Christian Reading Priority

The bottom line is that no single book should receive more attention in our lives than Scripture. The Bible is the greatest book and our highest priority—it ignites us with spiritual light and life, it fuels us with eternal hope and grace, and it stokes us with inexhaustible pleasure and delight.

Reinke, Tony. Lit!: A Christian Guide to Reading Books. (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2011). Kindle Edition, 95.

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A Few Questions to Ask While You Read Your Bible…

When you read your Bible, are you asking questions of the text to develop a greater understanding of what the writers are conveying? Remember, our goal is to know what the text means, not “what does it mean to me?” Quite frankly, what it means to you is of no value. When reading the Bible, we must know what the text is communicating to us because we are learning what God is communicating to us. One of the most effective ways to understand the Bible is by asking questions while you read. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Who is involved? Who is speaking? Who is acting?
  • When did this event take place (what day of week, what hour of the day, relationship to some other event)?
  • Where did the action take place (what city, what specific location such as a home or on a mountain, etc.)?
  • What took place?
  • What sin is presented that I should forsake?
  • What command is given that I should obey?
  • What promise has God made?
  • Why did this event take place?
  • How did the event occur?
  • How do I put the principles taught in the passage into practice?

If you like to journal, or would like to start journaling through your Bible reading, why not use these questions to get started? I guarantee you’ll immediately find yourself enjoying and understanding the Scriptures more than you ever have before.

Bible Reading Plans

One of the questions I get every year around this time is about Bible reading plans for the new year. I want to offer a few thoughts on reading plans, and then provide a list of different plans that might be of use to you and your family.

Bible reading plans are great – I highly recommend them, especially for Christians who struggle with organization and/or memory. A reading plan is a wonderful way to maintain structure throughout the year as you seek to meet your Bible reading goals, whatever they may be. I would recommend reading a 1984 article by John Piper about the importance of a Bible reading plan. But, there are a few things to keep in mind when using a structured reading plan:

1. More important than successfully completing your plan is actually reading the Bible. If you find that the plan you’ve picked is too ambitious, try another one, or ditch it all together. While I think it’s important to systematically work through books of the Bible and to work through different sections of the Bible throughout the year as to get a full picture of the Bible’s story line, this can be accomplished without a structured plan. The goal is to be changed by Scripture, not simply to finish working through a reading plan.

2. I recommend changing your reading goals each year. One year, plan on reading through the Bible from cover to cover. The next year, plan on reading through the New Testament 6 times. After that, perhaps through the Old Testament twice. There are countless ways in which to read the Bible – mix it up, it will make you more well rounded in your biblical understanding and will help you remember the text. This is, in my experience, one of the cures to “I know it’s in the Bible somewhere…” To know the Bible you must read the Bible widely.

3. You are justified by grace, through faith, apart from works of the Law. Jesus doesn’t love you more if you read the entire Bible 5 times in 2012, nor does He love you less if you miss a day or two and fall short of your goal at the end of the year. Your standing before God is based upon the righteousness imputed to you through Christ, not upon your ability to maintain a strict schedule of spiritual disciplines. Of course, these things are important and necessary for our spiritual growth (sanctification), but they are not the means of our salvation. Let us not confuse justification and sanctification.

Here are several reading plans for you to choose from – this list was mostly generated by Justin Taylor and posted on the Gospel Coalition blog:

  • Stephen Witmer’s two-year plan to get through the entire Bible.
  • The Gospel Coalition’s For the Love of God Blog takes you through the M’Cheyne reading plan, with a meditation each day by D. A. Carson related to one of the readings. In one year, you will read through the New Testament twice, the Psalms twice and the rest of the Old Testament once.
  • George Guthrie’s Chronological Bible Reading Plan. Guthrie has also made a a booklet version of the Read the Bible for Life 4+1 Reading Plan. In this plan, you read four different places in the Scriptures and a psalm a day, thus cycling through the psalms twice in the year. This plan is semi-chronological, placing the prophets and the NT letters in rough chronological order.
  • Don Whitney has a simple but surprisingly effective tool: A Bible Reading Record. It’s a list of every chapter in the Bible, and you can check them off as you read them at whatever pace you want.
  • For the highly motivated and disciplined, Grant Horner’s plan has you reading each day a chapter from ten different places in the Bible.
  • There are 10 Reading Plans for ESV Editions, and the nice things is the way in which Crossway has made them accessible in multiple formats (web, RSS, Podcast, iCal, Mobile, pdf).

Is that enough to get you going? If you have another idea in mind of how you’d like to read the Bible this year, let me know and I will help you develop a reading plan.

Leave a comment below and let us know how you’re going to read your Bible this year! I am going to work through the Mastering the English Bible ideas of James Gray.