Well, we are at the threshold of a brand new year! Resolutions are on nearly every mind. At the top of the list for Christians, is a new or fresh commitment to read the Bible. But, where do you start? Or, if you have been reading for years, do you stick with what you know or branch out and try something different?
I’d like to offer 4 thoughts to keep in mind as you consider your choices.
1. The Bible itself does not prescribe any set method or amount of reading. Nowhere in the Scriptures are we commanded to read x-amount of chapters per day (chapters weren’t even in the original writings). Nor, are we commanded to read the Bible every year, even though that may be a good practice.
What we are told are things like, “My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.” (Prov 2:1-5) Or,
“My son, keep my words and treasure up my commandments with you; keep my commandments and live; keep my teaching as the apple of your eye; bind them on your fingers and write them on the tablet of your heart.” (Prov 7:1-3)
And, Psalm 1 pronounces blessing on the one whose delight is in the law of the LORD and who meditates on it day and night.
Certainly we are to read our Bibles, but we are not prescribed how much. It may be different for each of us depending on where we are in spiritual maturity or seasons of life.
2. Bible reading is about relationship building. God wants us to have a love relationship with His Word not a legalistic reading list so that we can feel better about ourselves. He wants us to experience the life changing power and see the unfading treasure of His Word so that we seek it with all our hearts. He wants us to long for the soul-nourishing truths and taste the sweetness of the Word so that we delight in it, coming back to it again and again. For it is in the Bible, by faith, through the Spirit that we meet our God, and build an intimate relationship with Him!
3. Because thoughts 1. and 2. are true, disciplined Bible reading plans can be of great help for growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus. There is wisdom in following the path and patterns of other believers who have a vibrant, dynamic relationship with the Lord. So, prayerfully and thoughtfully consider some recommended systems and choose the one that will best fit you. Some can try to read the Bible in a year. A few may aim to read 10 chapters a day; while others may attempt to read the Bible in 3 years. Remember, the Bible does not prescribe which one to follow. You choose.
4. You/I will at some point fall behind the goal. It’s okay. Just get started again. You don’t necessarily have to catch up. Let it go and start where you are. Keep moving forward. Keep growing in consistency. Remember, the goal is building your relationship with the Lord. From that growing, biblically grounded relationship everything else will follow.
So, go ahead; open your Bible, pray and read! “Taste and see that the Lord is good!” May God bless our church as we seek to continually be a people of the Book.
P.S. - Here are a couple of online resources that may be helpful in your consideration of a Bible reading plan:
“What Is Your Bible-Reading Plan for 2015?” at www.challies.com and,
“Bible Reading Plans for 2015” a blog by Nathan Bingham at www.ligonier.org
With great wonder they followed the star;
Though the journey would be very far.
Westward to Jerusalem they went;
From there to Bethlehem sent.
With hearts empowered by exceeding joy
Continued the search for the Holy Boy.
Finally, they reached the desired place;
And bowed before the Savior’s face.
Gold, Frankincense, Myrrh they offered Him;
This Christ Child born in Bethlehem.
Truly, this Child was their joy;
Not some gadget, trinket, or toy.
To have the heart of a wise man, see,
You too, must come and bow your knee.
“Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” (1 Jn 5:21) And, with that clear command the Apostle John ends his inspired first letter. At first glance, this seems a very strange way to say “good-bye.” But the more you think about it, the more it makes sense.
John wrote to encourage the believers to abide in Christ and to grow in holiness; all the while, acknowledging many threats to this desired goal.
The darkness from which the believers had been delivered, seemed to call out to them. The world with all its riches, pleasures, and enticements beckoned them to come and enjoy. Sin and unrighteousness relentlessly pursued opportunities for the flesh to indulge. Selfishness, anger, and hatred threatened to wrap their icy cold fingers around hearts that had been set ablaze by the love of God. And, the spirit of Antichrist through false teachers sought to negotiate the truth claims of Jesus Christ as the eternal Son of God manifest in the flesh.
Indeed, the sage and experienced apostle recognized the very real dangers and hostilities facing the beloved people of God. He also knew that at the heart of these threatening temptations was idolatry.
Consider: Why would we choose darkness over the light? Because, in that moment we love it more. Why would we choose sin over righteousness? Because, in that moment we desire it more. Why would we choose worldliness over godliness? Because, in that moment we value it more. Why would we choose hate over love? Because, we love ourselves more. Why would we compromise the truth claims of Christ? Because in that moment we love the praises of men more than the glory of God.
You see, idolatry is at the very heart, because idolatry lies in the heart. Calvin said that “man’s nature….is a perpetual factory of idols.” Thankfully, in Christ and by the Spirit, our natures are being renewed into the image of our Savior. But, the work of renewal is a lifelong process and the sin of idolatry must be guarded against and confessed when committed.
We commit idolatry when we reject God’s commands for our sins. We commit idolatry when we refuse God’s self-revelation in the Bible opting to fashion Him into our own likeness and preferences. And, we commit idolatry when we cherish His good gifts more than we cherish Him.
Let us learn to continually confess and forsake idolatry for, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 Jn 1:9)
May we gratefully remember that God “richly provides us with everything to enjoy.” (1 Tm 6:17)
Lord Jesus, forgive us for our wandering hearts and misplaced affections. Please make us strong in your grace so that we will keep ourselves from idols. Amen.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.” (Isaiah 9:6)
“In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!….Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And The Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’ And Mary said to the angel, ‘How will this be, since I am a virgin?’ And the angel answered her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy– the Son of God.'” (Luke 1:26-35)
“….an angel of The Lord appeared to [Joseph] in a dream saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ All this took place to fulfil what The Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’ (which means God with us).” (Mt 1:20-23)
Jesus–the child born and the son given; the son of Man and the Son of God; the God-Man!
Jesus–the Christ and the Holy One; the King of Israel and the Savior of the World; Immanuel!
Christianity is radically different from all other religions because Christ is wonderfully and incomparably unique!
“And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) (bold print mine)
With the Christmas season upon us, gifts are on the minds of many. Gifts for family, friends, neighbors, ministries and/or the needy. Cheerful and generous gift giving can be a noble way for us to reflect the generous heart of God especially celebrated in the sending of His Son to be the Savior of the world. With the Apostle Paul we joyfully proclaim, “Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!” (2 Cor 9:15)
However, what we sometimes fail to remember is that with the gift of Jesus also comes the gift of the church. The Lord Jesus wonderfully saves individual sinners in order to incorporate them into his body and to make them a part of His people (1 Cor 12:1-13; 1 Pt 2:9-10). In doing so, He has given different gifts and functions to each of His members. Therefore, it is important that we learn to appreciate, serve, and depend upon one another.
Today, my heart is rejoicing in the gift of the church. I am blessed to belong to brothers and sisters in Christ who love and care for each other. In our small local congregation I see the grace and gifts of God at work. I see it in tangible tokens of kindness (such as hand-crafted gifts) and willing acts of service (like a well prepared meal or piano moving). This very blog and the sermons on this webpage are not the result of my abilities, but those of faithful brothers. Yes, I rejoice in the gift of the church!
So, this Christmas as we give and receive gifts, let’s worship God for the gift of His Son Jesus which also includes the gift of the Church!
Chuck Cook is the pastor of Grace Bible Church - Rolla.