It’s that time of year again! New Year’s resolutions are in full swing and vow-making is at an annual high. While we need to be careful about the vows that we make (Eccl. 5:4-5), many Christians desire to grow in Bible knowledge each year and growth in knowledge is always a good thing (2 Pet. 3:18). Some will pull out their calendars and plan to read the Bible in its entirety by December.
While there is nothing wrong with reading the Bible through in a year, and I enjoy doing this, Bible study is not some intellectual sprint where we see who can do the most the fastest. Every word of the Bible is inspired, so it matters not only that we read the Bible but how we read it is key (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
Let this article encourage you to read the Bible this year. Many times we read more on Facebook than we do in the Good Book. We are more familiar with the latest news than we are with the good news about Jesus Christ. Make this the year that you get serious about Bible study and acquiring more Bible knowledge. Some may say, “I desire to read the Bible, and I have tried several times but am just not sure how to get started.” Let me suggest a few ways in this article that you should read the Bible in the new year and beyond.
In order to grow in knowledge and application of the Word of God, it must be read regularly. The Bereans of old are praised not only because they searched the scriptures, but because they did so daily (Acts 17:11). It is going to be hard to learn the Bible and read it for all it’s worth if you read ten chapters today, skip three weeks, and then try and remember where you last left off a month from now.
Set aside time every day to read the Bible. Pick a time during the day when your mind is at its sharpest when you are awake and undistracted and read then. You may say “I don’t have any time like that.” If Bible study is truly important to you, you will make the time for it. We make time for our priorities, and Jesus wants us to put His kingdom first (Mt. 6:33). Read the Bible every day and push yourself to do so. Do not get on Facebook until you’ve read the Bible first, don’t read Harry Potter or your favorite book until you have read the inspired text first.
Read the Bible twice a day if you can, do a reading in the morning and read the same thing at night for emphasis sake just in case you missed something. Read the Bible daily this new year, you won’t be sorry that you did!
Be sure not only to read the Bible regularly but make sure you read responsibly. What I mean by reading responsibly is be sure that you stay true to the context. Do not approach the Bible simply for a flashy quote for your next status or to give you a slick comment to make in a religious discussion at work the next day. Read the Bible and always seek to determine what this book was attempting to teach its original readers. The books of the Bible can never mean now what they did not mean then.
You will never get everything God intended for you to get out of Bible study if you don’t respect the context in which it was written. Try and learn something about the writer of the book, the culture of its recipients, the time and what was taking a place in the world (a good study Bible or Bible dictionary can help with this), it will enrich your life. To read the Bible and keep it in context is to read the Bible responsibly, be a responsible reader in the new year!
While the context of scripture must be respected, the Bible doesn’t only speak to its original readers. The Bible was meant to be read by others of different generations and places as well (Col. 4:16). When you read the Bible, do not think about the co-worker or family member that a particular passage applies to, but think about yourself first. Read and ask yourself am I doing what this passage says I should be doing?
Read and challenge yourself to conform to the message of scripture. Write down ways you plan to apply what you have read so that you might grow. Avoid the encyclopedia syndrome. Do not simply read to store information in your brain. Bible study is supposed to inform as well as transform your life (Rom. 12:1-2). Read, reflect, and inspect your life. As you see things that need changing make the necessary adjustments.
Hopefully, we are willing to affirm the claim that the Bible makes and supports of itself: That it is the Word of God (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:19-21). With an affirmation of the Bible’s inspiration should also come a high level of respect for God’s word. To treat the Bible reverently is to truly realize that when we read Scripture, we are peering into the very mind of God (1 Cor. 2:10-13).
The Word of God is too powerful to not be treated with the utmost respect. God’s word is responsible for many great feats, including creating the universe (Ps. 33:6; Heb. 11:3) and saving our souls (1 Pet. 1:23-25). To treat the word of God like US Weekly or People Magazine would be an unfortunate tragedy. Let not such be mentioned among us as we read the Bible in the new year.
When you read the Bible this year, do it strategically. Read the Bible like a detective. There are times for casual devotional readings and perusals of the Psalms, but Bible study must be engaging. Read with a pen in hand and a willingness to challenge your mind. Read and take notes; try and connect people and verses together. When you see things that call other passages or events to mind, write it down. Try and get the flow of certain books, pick up on the style of certain writers. Read a smaller book like Philippians through in one sitting a few times. Don’t read to merely check off your to-do list for the day, dig in and get the gems the text provides.
In Order to Reap
Be sure that you know why you are reading. Emphasize quality over quantity this year in your Bible reading. You do reap what you sow (Gal. 6:7-9). Sow spiritual seed so that you might reap a spiritual harvest. Read this year so that you can grow closer to God and be more like Jesus. Have an aim in your study, and be organized about it. Don’t just jump around the whole Bible while ignoring certain sections (poetry, history, gospels), try to get a good handle on each section of scripture. Reading scripture is a blessing (Rev. 1:3)!
Jesus loved to teach through the use of questions, and one question that He often asked was “Have you read?” (Mt. 12:3-5; Mk. 12:10; Lk. 10:26). If Jesus were to ask you this question in the new year, I pray that your answer would be yes.