At the beginning of every new year, many people make the decision to read through the entire Bible during that year. Sometimes this decision is made as a routine annual event. The person reads through the Bible every year. Other times, the decision is probably made as a means of fulfilling a New Year’s resolution to “read the Bible more this year.” Whatever the motivation, there are many tools from which you can choose that will aid you as you set out on this endeavor.
A couple of the Read-Through-the-Bible-in-a-Year tools I have used in the past are the Robert Murray M’Cheyne reading plan, and the Every Day With Jesus Bible (published by Broadman and Holman). Both of these are fine resources. For this year, however, I decided to take a different approach. I am using a Chronological Bible Reading Plan published by Back to the Bible. This plan, as the name suggests, arranges your reading according to the chronological order in which the events took place. For example, after reading the first 11 chapters of Genesis, you read through the book of Job. Further, you finish your Old Testament reading with Ezra, Nehemiah and Malachi, as God’s people return from exile to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple and the city wall. I look forward to reading the Scripture chronologically this year and watching God’s grand plan of redemption unfold once again.
As you plan to read the Scripture, there are certain things you should keep in mind. You can find any number of “Tips for Reading the Bible” lists online. I came across a good one last week entitled “Six Tips for Reading Your Bible.” Here are three Bible reading tips I think are important. Certainly, there are others that are equally important and could be added:
1) Read the Bible – Ok, so this one seems overly simple. But, you would be surprised how necessary this is. We have a plethora of complete Bible translations available to us in our language, while many people groups around the world don’t even have a Scripture fragment in their heart language. And yet, many of our Bibles lay on the table or shelf gathering dust, only being picked up and brushed off in time to carry it to church on Sunday for someone else to read it to us. Jesus likened the Word of God to spiritual food. We should not be surprised by the spiritual malnutrition of people today, as many have not taken in the incredible spiritual nourishment that only the Scripture can provide.
2) Read all of the Bible – In 2 Timothy 3:16, Paul says “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable…” When we talk about the “inspiration” of Scripture, we describe it as “verbal, plenary inspiration.” This simply means every word is inspired (“verbal”) and that all of it is inspired (“plenary” – that is, the red-letter words in the gospels are not ‘more inspired’ than Leviticus). The Old and New Testaments are not separate books. They are parts of one book, the Bible, which reveals God’s complete plan of redemption. The Scripture is not a collection of pithy sayings that we can simply quote and read when we need to feel better about our circumstances. It is God’s revelation of Himself to us. This means it is all important. We should read it accordingly.
3) Read the Bible not just for knowledge, but with a view toward obedience – James makes clear that we are not simply to be “hearers” of the word, but “doers” of it (James 1:22). God uses His Word in the life of the believer, by the work of the indwelling Holy Spirit, to conform us more into the image of Christ. We don’t read “Love your enemies” just to know that the Scripture says it. As we read that command, we sense God’s Spirit calling us to repent of NOT loving our enemies and challenging us to live in obedience to this command, by His grace and for His glory. So, as you read, ask the Holy Spirit to show you areas where you are not living in obedience to His Word. When He does, repent and obey, as He works to conform you more into the image of Christ.
While we don’t read the Bible to gain more of God’s grace (which is sacramentalism), we do read God’s Word out of obedience to Him and in order to allow Him to use His Word in our lives, by His Spirit, to make us more like Christ in the way we live. Like exercise or anything else, regular Bible reading requires discipline. But, the key is to start where you are and ask God to give you an increasing hunger for His Word.
If you have never read all the way through the Scripture, 2012 would be a good time to start. It is still early in January. You have plenty of time to catch up and get on track with a yearly reading plan. But, no matter what approach you take to reading the Scripture this year, read it with a desire to obey. Meditate on it. Let God’s Word “dwell in you richly.” And, by God’s grace and for His glory, let the Holy Spirit work through His Word to conform you more and more into the image of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
(What is your approach to reading Scripture? What tools have you found to be helpful? Please share them below. I would love to find some new tools I can recommend to others!)