Reading the Bible in 2018
At the end of this month, our church members will complete a plan for reading through the New Testament. We will also finish out the year having learned twelve Bible passages. Some of our members have never attempted these tasks, and fewer have succeeded. I have tried and failed many times in my 36 years of growing as a Christian. But more times than not, when I have used a Bible reading plan, I have completed my goals.
How about you? Have you ever tried to read through the Bible? How about just the New Testament? It’s very straightforward. To read through the entire Bible, you’ll need to read five chapters each day, counting a few “off” days each month, just in case you fall behind and need to catch up. To read through the New Testament, you will only have to read one chapter per day, five days per week. And it will only take about five minutes a day! Surely that’s an attainable goal for anyone! Even if you are a very slow reader, there are smartphone apps (see below) and websites that will read the Bible for you – out loud. Most of us spend more than five minutes each day driving or taking care of personal needs. That’s more than five minutes a day that can be redeemed for your walk with God.
Now, I’m not saying that you only need to spend five minutes a day working on your walk with God. Imagine only spending five minutes a day with your spouse or children; that’s hardly enough time to deepen that relationship. But if you need a shot of adrenaline to boost your walk with God, spending about five minutes in His Word might just fit the bill.
So why should you read through the Bible or the New Testament?
I think the more appropriate question is, “Why should you read any part of the Bible?”
It comes down to the nature of the Bible itself. If the Bible is a written record of God’s actions and His desires for His people, why would we not want (and need!) to read, study, and memorize it?
Someone wisely said that the most controversial — and the most radical — verse in the Bible is Genesis 1:1 which tells us that God created everything out of nothing. Why would anyone say this statement is controversial and radical? Because if God created it, He owns it. He knows what’s best for it. He sets the rules over how it should run. And He has requirements for how people (also, whom He created) should live.
If you think the Bible is just a bunch of dos and don’ts, you haven’t read much of the Bible!
Sure, there are lots of dos and don’ts, but they are made in the context of a relationship between God and His people. And the purpose of those dos and don’ts is to show us that we can’t live up to God’s standards! The purpose of all those dos and don’ts is to draw us to the gracious and merciful forgiveness of God and the gracious power to please God!
The Word of God is alive and active and sharper than any two-edged sword with the surgical precision of a laser, cutting to the depths of who we are and it’s able to even reveal our deepest desires. (Hebrews 4:12)
God intends for us to grow in our relationship with Him (1Peter 3:18). Do you want to grow? If you do, then you must spend time in God’s Word, letting it wash over you, letting it cut into the depths of your soul, and letting it mold you and shape you to look more like Jesus.
But please don’t approach reading, studying, and memorizing the Bible like you used to do when your parents told you, “Eat your vegetables, because they’re good for you.” Yes, reading, studying, and memorizing the Bible is good for you, but as you spend time reading, studying, and memorizing parts of the Bible, you’ll find that God’s Word is more desirable than gold – than an abundance of pure gold; and sweeter than honey dripping from a honeycomb. In addition, we can be warned by what we read, and in keeping God’s Word, there is an abundant reward. (Psalm 19:10–11)
So I started this blog post talking about the importance of having a plan to help you read through the Bible, or the New Testament. How about some tools? I’m glad you asked!
At the end of last year, I wrote a small book (you may download it here) that I gave to our church members in hopes of encouraging them to read and memorize the Bible together in 2017. Although there are many Bible Reading plans available, the plan I recommended is one that I have personally used in the past. The 5x5x5 New Testament Reading Plan comes from Discipleship Journal. If you’re interested in reading through both the Old and New Testaments, I highly recommend George Guthrie’s Reading God’s Story: One Year Chronological Bible Reading Plan. I think the greatest feature of Guthrie’s plan is that it assigns the readings in a roughly chronological format. For example, when you’re reading about King David, the readings will include Psalms that David wrote. Print one of these plans and start on January 1, 2018.
Or…. Use the Bible App. The Bible App is fantastic in that it tracks your daily readings and lets you choose from any number of translations of the Bible. It offers lots of reading plans to choose from, including the Discipleship Journal’s New Testament plan and Guthrie’s Chronological plan. To get to these plans, just sign up for a free account at Bible.com, then choose the 5x5x5 plan or the Chronological plan.
Not only can the Bible App present you with the readings for that day, the Bible App will even read it aloud for you! You connect with friends and encourage each other to stay up-to-date. You can connect your social media accounts and post Bible verses on Facebook and Twitter.
On a side note, the Bible App is one of the most popular Apps (as I type this, the Bible App has been downloaded almost 300 million … yes, 300 MILLION times!) and it’s available for iOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows, on the web … well, you get the idea! If you have a computer, smartphone, tablet or similar device, the Bible App can help you accomplish your goals of reading the Bible.
I mentioned that the Bible App offers many Bible translations. If you have a favorite translation, why not try something different this year? If you’re used to reading from the King James Version, New American Standard, or English Standard Version, try something new in 2018 like the New Living Translation or The Message for your Bible reading; you may be surprised at what you see that you’ve never seen before!
So how about it? Will you accept the challenge of reading through the Entire Bible or the New Testament in 2018? If so, please let me know, so I can pray for you. If you’re a pastor and you’re encouraging your people to read through the Bible or the New Testament, I’d love to hear about that, too!