In my last post, I explained why it is essential that we are reading the Bible daily. However, I didn’t discuss “what” we should be reading. There are so many choices out there — devotionals, fill-in-the-blank studies, and short or long reading plans — to name a few. Before I started reading “whole Bible” plans I would do Bible studies and read a chapter here and there — wherever I felt like reading. While I learned concepts from those Bible studies, this way of reading meant that I never read certain parts of the Bible. As a matter of fact, until my early 30’s I had never read the minor prophets. I knew they existed but I had no idea what they contained – they were a mystery to me. I hadn’t ever read through Jeremiah or Isaiah, rather I had simply read the popular, often quoted, portions of those books.
Why is this a problem? The whole council of God is revealed throughout scripture. We get a fuller understanding of who God is and who we are in relation to Him through the entirety of His word. When we don’t know what a large portion of the Bible says, because we haven’t read it for ourselves, then we don’t really know who God really is. Reading the whole Bible is imperative for Christian growth.
We read to understand
Well-known scriptures tell us that God is patient and that God is love. They teach that He forgives us our sins and will take us back when we come to Him in true repentance and humility. My understanding of those verses was shallow, at best. Reading the Old Testament, however, gave me a fuller understanding of these important doctrines. The patience, longsuffering, and deep love of God comes out in the prophetic books as He sends prophet after prophet to show Israel their sins and call them to repentance. In His compassion and mercy, He gives them warning after warning to turn from their wicked ways before it is too late.
Therefore the Lord longs to be gracious to you, And therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you. For the Lord is a God of justice; How blessed are all those who long for Him.
When I read the whole of scripture, especially as I read the Old and New Testaments at the same time, I can see principles of the NT being played out in the OT. Truly the God of the Old Testament is the same God of the New Testament. The parable of the prodigal son exemplifies not only God’s love for us as Christians but also His love for His People, Israel, and the message of repentance the prophets proclaimed. “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.” Jeremiah 31:3.
Like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the Word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.
1 Peter 2:2
Long for the pure milk of the word. There are a multitude of Bible reading plans out there, you just have to choose one. But I would exhort you NOT to choose one where you just read a couple verses and then a page of some man or woman’s thoughts. Scripture is the inerrant Word of God, anyone else’s words are not. Devotionals have their place and they can be an encouragement to us, but they should not replace a diligent reading of the entire Bible on its own. We cannot truly know what scripture says unless we are reading all of it for ourselves. Here are a couple of plans I recommend:
My favorite plan is the M’Cheyne One Year Reading Plan. You read four chapters a day all from different parts of the Bible, providing a full and rich immersion. You will read the Old Testament once and the New Testament and Psalms twice in the year.
If you want to read the above plan, but 4 chapters is too much for you, then I recommend the Two-Year Bible Reading Plan. It takes the M’Cheyne plan and divides it into two years so that you read the Old Testament in 2 years and the New Testament and Psalms each year of the plan. This is the plan I recommend to my younger teenage children and also to my youth group.
Another way I enjoy reading the Bible is chronologically. It gives a new dimension to how everything fits together. But I also want to be in both the OT and the NT at the same time because I need the gospel. The Solid Life “Whole Bible” Reading Plan is a chronological reading of the OT; meaning that you will read the prophets alongside the kings they prophesied to, the psalms that David wrote along with 1&2 Samuel, and the wisdom books during the reign of Solomon. You will also read the NT twice.
But I don’t understand it
Proverbs 2:1-6 tell us that as we diligently search the scriptures and pray for understanding, God will teach us. “For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding,” Proverbs 2:6. The first 9 chapters of Proverbs also tell us that the simple gain wisdom through the Word of God. Our brain is a like a muscle, the more we work it, the stronger it will be. In the same way, the more we exercise our brain by reading the Word of God, the more we will come to understand. As we continue to read the whole Bible we will begin to see connections we never saw before. Passages will bring to light concepts that we may have read before but didn’t quite grasp. God is faithful. As you determine to faithfully dig into the precepts in His Word, He will teach you.
Recently, I was on this diet where I fasted for 1 or 2 nonconsecutive days a week. I would stop eating after dinner and not eat again until dinner the next day. I learned real quick that on those fasting days I had to be sure to drink an abundance of water otherwise disaster would ensue. If I had not taken in much water, by 1 or 2 o’clock I would begin to feel sluggish. My head would begin to hurt, my body would feel achy, my brain would cloud over and I would feel overwhelmingly tired. Rather than the necessary bounce in my step, my feet would move as if I was trudging through sludge. I would wonder, what is wrong with me? Am I getting sick? Then I would remember that I hadn’t eaten or drank anything yet that day and my body was feeling the effects.
