It’s the first day of 2017! I always love turning the page to a new year because it offers so much promise and potential. It’s an opportunity to get a fresh start and measure your progress in tangible ways. Sometimes we get so tied up into keeping “resolutions” that we forget that God is more interested in this moment in our progress than our perfection. The gospel declares to God’s children that we have already been given the righteousness of Christ by our faith in Him. So, that means that we have already been perfected in God’s ledger book. Now, the process of Christian growth means becoming more in practice what you already are positionally before God.
This is why I think sometimes it’s more beneficial to think of setting goals for the new year than resolutions. For some people, the traditional approach to “resolutions” sets them up for failure and disappointment. But, if we just think about setting a few tangible goals that will make us healthier physically, spiritually, and emotionally, that might be a more achievable process. Make the goals clear, measurable, and realistic. For instance, instead of saying “I am going to the gym more this year”, say, “I will spend 30 minutes of the day at the gym at least 3 times a week”, and then put it on your calendar.
One of those new year commitments that all of us could benefit from is to spend more time with God. But, to make it a clear goal, let’s commit to reading an achievable Bible reading plan and supplementing it with a healthy, gospel-centered devotion. I would highly recommend Bible.com (also known as “YouVersion”) and the accompanying apps for your smartphone or tablet. They are loaded with Bible reading plans you can browse through. My preference is to pick a plan and read it with my actual hard print Bible and then track my progress with the app. This allows me to spend time actually looking at the page and the Bible in print, highlight important passages, and write in the margin. But, you can read on the electronic device and do some of these things as well.
What type of plan should you use? Well, that’s really up to you. Here are a few that I would recommend.
- Reading God’s Story: One Year Chronological Plan – This has been a favorite I have recommended to people who want to read the Bible in a different way. It is organized chronologically, or as the stories unfolded according to the biblical timeline. This plan gives you readings for six days a week and then you can catch up on the seventh or go back and read something again.
- Life Journal Reading Plan – This plan was developed by Wayne Cordeiro and is designed to help you read through the Old Testament once and the New Testament twice in a year. It has Bible readings for each day.
- Discipleship Journal’s 5x5x5 Plan – This is a great plan for beginners. It’s designed to get you to read a chapter a day and get a good overview of the Bible. It’s 5 minutes a day, 5 days a week, with 5 ways to dig deeper into the Bible.
There are hundreds of other plans that are available. Just find a plan that works and start! As you do, remember two things:
- First, the goal of a Bible reading plan is consistency, not completion. Most of the time, most people get off base within a few days or a couple of weeks. That’s ok. Remember that the gospel declares that Christ has already secured righteousness for you himself. God is not measuring your performance. He’s measuring your heart. Don’t get so caught up in checking off a box that you don’t take time to allow God’s word to check your heart. If you get off track, just restart. Don’t get discouraged.
- Second, you will not succeed without intentionality. You must do more than just want to read the Bible. You must intentionally create margin to do so. Whether that’s setting a new time to wake up earlier, or turning off the TV and shutting down the computer or tablet from mindless surfing. Most likely, to be successful in a new good habit, you will probably have to give up an older, less profitable one.
Finally, supplement your Bible reading with a good gospel-centered devotional. This year, I am asking people at Sixth Street to read with me through Paul Tripp’s “New Morning Mercies“. It’s the best gospel-centered daily devotional I have ever picked up. If you have already read through that and are looking for something else, I would recommend Scotty Smith’s “Everyday Prayers” or Oswald Chambers “My Utmost for His Highest“.
So, God has given you a new year. What are you going to do with it. My encouragement to you is “Just Read the Bible”. I look forward to the journey with you.