After all these years, why have you started that Bible reading plan again? You know how many times you’ve read Genesis 1–20 only to quit soon after. One year you even got to Leviticus. For some, the most practical advice is just to start in Joshua. Why not? You’ve never made it to Joshua before!
It’s not like you haven’t made it through the Bible because you’re a bad person. You had great intentions long ago, but that spring semester got too hectic and eventually your Bible reading took a backseat to midterms and then finals. Or maybe that was the year your Mom got sick. Between hospital visits, traveling back and forth, and the emotional toll of it all, the Bible reading plan seemed about as much of a priority as the ill-fated diet you’d planned. Perhaps the year you really doubled down was when God surprised you with a pregnancy you hadn’t planned, and ever since then you’ve been so busy with the kids that the idea of sitting down an hour a day to read the Bible and pray seems as impossible as finally finishing the laundry. Surely the Lord doesn’t detest busy mothers and working fathers who are trying to do their best.
It’s Not about the Reading Plan
So why start again? Life hasn’t gotten any less busy and no amount of willpower has succeeded so far. When we think about our Bible reading this way, we risk making Bible reading a burden instead of an invitation. So many of us act as if God sent his Son to earth to live a perfect life and die an atoning death, only to rise from the grave and wag a finger at us saying, “You’ll never be good enough for me unless you read your Bible every day!” Nothing could be further from the truth!
The guilt and shame we heap on ourselves over our failed Bible reading efforts stands contrary to the very heart of the Bible itself! We don’t read the Bible because Bible Reading Plans ™ are the good Christian thing to do. We read the Bible because in it we meet Jesus. This is where He shows us his character—how eager He is to meet us with infinite love and undeserved grace. We read our Bible because in it we see the depth of our sin and our need to be redeemed. We read our Bible because therein is displayed God’s unfolding plan to reconcile the world to himself through Christ’s cross and resurrection (2 Corinthians 5:19).
Bible reading is not a burden to carry, but rather an invitation to meet with God and see Him as He is. Psalm 16:11 says, “In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” This verse has massive implications for prayer, for how we view death, for the glory of God, and, yes, for our Bible reading. Rather than view our Bible reading as a burden, let’s remember the grace of God revealed in the Scriptures. Instead of a jury summons, let’s see the Bible as a roadmap to joy. God speaks to us in His eternal Word, which saves, sustains, and satisfies our souls.
It is about Grace and Transformation
In the gospel, there is more than enough grace for those who miss a day or two—or who have missed the past couple of years—of their Bible reading. There is also, however, a beautiful promise for those who persevere. When we behold God in the Scriptures, we become like him. We don’t only hear about God (His works, His commands, and His character), as great as that is. No, God actually changes our hearts in the process.
Now that we believe the good news of the gospel, we read the Bible with what Paul calls an “unveiled face” (2 Corinthians 3:18). We are able to see the fullness of God’s work as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the gospel thread that runs throughout the Bible. And here’s the kicker: this kind of seeing transforms us.
We all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into
the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is
the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18)
There is no better news than that! Because of our sin, we are unable to change our hearts, unable to live up to the standard God requires. Heaping shame on ourselves for Bible reading failures is just one of the many shame-heaping, guilt-collecting skills we seem to inherently possess. But we aren’t alone in this. God knows this about us, which is why He has shown us the way. He has given us an invitation with the address and a map. He has invited us to see Him in his glory in the Scriptures. That’s the way, He says, that the Spirit transforms us into the image of Christ.
If that’s true, then don’t let that reading plan become a burden—let it be a map to joy. If you miss a few days, so what? Keep going! Let 2018 be the year you seek God. You will fail. You will be inconsistent. I can guarantee it. Some mornings or nights you will fall asleep drooling on 2 Chronicles or Romans. Some days it will have to be Audio Bible on the way to a meeting. At times, little voices will make such a fuss in the background that you’re going to have to reread that last paragraph. But if you keep going, you will be continually changed into the image of Christ. That’s worth planning for.
Griffin Gulledge is a graduate of Beeson Divinity School and currently works in church relations for The Alabama Baptist Children’s Homes & Family Ministries. He lives in Dothan, Alabama, with his wife, Rachel. You can follow him on twitter at @griffingulledge.