As 2013 ended and 2014 begins I’ve seen many posts and reminders about New Year’s resolutions with many of them including some sort of Bible reading plan. One was to read the entire bible in a year. Another to simply focus on the New Testament. A couple that were more consuming focused on reading the entire bible in 90 days or reading all four gospels each month for a year. But no matter the plan, whether a slow methodical trek through the entire Bible or a focus on a particular text or writing, the encouragement was to “get into the Word” in 2014.
Personally I agree with this encouragement. Daily Bible reading has been apart of my Rule of Life since even before I knew what a Rule of Life was. When I was 16 years old, Dave, a friend in my youth group, challenged me to read from the Bible everyday for a week. I accepted the challenge at the time and haven’t stopped since. While I must confess that I have missed some days along the way and there have been dry periods where I was reading more out of discipline than out of desire, it has been one of the true blessings of my life. And so I agree with all of the other encouragements to read from the Bible on a daily basis
And while it is popular for churches and ministers to encourage daily Bible reading, I wonder how often we explain why. What is it about this daily discipline that is so important?
I recently read a quote from N.T. Wright that could help frame why we read the Bible. Wright said, “The Bible is there to enable God’s people to be equipped to do God’s work in God’s world, not to give them an excuse to sit back smugly, knowing they posses all God’s truth.”
To be forthright, I’ve known very few Christians over the years who “sit back smugly, knowing they posses all God’s truth.” Yet, I still feel that Wright raises a very important point, Bible reading is not for knowledge. The purpose of daily Bible reading, of immersing yourself in scripture, is not to know all of the answers. The Bible is not a history book or an encyclopedia of facts. The Bible is a message from God to us, not for our own knowledge but to transform us into Kingdom people. John says that the stories were written so that we “might know the Messiah and have life in his name.” Paul says that scripture is “useful for teaching and training so that we may be equipped for every good work.” The writer of Hebrews says that the word of God cuts away the rough edges of our lives in order that we might be ready to enter God’s rest.
So why do we read? We read to know what God is about so that we may join him in his mission. We read to discover the ethic of Jesus and then live it out. We read for transformation.
As I look back over my life I can see that the Holy Spirit has used this daily discipline as a way to help transform my life. Even as I reread the same texts year after year after year I am confronted by familiar texts in new ways and I’m changed. As I read year after year I begin to see the world and others differently, no longer looking with just my own eyes but seeing the world through the eyes of Christ. As I read I am enabled to more fully live into the new reality revealed through the texts of scripture.
So, as I join the chorus of others encouraging daily Bible reading I want to encourage you not to read for knowledge, although that will come. Read for transformation. Read seeking to more fully encounter the Messiah and to be transformed into his image. Read knowing and believing that in this discipline God will be present and working in you. Before each reading ask God to reveal his will to you through the reading of scripture and to have the courage to live out that will in your life. Read with the intention of being equipped to do God’s work in God’s world. And, as you are slowly transformed by the discipline of reading, live into the new reality.