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!
It’s hard to believe that 500 years have passed since a monk and professor of theology nailed his “95 Theses” to the door of the church at Wittenburg, Germany.
On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther lit a match that spread a wildfire across Europe and changed things from the way people did church, to church architecture, to church music, to increasing literacy rates.
We just completed a sermon series on The Five Solas of the Reformation. Although they weren’t named that until about 100 years ago, the Five Solas summarize the most important theological points that emerged from the Reformation. They were:
Sola Scriptura — by Scripture Alone
Sola Gratia — by Grace Alone
Sola Fide — by Faith Alone
Solus Cristus — by Christ Alone
Soli deo gloria — glory to God Alone
Over the past five weeks, we saw that:
The Bible alone is our authority of matters of faith and practice.
We are justified by God’s grace alone.
We are justified by faith alone, but not faith that is alone.
We are justified by faith in Jesus Christ alone.
We are justified to the glory of God alone.
Notice the word alone. That one word was the key that differentiated the Reformers with the Roman Catholic Church of the day.
Please check out the audio of my sermons in the series to learn more. Come and see what God is doing at Fellowship Baptist Church in Weatherford, Texas!
I didn’t grow up as a Baptist. I wasn’t saved in a Baptist church. I didn’t become a Baptist until I had been a Christian for thirteen years. So why did I become a Baptist?
I grew up in another division. I say this because “denomination” is a math term and is related to division. The division I grew up in was the one chosen by my parents shortly before I was saved. It seemed to fit me well for eight years or so. Then I was challenged to look at what the Bible said about eternal security.
I had always thought that it was possible to lose your salvation. A high school teacher challenged me to consider what the Bible had to say about the subject. As I looked at what was clearly taught in the Bible, I realized that maintaining my salvation had nothing to do with what I did. It had everything to do with what Jesus had already done! As I continued to consider the issue – even recently – I saw that my eternal security had everything to do with the very character of God!
A few years after my epiphany on eternal security, I began to consider my call to ministry from my early teens. I looked into what my division had to say about issues like abortion. My division’s official position was that abortion was a private issue between a woman and her doctor. But this seemed to be contrary to what the Bible taught about the sanctity of life. Psalm 139, among other scriptures, seemed to indicate that life began at conception. If that’s true, how can abortion be a private issue between a woman and her doctor when a baby’s life is at stake? I couldn’t see myself following a ministry training program in a division that differed from the Bible on this clear issue.
About that time, a non-Baptist friend told me that I was a Baptist, but I just didn’t know it; he said that I already believed everything Baptists did. As I considered his comments, I picked up a couple of books about what Baptists believe. Sure enough, I was a Baptist, I just didn’t belong to a Baptist church. As I continued to consider, not only Baptist beliefs , but Baptist ministry, I saw the importance of cooperative ministry: churches pooling their resources to do ministry, evangelism, missions, and education. Southern Baptists seemed to do ministry from a Biblical model.
So I joined, not only a Baptist church, but a Southern Baptist Church. And when it was time to pursue ministry training, I went to an SBC seminary.
I still have many friends from my former division, as well as friends from many other divisions. We can all agree to disagree on non-essential issues. But at the end of the day, I am a Southern Baptist because I agree with the beliefs and the way Southern Baptists do ministry.
One of my concerns over the years is the popular idea of encouraging people to “pray a prayer to accept Jesus into their hearts”. According the new International Mission Board President, David Platt, doing this is superstitious and dangerous.
I took a class on World Religions when I was at UNC-Chapel Hill. Obviously, this class was not taught from a “Christian perspective”. And that was a good thing. It was good to hear an academic description of the major world religions because it gave me an idea as to how lost people look at the world.
One day, our professor began to explain Pure Land Buddhism. As he described the concept of “salvation”/”achieving enlightenment”, I began to feel chills creep up my spine. According to that religion, all you need to ensure your “salvation” was to speak a particular phrase. You could live your life however you wanted before and after speaking these words and you were still guaranteed “salvation”.
So why did I get chills? Because there’s not much difference between that religion’s concept of “salvation” and much of our evangelistic training and mindset!
Let me ask… When you think about when you became a Christian, do you believe it happened because you prayed a prayer, or walked down an aisle? If one must do any or all of these things, then why don’t we see either of those things mentioned in the entire New Testament? Or in the writings of the Church Fathers? Or in the writings of the Reformers? Even baptism — as important as it is — isn’t given as being essential to salvation. In fact, such easy believe-ism is completely counter to everything we read in the New Testament, and the writings of the Church Fathers and the Reformers.
The concept of praying a sinner’s prayer is a modern convention, perhaps shaped by the Western mindset of “being a soul-winner”, similar to being a successful salesman who always presses for the decision and closes the deal. I even remember some of my evangelism training including asking the prospective convert if he/she could think of any reason why they shouldn’t pray the prayer and if not, they should bow and pray.
As Dr. Pratt says in the video above, doing this is dangerous, and even damning.
How many people will stand before God on Judgment Day, claiming that they should be granted access to eternity in heaven because they prayed a prayer, walked down an aisle, shook a pastor’s hand or were baptized?
The prospect of that Day scares me! And it should scare you, too! Jesus took it a step farther, saying that on that Day, many will claim that they had done some pretty spectacular things, but would still wouldn’t enter heaven because He never knew them. (Matthew 7:21-23)
Biblical salvation is more than just praying a prayer, walking an aisle, and being baptized. Salvation is receiving eternal life and eternal life is knowing God (John 17:3). Salvation begins when we exchange our life (all of our sin) for Jesus’ life (all of His righteousness) in order to be put in a right relationship with our Creator and King, against Whom we have all committed High Treason. Without accepting that free exchange, we are all worthy of nothing better than an eternity in hell and separation from God. Salvation continues as we live according to that new standing as adopted children. And salvation is fully realized when we cross over to the other side of eternity.
Does praying a prayer save you? No. Prayer is a natural response to receiving the New Life in exchange for our Old life and being accepted into a new family by a loving Father. And prayer can express our repentance as we turn from our sin and toward God.
What are your thoughts?
On this day in 1517 a German monk named Martin challenged church leaders over how to deal with sin when he nailed the 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg church. (You can’t buy forgiveness!)
I thank God for Martin Luther and the other Reformers and their courage to challenge the church back to the Word as its authority.
Sola scriptura (by Scripture alone)
Sola fide (by Faith alone)
Sola gratia (by Grace alone)
Solo Christos (by Christ alone)
Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God alone)
May we be so bold.
(For more info on the significance of today, click here.)