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A New Year’s Plan to Use the Bible

December 31, 2011

With a new year come many new plans and goals for ways to change and things to accomplish. As you consider your plans and goals for the new year, something that should recieve special attention is your plan for how you will grow as a Christian.

Consider the following questions. What will you do this year to grow in your love for and faith in Jesus Christ? What will you do to learn more about God and the Bible? What will you do to turn away from the sinful habits that have forming in your life? What will you do in order to please and glorify God more this year than you did last year? It would be misleading to say there is a single, easy answer to all of these questions. The task of growing as a Christian involves all kinds of things: the church, your beliefs, your work, your relationships, your thoughts, your words, your decisions, your emotions, your talents, your money, your time, and the list goes on. But no attempt at growing as a Christian will be successful without regular, focused consideration of the Bible.

In 2 Timothy 3:16-17, the Apostle Paul says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” In other words, the Bible is God’s Word. As God’s Word it is perfect and trustworthy in everything. And God gave it to us not merely to have, but to use to shape what we know and what we do.

Most Christians don’t have a plan for using their Bible. We tend to treat the Bible merely as a helpful resource if we have a question about something (i.e., How did God make the world? How can I be right with God? What is God’s will for my life? Will my pets go to heaven?) or if we need comfort during a difficult season of life (i.e., a broken relationship, sickness, death). But if we only use the Bible only on occassions like these, we are robbing ourselves of an incredible blessing. If you aren’t convinced of that, just read Psalm 119 and consider all of the incredible blessings of God’s Word that David celebrates: life, guidance, knowledge, protection, strength, and the list goes on!

If you’re convinced you need to grow as a Christian, and that you need to use the Bible to help you grow as a Christian, then you need a plan. Just like you need a plan if you are going to use your oven to make a good meal, you need a plan if you are going to use your Bible to grow as a Christian. Of course, to use the Bible well involves a lot of things. But at the very least, it means reading the Bible. So developing a plan to read the Bible is a great place to start if you would like to grow as a Christian this year.

There are lots of “Bible Reading Plans” available – some that take you through the whole Bible over a couple years and some that just point you to key parts of the Bible that every Christian should be familiar with. Some plans take you through the Bible chronologically and some have you read from various parts of the Bible each day. Some plans require reading the Bible seven days a week, some for just five days a week. For a great introduction to various Bible reading plans, check out this very helpful blog post.

Of course, any plan is better than no plan, but there are some plans that are better than others. One of the best is called the M’Cheyne Reading Plan. This plan was developed in the 1800’s by a Scottish pastor named Robert Murray M’Cheyne, and has been used by a wide variety of Christians for nearly two hundred years. This plan has you read four chapters of the Bible each day. For the average reader, that would take about 20 minutes. If followed diligently, you will end up reading the Old Testament once, the New Testament twice, and the book of Psalm twice in just one year. While there is certainly a place for reading small portions of the Bible slowly, there is also a tremendous benefit in reading large portions of the Bible, as long as it is done carefully.

After you choose a Bible reading plan, you need to figure out the best way to keep up with your plan. Thankfully, there are a growing number of resources available to help you with this:

1. You can print out or purchase a hard copy of a reading plan (this one will be available at the FPCP book table starting January 8th).

2. You can sign-up to recieve your Bible reading daily via e-mail, RSS feed, or an item on your computer’s calendar here.

3. You can use a smartphone app like Reading Plan (for Apple devices) to track your Bible reading.

Also, you may want help understanding what you have read. Let’s face it: there are some pretty obscure and confusing things in the Bible. One solution to this is to purchase a Study Bible that has footnotes, articles, maps, and other good content that help summarize and explain the Bible. Two of the best Study Bibles are the ESV Study Bible and the Reformation Study Bible. There are also books and blogs that offer short commentaries on particular daily readings. For instance, if you want to use the M’Cheyne Reading Plan mentioned above, you can follow D.A. Carson’s blog For the Love of God (the content of the blog is a free version of what Carson published in book form about a decade ago).

Whether you choose to take on a specific Bible reading plan this year or not, I hope you will be striving to grow as a Christian this year. And I hope you will see that using the Bible is indispensible in that good and glorious task, and that you will make greater and more regular use of it this year as a result.

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