When I became a Christian in 1977, I already knew a few things about the Bible. I knew the difference between the Old and New Testaments, that there are 66 books in the Bible, and that we find the information about Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection in the Gospels. I knew other facts about the Bible, and could generally find my way around its pages if I needed to look up a passage. Growing up in a good congregation meant learning these things.
But, having just come to know God through faith in Jesus, I was just learning that the Bible could be personal. While reading the Bible after becoming a Christian, my mind was awakened and energized by truth. The way I saw the world, reality, morality, and relationships was changing rapidly as the Bible began to speak to me. I was coming to know the God of the Bible, and learning more about God’s Bible.
There is no question that, in the forty years I have been a Christian, the two most helpful spiritual disciplines are regular fellowship in a local church, and consistent Bible reading that includes deep thought and prayer. The Holy Spirit has used the church and the word of God to keep me and grow me in faith.
There are years when I decided to read through the whole Bible; sometimes making it, and sometimes not. Every year, regardless of the plan and whether or not I finished it, the Bible has been the main source of encouragement, correction, and character shaping in my life.
Some chapters of the Bible have become personal friends (Exodus 14, Psalm 42-43, Isaiah 40, Mark 8-10, Romans 8, Colossians 3, Revelation 22 are just a few of them). It’s not uncommon for certain chapters of the Bible to be the source of my prayers for months at a time.
At one point in my life, I was working through a theological and doctrinal issue related to the ministry of the Holy Spirit. I wondered if and how the Holy Spirit was active in my life. I came to see that, every time I open the Bible, it is the Holy Spirit who must – and does – help me to understand, believe, and conform to its teaching. It is the Holy Spirit, after all, who inspired the Bible. I learned of him in the Bible.
On more than a few occasions, after reading the Bible, I have apologized to my wife for a comment or an attitude. There is something about being alone with a Bible, the Holy Spirit, and the memory of the last twenty-four hours that often leads me to conviction and repentance.
I have not always been eager to read the Bible. Some days I dutifully read it and then move on with my day with little sense of joy. When this happens, I pray for mercy and trust that the cumulative impact of regular Bible reading is real, even when I don’t notice it.
Every December, I start thinking about starting fresh in regular Bible reading in the new year. I would like to encourage you to do the same. If you would like to read the Bible regularly in 2018, you can read about the two different reading plans on our website, and listen to Justin Tucker and me talk about some Bible reading practices in this podcast.
May the word of Christ richly dwell in us at Grace Community Church (Colossians 3:16)