Here is the bad news: millions and millions of folks who claim to be Christians in the West just do not read their Bibles. Or if they do, it is about as sporadic as church attendance for many. They may pop open the Psalms during a time of crisis, or at least read some of the New Testament, but that is about it.
I hate to guess how many Christians have in fact never read the entire Bible. I would suspect the number would be very large. And without reading the whole of God’s revelation to us, we will forever be substandard Christians. There is no way around this.
If we insist on being biblically illiterate, we will stunt our spiritual growth. Imagine a thirty-year-old who still only drinks milk, and refuses all adult food. Talk about stunted growth. It is the same when we refuse to nourish ourselves and grow to maturity by the regular, daily study of God’s Word – and all of it.
No wonder so much of the Western church is in such a wretched state. It is filled with baby Christians who refuse to grow up, and who refuse to take the necessary steps to move on to maturity. Their lack of daily Bible reading and study certainly shows big time.
But here is the good news: we can do something about this. It is after all the end of 2017, and we can think about a worthwhile resolution or two for 2018. And there would be few better than deciding to read the Bible all the way through next year.
And friends, this is really not that hard. It really isn’t. If you decide to read the whole Bible through in a year, it will at most take you ten to fifteen minutes a day. I am not saying you should only do this, but this is a bare minimum. Let me lay out the basics for you:
-The Bible contains 66 books (39 in the OT and 27 in the NT).
-There are 1189 chapters in the Bible.
-There are 365 days in a year.
-That means if you read 3.25 chapters a day, you will get through the entire Bible in one year.
-Most folks can read three chapters in under 15 minutes, max.
So what is your excuse? Are you actually trying to tell me that you do not have 15 minutes a day to devote to God’s Word? Really? And just how much time a day do you spend watching TV, playing games, or running with various other trivial pursuits?
And this has nothing to do with legalism. It has everything to do with loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength as we are commanded to do. Try telling me you really love your wife if you only spend hours a year with her. Sorry, it doesn’t work that way. Those you love you want to spend quality time with.
So spare me the ‘legalism’ and ‘works’ righteousness’ silliness. If you think things like prayer, worship and reading God’s Word are mere acts of legalism, you are sadly mistaken. Sure, some people can seek to do religious things as a means to curry God’s favour, but that of course is not what I am talking about here.
We are saved by grace through faith, but the rest of our Christian walk is a growth in grace and a move to maturity, and there are plenty of things we must do to help bring that about. We don’t just sit there and expect God to zap us with instant spiritual maturity – we work at it by doing what we know is right.
If you are still with me then, how do you go about reading the Bible through in a year? For many of you this will be the very first time you will do this, so let me offer a few practical tips here. The easiest way is to simply read a bit over three chapters a day.
Thus tomorrow, January 1, you read Genesis 1-3, or 1-4. If you do that daily, then by December 31, you will be reading Revelation 20-22, or so. It is not rocket science. It is quite easy actually. And if you need a schedule to help you along the way, there are many out there.
Here is one such daily Bible reading guide: http://www.swordofthelord.com/bible-reading-plan-atoz.php
There are plenty more like this. If you need to, simply tick off each day in your daily reading. And there are all sorts of variations on the Bible-through-a-year scheme. And they all can have their pros and cons, partly depending on your preferences.
For example, the one I just offered may be the easiest and most straight forward, but it has its drawbacks. The main one is this: the Old Testament makes up three quarters of the Bible, and so if your math skills are especially sharp, you know you will spend the first three quarters of the year only in the OT. It will not be until October that you finally make it into the New Testament.
Thus some Bible reading plans combine a bit from each Testament every day. That is, several OT chapters will be combined with at least one NT chapter. That way you are in both Testaments on a daily basis. The same site I linked to above also has that option for Bible reading: http://www.swordofthelord.com/bible-reading-plan-otnt.php
And then of course there are plenty of devotional guides that go through the Bible, or at least parts of the Bible, each year. They will have Bible passages included – or you will need to look them up – along with a devotional message. While I am not usually a fan of devotionals, there are some good ones out there.
If you are looking for one that is super-solid – biblically, theologically, and spiritually – the 2-volume For the Love of God by D. A. Carson (IVP, 1998, 1999), is certainly well worth getting and using. It is based on the reading plan of Scottish Minister Robert Murray M’Cheyne (1813-1843). It will “take readers through the New Testament and Psalms twice each year, and through the rest of the Bible once.”
Whatever plan you use, make sure you read the Word of God. And make sure you try to do this daily. Moreover, perseverance is vital. There are admittedly some difficult and/or somewhat dryer patches in Scripture. Sometimes OT chapters filled with genealogies or dietary regulations and the like may seem like slow going.
But hang in there and keep at it. While all of Scripture is inspired by God and important, if some parts are a bit too tedious, bear in mind that they do not last forever! Sometimes after just a few chapters you have moved on to more easily digestible parts.
And do not forget the various Bible study tools that are out there to help you along the way. These include Bible dictionaries, Bible atlases, and various biblical commentaries. They all can greatly help to explain and elucidate what particular passages are all about, and they will help you to better understand and appreciate God’s Word.
Let me close with some very wise words of Carson as found in his books I mentioned just above. Please take these words to heart:
Finally, I should venture a few practical suggestions. If you must skip something, skip this book; read the Bible instead. If you fall behind, do not use that fact as an excuse for giving up the effort until next January 1. Either catch up (by an afternoon of diligent reading, perhaps some Sunday), or skip ahead to where you should be and take up there. If your schedule allows it, set a regular time and place for your Bible reading. M’Cheyne himself wrote, “Let our secret reading prevent [i.e., precede] the dawning of the day. Let God’s voice be the first we hear in the morning.” Whether that is the best time of the day for you is of little consequence; regular habits are of more importance. When you read, remember that God himself has declared, “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word” (Isa. 66:2). Learn to distill what a passage is saying, and pray it back to the Lord—whether in petition, thanksgiving, praise, or frank uncertainty. In time your Bible reading will so be linked with your praying that the two will not always be differentiable.
Happy reading and Happy New Year!