Like many Christians, I have tried to make it my practice to read the Bible on a daily basis and to read through the Bible in a year by following a reading plan. I have been blessed by this practice and would recommend that every Christian be in the Bible on a daily basis.
On this New Year’s Day, fresh reading plans will begin and new Bibles purchased will be read with great anticipation and joy. I applaud these things. What joy the Word of God brings to those who would spend time plumbing its depths! There is no better use of one’s time than reading and meditating upon Scripture.
But on this New Year day, I want to add balance to some things I have heard regarding Bible reading. We live under grace, not Law. Bible reading is important—as Jesus said, it is our daily bread for our weary souls (Matthew 4:4). But there is a hidden danger in making Bible reading into a work of the Law rather than a means of grace. Beyond the self-righteousness that can come from those who do read their “Bibles before breakfast,” and expect that all Christians should do the same or they are out of fellowship with God, there is also the danger of making the Bible another “to-do” to be checked off from our list of chores every day. Rushed reading without any thought to what the verses say or mean produces Bible illiterate people as much as not reading the Bible does.
It reminds me of a saying my wife and I had in our bedroom which read, “Always Kiss Me Goodnight.” Can you imagine waking up to your spouse and saying to yourself, “If I don’t kiss her, I can’t eat breakfast, so I better get it over with and give her a kiss.” Surely this falls short of true love and the intention of this sentiment. Reading your Bible before breakfast is good in placing your relationship with the Lord above our fleshly appetites, but this can also easily slide into legalism. And legalism is powerless over the flesh. Rules eventually fail where only the Spirit of God can bring about change.
The Word of God is written for our benefit. We might not always want to read it, but this is not so much a matter of obedience as it is a matter of the heart and how it has grown cold. If we begin with this realization, we can go before our heavenly Father in confession, asking him to warm our heart and to remind us of his love for us. We can be honest, knowing that he already knows our hearts have grown cold, and we can ask him to help us in our weakness to draw close to him.
Then, with a humble heart of faith, we can draw near, knowing that as we drink from the well of the Word, our Lord will begin to give us a thirst for him. We become like the father in the New Testament who wanted to believe that Christ could heal his son, but yet he knew how weak his faith was, so he cried out, “I believe, help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). We might know we need to read our Bibles, but we need to be honest when we also realize that we don’t want to, and that this is a spiritual problem that we must confess to God for his help.
Today, many Christians will begin their new Bible reading strong and with the best of intentions…but in the flesh and not in dependence upon God. This year, try something new—read your Bible in dependence upon the Spirit. Not just to begin reading it, but to continue reading through to the end. The goal is not finishing the Bible, nor is it reading it every day without fail. The goal is growing close to your Savior and God. From that relationship will flow rivers of living water.