How to Read Your Bible for the New Year
There are two basic views of the Bible. The first view is that the Bible is basically a good book. A book that represents the world’s largest religion and one that is used by even non-evangelical groups as part of their own “holy” books. It contains some of the greatest literature and stories ever written. The proponents of this view would admit that some of the Bible’s views on sexuality are out of step with our more current understanding of things, but is still contains morals and maxims that are indispensable to human existence such as Luke 6:31 “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Or the unmatchable definition of love: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud” (1 Corinthians 13:4). This view admits that the Bible is a very important historical book but like other important historical books, it’s authors are entirely human. This is the Bible of unbelievers.
But there is another view of the Bible. This view affirms the Bible’s own testimony of itself, namely that this book it is not a product of man but has been breathed out by God Himself (2 Timothy 3:16). It claims that if this Word is believed—eternal life with ever-increasing joy will follow; but if it is ignored then an eternity of weeping and gnashing of teeth will follow (Matthew 13:42). This Word alone contains the revelation of eternal, infinite and omnipresent God who has spoken into time and space. This Word alone tells us the purpose for our existence. This Word alone tells us what has gone wrong with the world and what God has done about it. And this Word alone tells us what will happen in the ages to come. This Word alone, and no other proclaims to planet earth the good news of Jesus Christ—the God-man and only Redeemer of mankind. This is the Bible of Christians.
Peter said in 2 Peter 1:19 that “you will do well to pay attention” to this Word. Pay attention is a strong word in the Greek. It means to be devoted to or to be addicted to. So how do we become devoted to and addicted to the Scriptures? First, let’s dispense of this idea of knowing God versus knowing about God. Some people make the mistake of thinking that doctrine and Bible study get in the way of knowing Jesus. They say things like “I don’t want to know about Jesus, I just want to know Him.”
But let me ask you husbands, how much would your wife appreciate you if you told her, “Honey, I don’t why you are so concerned with me knowing your favorite meal, or what your growing up was like, or what your dreams and aspirations are, or when your birthday is. I want to know you, not about you." Of course, we see the problem with this don’t we? Likewise, we must not apply this to God. You can’t know Christ unless you know things about Him. That’s why Peter says “you will do well to pay attention” to this Word.
This is not an exhaustive list, but I want to give you seven suggestions on how to pay attention to this Word in the New Year.
1. Read with faith and dependence upon the Holy Spirit.
We are utterly dependent on the Holy Spirit to illuminate Scripture to us (John 14:26, Psalm 119: 18). Remember the promises of God and pray them as you read. James 4:8 “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.”
2. Read with the aim of seeing Jesus Christ in every passage.
Remember the quote from last week? "Facts, are stupid things unless they are brought into connection with the bigger picture." All of Scripture, both the Old and New Testaments, are one whole story about Jesus Christ, and the Scriptures will make no sense to you unless you see it this way. Jesus said in John 5:39, “It is they [the Scriptures] that bear witness about me.”
3. Read the actual Bible itself.
Don’t spend all your devotional time eating pre-digested food. Now, don’t mishear me. Get a good study bible. Surround yourself with good books. God gave us great teachers in the church to help us understand the Word. But don’t neglect the great for the sake of the good. Read the actually Bible itself.
4. Don’t go "lucky dipping."
Meaning, don't randomly pick verses as if that is your food for the day. We don’t read anything else like that. No child who got a lego set for Christmas opens up to the middle of it randomly, puts their finger down, and then starts his construction there. No, he reads it systematically. Just like we read every other form of literature and writing. Likewise, that is how we should read our Bibles.
5. Don’t give up!
Bible plans are a great tool, but they were made for man and not man for Bible plans. Use it as a tool, but don't be slave to it. Matthew 4:4 says, "Man does not live on bread alone." We don't stop feeding our bodies because we miss a meal or two. Likewise, we can't stop feeding our souls when we get a little off our reading plan. If you get behind, don’t worry about what the plan says. Just pick up where you left off. The important thing is to keep reading.
6. Memorize the Scriptures.
There are so many benefits to Scripture Memorization. God meant for His Word to be memorized. Psalm 119:11, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”
7. Read with the two greatest commandments in mind.
- Read so that you can love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. As we heard in the sermon, the Scriptures reveal the glory of God. We love him more when we know him more.
- Read for the sake of loving your neighbor: inside and outside of the church. Your Bible reading is not individualistic. Yes, it will deepen your personal knowledge of and affections for Christ, but this is not its only aim. When you are reading, meditating, memorizing the Scriptures, it will naturally flow back out of you. You will encourage others, speak truth, and offer insights directly from God's Word when you are bathing in it yourself.
For more on the authority of Scripture, visit this week's sermon The Crisis of Authority, Part 2 on our sermon page.