The Bible is clearly a very important book, as evidenced by the fact that it is the all-time bestselling, as well as the most translated book in history. Many non-Christians even attest to its significance, and spend time reading it. And this highlights that fact that the Bible can be read in a number of different ways.
The way different people read is usually determined by what they think the primary significance of the Bible is. For example, if someone thinks the Bible is primarily a historical document, then they will read it in a historical way, with the attitude that they are reading a history book. If someone thinks the Bible is significant primarily due to the philosophical teaching it contains, then they will read it in a philosophical way, with the attitude they are reading a philosophy book. And there are some merits to reading the Bible in different ways, because in part, the Bible is many of these things – history, philosophy, literature, etc.
But this raises the question – what is the primary significance of the Bible? Because this will determine how we should read it. The answer for Christians is that the Bible is more than just history, philosophy, and literature; above all else the Bible is Scripture, it is the very ‘Word of God,’ in which God communicates and reveals Himself to humanity. The primary intention of Scripture though is not just to reveal God, but also to shape and transform the thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and actions of God’s people, so that they increasingly turn to Him, and grow in commitment, trust, obedience, and devotion to this God that Scripture reveals.
“Above all else the Bible is Scripture – the very Word of God”
In Hebrews we are told that the Word of God is alive and active, sharper than any sword, it penetrates our inner being, our very soul, and reveals our sin, the thoughts and attitudes of our heart (Heb 4:12). We are told a similar thing in James, that the Word of God is like a mirror, it reveals what is wrong with us – our sin. Now when we look in a mirror and see something wrong with our appearance, we fix it – we don’t walk away and ignore it. The Word of God has this same function, it is a mirror revealing what is wrong, and if we ignore it, if we just read or listen to the Word without doing what it says, without repenting and changing, then James says we are just deceiving ourselves about being God’s children (Jam 1:22-24).
Merely reading the Bible then, is not the same thing as reading Scripture in a devotional way. Reading Scripture devotionally is not about obtaining information, retrieving facts, or mastering certain data; it is ultimately about reading with the intention of being shaped and transformed by God.
Last year, a number of us at Bellbowrie Community Church read through the entire Bible as part of the Radical Experiment. And this was fruitful in providing a broad sweeping overview of the biblical narrative, establishing a 20-25 minute daily pattern of Bible reading, and being part of a community reading together. For all these benefits though, reading the Bible in a year is not the same as reading the Bible devotionally as Scripture, mainly because the volume that needs to be read each day, along with the time this takes, makes it impractical for most people to reflect upon it all devotionally.
So this year I am proposing a new reading plan that involves a smaller amount of daily reading, which in turn will free up time for us to reflect on each reading devotionally. The plan is called “Project 51” and involves reading just one chapter of the New Testament each weekday, and then some Psalms during the weekend in preparation for Sunday worship together as a church. This will see us read the entire New Testament and Psalms over the course of 51 weeks.
The intention would be to continue with the habit we now have of spending 20-25 minutes each day in the Word. But because the average New Testament chapter takes only 3 minutes, 45 seconds to read, this now provides time for us to reflect devotionally on what we are reading.
In the next post, I’ll provide more detail on how to read Scripture devotionally, but for now this simple outline will give you the idea:
- Pray – Begin each reading by asking God to reveal Himself, and yourself as you read.
- Read – With humility, focusing on the changes you need, not what other people need.
- Meditate – Read it slowly a 2nd time, pausing at intervals to think, repent, and pray.
- Write – Record your thoughts, and key verses in a journal.
- Action – Take one thought or verse and determine how to put it into practice today.
- Pray – Praise God for who he is, pray through the things you’ve read, and ask for help to repent and live out what was read.
We’ll look to start “Project 51” together as a church on Monday 1st February 2016.
Note: I recommend using the ‘You-Version Bible App‘ to read this plan in community.