Reading the Bible in 2023
As we come to a new year, we have yet another opportunity by God’s grace, to push the reset button on reading the Bible through in a year. There is nothing magical about reading the Bible through in a year, but there is something healthy about establishing rhythms and habits that become a part of our lives. Paul tells Timothy, “Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness” (1 Tim. 4:7). The discipline of daily Bible reading can be based in legalism, ‘If I don’t read my Bible today, God won’t bless me.’ That is rubbish, dangerous rubbish. But the discipline of daily Bible reading can be based in a deep conviction that I need God’s Word, I desperately need God’s Word, every day of my life. I don’t read the Bible everyday because I think I am putting my token in the divine gumball machine. I read my Bible every day because I am a weak, desperate man who needs God’s Word more than my daily food (Job 23:13; Matt. 4:4).
If I don’t read my Bible every day, out of desperation, then I must think I am self-sufficient. “My own wisdom, my own thoughts, my own insights, my own strength will do! Thank you very much!” How foolish! (Prov. 12:15; 26:12; 28:26). When I know that on my own, I am a fool, then I need the wisdom of God’s Word. When I know my sin, my weakness, my blindness, then I need the grace of God’s Word.
So, make daily reading a rhythmic discipline that runs on the deeply laid tracks of desperate need. This prevents reading as a Pharisee, and it prevents the folly of self-sufficiency.
Now for some counsel on reading. First, have a Bible reading plan. This keeps you on track. There are numerous Bible reading plans available. I have one that keeps you in one book of the Bible at a time. There are others that have you in two or even four places per day. Choose a plan that is right for you. Mix up the reading plans over the years. Second, have a time and a place. If you try to just “fit it in,” you will neglect your reading. Your reading will give way to the tyranny of the urgent. Third, make sure that time and place are as free from distractions as possible, especially your phone! That time should be sacred time. Guard that garden and do not allow the entrance of any serpent!
On another note, don’t just get locked into your daily Bible to read the Bible in the year. It is a worthy goal to finish in a year and you can do that by reading about four chapters a day. But there are other ways to read the Word. Reading the Bible through in a year will give you breadth. Four chapters a day will give you breadth. But plan on other ways to read too. Choose a book of the Bible and read it through one in one sitting. Take 1 John as an example. 1 John is five chapters. Read it through in one sitting several times. What you will find is that reading in one sitting gives you a better sense of the book as a whole. But also read for depth. Choose a book that work through slowly, like Psalms or Proverbs, or Romans, where you take smaller bite size pieces and reflect more on it. Perhaps you can add one bite size reading to your through the Bible in a year reading. Perhaps you can use your day off for a through a book in one sitting reading. No one ever complained of reading the Bible too much.
Finally, pray before you read. I use John Piper’s acrostic IOUS.
I. Incline my heart to your testimonies. Psalm 119:36
O. Open my eyes to see wonders in your word. Psalm 119:18
U. Unite my heart to fear your name. Psalm 86:11
S. Satisfy me with your steadfast love. Psalm 90:14
Prayer is the expression of our need and desperation. And read with a pen and notebook nearby. Write down questions, observations, verses that stand out. When you have more time, go back and search out some of those questions, meditate more on the observations. It will pay rich spiritual dividends.
The Word of Christ should dwell in us richly (Col. 3:16). Make a journey through the Bible this year. Make it a habit rooted in your need of Him. I started this habit when I was 14 years old. I am glad I did. The Bible is God’s Word, and because I need Him, I need His Word. The sweet rhythms of daily reading will do your soul much good.