Some days I would decide to “break my fast” early just so that I could function. It’s amazing what just a few bites of food would do for me! My eyes would brighten, my foggy head would clear up and I would have renewed energy.
I stopped doing that diet after only a couple months. It wasn’t because I couldn’t handle not eating, that part really wasn’t too hard. It was the way it made me feel. Even if I determined to drink tons of water, by mid-afternoon I still only felt kinda okay. I wasn’t functioning at 100%, which meant I couldn’t do all the things that still needed to be done in order to properly care for my family and my businesses. Water alone, while better than nothing, still wasn’t enough to sustain me throughout my day.
This illustration holds true for our Bible intake as well. In order to function properly I need to refresh my spirit daily with the living water of the Word of God. The effects of fasting from the Word may not be as immediate or obviously detectable, but they are disastrous to our Christian walk nonetheless.
The Bible is the Word of God
The Bible is literally the very words of God — they are God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:15). 2 Peter 2:20-21 says, “…no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” The book we hold in our hand, or on our device, was intentionally written by God to instruct us. Through it, God has revealed Himself to us as well as what He requires of us. Everything we need for life and godliness is in His book (2 Peter 1:1-3).
The Bible keeps us from sin
God has called us to be holy. In his letter to Christians who were experiencing persecution in Asia, the Apostle Peter writes, “As obedient children, do no be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as He who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘you shall be holy, for I am holy.'” Throughout the epistles, this call for holiness is reiterated. Paul, Peter, and the other authors repeatedly exhorted the People of God to strive to live holy lives in keeping with the high calling as children of God.
Psalm 119:9-11 states, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word.Your word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You.” It is through the scriptures that God sanctifies us. We read God’s word so that we can know and keep His commandments. We can’t obey God if we don’t know what he requires of us.
The Bible is the Standard of truth
Every decision the US court system makes is based upon the US constitution. They cannot make any ruling that blatantly goes against the laws dictated by that document. It is the standard by which all our rules are made and tested. In much the same way, the Bible is the standard by which we, as Christians, should base all our decisions and actions. Except more so, because the Bible was written by the Most High God and not fallible men, making it the ultimate standard for life.
Beyond that, we know that the Words of God are absolute truth because God is truth and He cannot lie. It follows that the Bible itself is truth itself.
“The sum of Your word is truth” Psalm 119:160
“Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” John 17:17
In wisdom, God created the world and all the laws that sustain it. God created the plants and every living organism. He created animals and people. He knows intimately how we think and behave. His truth — which He gave us in Scripture — is the only legitimate truth because He created everything we know.
Judges and lawyers read and study the constitution so they can make appropriate laws and decisions. They will often quote codes and ordinances when making their cases. The degree to which they know and understand the law of the land blows my mind. But we have a book whose decrees are so much higher. If the Bible contains all the truth that we should live our lives by, shouldn’t we read it, study it and strive to know it?
There are a whole lot of belief systems out there, even within the realm of Christianity, how do we know which is right? How can we make right decisions regarding doctrine and practice? By basing everything we read and hear on the standard of the truth of God’s Word. How do we know what God’s word says? Do we simply believe what we hear other people say that it says? No. We act like Bereans and diligently search the scriptures to see if it is so.
The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so. Therefore many of them believed…
The Jews in Berea were double-checking Paul’s words. The Apostle Paul! Just because a speaker is popular and has a large following, doesn’t mean he or she can’t ever be wrong. People are not infallible; God is. Our words can be wrong; God’s cannot. Thus all things should be checked against the Word.
The Bible is our Guide through Life
Because the Bible is the standard for all truth and contains everything pertaining to life and godliness, it naturally follows that it is our guide through life.
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Psalm 119:105
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6
This truth is also exemplified in Psalm 1, Joshua 1, and countless other places in the Bible. When we follow the ordinances set forth in the scriptures and allow them to guide our decisions and actions, we will be blessed. We can have confidence in hard decisions when they are based on God’s word.
The main point
Abide in me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
The real thrust of the deal is this: in order to grow in Christ, in order to bear fruit, in order to do anything good, we must be reading the Bible consistently. We cannot do anything for God in our own strength. We must be leaning on His power and His power comes through the written Word of God.
Daily Bible reading looks differently for everyone depending on the season of life you are in. When my children were young I read during naps and TV times. As they have grown and have regular sleep patterns, I read in the morning before anyone wakes. What is your routine? How do you make sure you are reading your Bible? Comment below and let me know. Then come back next week and read my post on why I recommend whole bible reading plans.