I have been blessed to have a good Christian education. I graduated from a Christian college and spent seven years studying at three different seminaries. I know the Bible pretty well. But the main reason I know the Bible as well as I do is not because of the college or the seminaries. I know the Bible well because I read it most every day.
Seminaries are great for giving students the big picture of the Bible and tools to become better readers of the Bible. But there is no substitute for doing the actual reading. Many days I am happy to read it, but other days it takes raw discipline. Because the Bible reveals God and his ways to people, however, it is always worth the work.
Spiritual fitness can be accomplished by working out. In 1 Timothy 4:7-8, Paul tells Timothy to, “Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”
The word translated “train” comes from a word from which we get “gymnasium.” It’s as if Paul told Timothy to gymnasticize himself for godliness. With a heart aimed at godliness you too can do spiritual work outs—disciplined repeated acts that will build you up spiritually. One of the best spiritual disciplines is reading your Bible.
After coming to Jesus Christ by faith, there is almost nothing more important in this life than your intake of the Bible. As God’s Word, the Bible is God’s inspired self-revelation. It contains all we need to see our sinfulness and come to Jesus in the first place. But it also contains all we need for the Christian life.
It teaches us the right way to walk, it confronts us when we stray, it puts us back on the right road, and it keeps us on the path that leads to Christlikeness and to Christ himself in heaven. Second Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.”
Even if you are faithfully serving in such a solid church, one or two expositions of God’s Word per week are not nearly enough spiritual food for a growing Christian. Resolve this year to regularly read God’s Word. Let me give you a few suggestions to refine that resolution, and by God’s grace this time next year you will be a profoundly different person because of your saturation with the Scriptures.
First, have a PLAN. It’s far better to have a Bible reading plan when you sit down to read, than to just open it up randomly and start reading. It does not really matter which plan you pick, as much as it matters to have one. You can read through the Bible in a year. Many Study Bibles include such a plan (if you don’t have a Study Bible, I recommend the MacArthur Study Bible or the ESV Study Bible). Churches, Christian bookstores, or even phone apps (like ReadingPlan) have several through-the-Bible-in-a-year schedules as well.
Another plan is simply to read 5 Psalms and one chapter in Proverbs each day. That will take you through both books in a month. Or you could just read a short book of the Bible straight through once a day for 30 days in a row (like 1 John or Philippians). You will really begin to understand the flow of the book, and many familiar isolated verses will come to life in a fresh way within their proper context. This plan can also be modified to take half of a longer book for 30 days, and then take the other half the following month.
Another refinement in the resolution is to have a PLACE. As simple as it sounds, reading and praying in the same time and the same place each day is a help in consistency. Maybe it is at the kitchen table before the kids wake up. Perhaps it is in your car in your company’s parking lot at lunch or before work starts. Again, which place you choose is not as important as having one.
Third, have a PREPARED HEART. The Bible is not just any old book, so we should not read it as such. We should come affirming it as God’s inspired truth. We should ask God to help us see, understand, and apply his glorious truth to our lives. The Psalmist cried out, “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law” (Psalm 119:18). If you have a question about a book, the most useful thing you could do is ask the author to help you understand the book. Ask the Author to help you understand his book.
Fourth, read your Bible with a PEN. Write down your observations from a verse, a paragraph, a chapter, or even a book of the Bible. I have a special journal for such things. Write down key words to look up in a Bible dictionary. Note any questions that you have about what you have. Then search out the answers in a Study Bible, commentary, or a trusted Christian friend. You will be amazed how much more you will see with a pen in hand.
Finally, leave your Bible reading with a PURPOSE. Do not just read for reading’s sake. Do not just read God’s inspired Word as an academic exercise. Read to know God and his ways. If you discover a sin you need to confess—do it. If there is a command to obey or an example to follow—do it. If you find a principle that needs to be applied—take the time to practically apply the teaching that you have read. Did you find out that God was bigger and more glorious than you ever imagined? Worship him accordingly!
Someone has said that it is not how many times you go through the Bible that makes the difference, but how many times the Bible goes through you. Make 2017 a year filled with God and his Word. Begin the New Year resolved to know God better and to becoming like him through a regular time in God’s Word.