and everywhere present.
Furthermore, the Bible reveals to us God's great plan of salvation. The Bible points us to the face of Jesus, the God-man who came to save us from sin and death through His death on the cross and glorious resurrection from the dead. Apart from the Bible, we would not have this understanding of God's nature and work through Christ and the Holy Spirit. And as we constantly look at who Christ is through the pages of Scripture, we are transformed into His likeness day by day (2 Cor. 3:18).
The Bible renews our minds to think God's thoughts.
The second way the Bible brings spiritual growth to our lives is by renewing our minds so that we think, understand, and approach all of life from God's perspective, instead of the prevailing notions of our cultures. When we read, study, and meditate on God's Word, we consistently find ourselves being amazed at the way God does things. He comes to the broken; He rescues the weak; He confounds the wise; He loves His enemies. He is the embodiment of biblical wisdom. Left to ourselves we might be able to manufacture some good ideas about how to live, but we will often do things contrary to God's will.
The Bible shows us the greatest in the Kingdom of God are the servants and humble and peacemakers, and the Holy Spirit work through God's Word to remind us of this (John 14:26). Through the Bible, we learn that our neighbor isn't just the person who lives near us, but the neighbor we are to love is the person we'd never choose to associate with. The Bible shows us that freely and generously giving away our treasure is, in fact, the way to store up treasure in heaven. The Bible teaches us that life is found not in our own strength or victory, but by laying down our lives for the sake of Christ.
This transformed thinking is key to growing spiritually, and the Bible is essential for us to be "transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God" (Rom. 12:2).
The Bible redirects our lives away from sin and towards holiness.
Finally, the Bible brings spiritual growth to our lives by showing us what is evil, sinful, and dishonoring to God. As it shows us what sin is, it also tells us what righteous living looks like. We grow spiritually as we see our sin, repent of it, and walk in holiness and righteousness through our faith in Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Bible shows us a way of life that turns from sin and embraces holiness. As we see God's goodness and grace through the gospel and are renewed in our minds to think in alignment with God's thoughts, we can then act in a way that pleases Him and blesses others. This is truly spiritual growth—that we become like Jesus in all things (Rom. 8:28–29). The more we engage and study the Bible, the more we can be transformed and grow!
How to Get the Most from the Bible
If the Bible then is essential to our transformation spiritually, one might wonder how to read and study the Bible for maximum growth. Should we just pick up the Bible and start reading from cover to cover? How can we best understand what the Bible means and what was happening, especially when there are complex stories and statements in the Bible? We have found a few simple practices and resources that allow for greater comprehension and growth in reading the Bible.
First, as you read the Bible, simply pray and ask God to help you understand what you are reading. Because the Bible is a spiritual book, we should ask God to supply spiritual understanding so that we can rightly hear His voice.
Second, read a book of the Bible one chapter at a time. If you are just starting out with the Bible reading, the Book of Mark is a good place to begin engaging the Bible stories. Another avenue is to begin a Bible reading plan, which will give you a manageable way to read the Bible every day.
Third, read the Bible with other people. Often the way we grow best is by discussing and asking questions of the Bible with other people. Many good churches have groups that gather to read and study the Bible together. Write down questions you may have or things you don't understand, and then ask for help from other Christians. Attend a church where the Bible is preached each Sunday and will grow your understanding and confidence in using the Bible.
Fourth, get a good study Bible. These resources can help explain confusing statements and assist you in interpreting the background, culture, and meaning of the biblical text. Study Bibles also often contain articles that will contribute to engaging your heart in living out the Bible.
Fifth, memorize key verses in the Bible. One of the best ways to grow is to be able to recite word-by-word key verses in the Bible. Having these Scriptures in your mind and heart, ready at a moment's recall, will give you the confidence to live for God whenever you face temptation and trial. You will have ammunition ready to fire when Satan tempts you to turn away from the truth.
These essential practices are a way that you can begin growing spiritually through the Bible. As the writer of the Psalms says, "your word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path" (Ps. 119:105, CSB). God will use His Word to help you grow and flourish as you follow Him.