Have you seen all the weight loss and fitness center commercials on TV this week? It’s that time of year, the season for new beginnings and plans. Among those I have seen several of my friends and those I respect in ministry issue challenges to begin the New Year with a goal of reading the Bible all the way through this year. One of the best approaches to reading the Bible through in a year is the M’Cheyne Reading Plan (formed by 19th Century Scottish Pastor Robert Murray MCheyne). In fact, the Gospel Coalition & Crossway have produced a daily commentary podcast that goes along with this reading plan that many of my friends find helpful. In this plan the reader will read two chapters from the Old Testament, one from the Psalms and Wisdom Literature, and one chapter from the New Testament. So, as I write this post today, let me begin by saying that if you have never attempted to read the Bible through in a single year it is a very good endeavor. And for many of my friends it is a key discipline in their spiritual journey, and I commend them.
The problem, at least for me, is that these plans do not work. I’ve done it before, and it was a fruitful undertaking. Yet, the goal of Bible reading is communion and intimacy with the living God. What I found is that I spent more time reading to get the day’s reading done and make sure I stayed on track rather than actually digging in to understand the content. Then, if I missed a day or two I would get discouraged and either quit, skip a bunch, or just skim read to get it done. As a result, the reading did not have the spiritual benefit it was supposed to have for me.
This leads me to my point and the answer to the question posed in the title, should you read the Bible through in 2022? My answer is, perhaps. But I think the better question is this, what approach to reading the Bible will help me grow in the discipline of taking in God’s word and lead me to greater communion and intimacy with my Creator, Redeemer, and King?
I had my annual dentist appointment today, it went well. I had previous dentists who used guilt as a motivation to get me to floss. My problem was that it was a bit annoying and my hands are too big and clumsy to fit in my mouth while spinning floss around my fingers. So I just didn’t do it. Then I discovered floss sticks. Now I keep the in my car. At one time I had a dentist discourage the use of these, tried to tell me that I should be using real floss. Yet, the reality is that keeping these in my car and using them when I feel like I have something stuck in my teeth works for me. My dentist now takes a much better approach. After my appointment she ends our conversations with these words, “Whatever you are doing now works, so keep doing it.”
It may be that some of you should give the M’Cheyne reading plan a try, see if it fits. But the plan you should use is the one that actually accomplishes the key goal, of spending time with Christ in His Word so that it creates greater understanding of the Word and greater intimacy with Jesus. The New Year is a good time to start if you don’t have a disciplined plan for reading, or to try something new. My plan is fairly simple. I use an ESV Journaling Bible where I just read one chapter each day, but I actually read it twice. First, I read and journal, writing thoughts. I then read over the passage a second time using the text as prompts for prayer. For me, the more focused and prayerful approach accomplishes significantly more than reading multiple chapters. Yet, I also have a lifetime of deeper study of the Bible and have read through all of it multiple times. This is my plan, it may not be the best one for you. Ligonier Ministries has published a list of possible reading plans for 2022. Some read through the Bible once (or even multiple times), others go slower, and at least one plan here spends the entire year in a single book of the Bible.
The challenge is this, find the plan that works for you, the one you will actually do and stick to it. All of us have days and times where we don’t get all of our reading done, but don’t give up. A systematic and disciplined approach to reading the Bibles is a means of grace God has given us that will actually be one of the leading indicators of your Spiritual growth. The goal is to understand God’s Word in a greater way and and have greater intimacy and communion with Jesus. When you figure out the discipline and rhythm that works you can come to the end of the next year knowing, “Whatever you are doing works, so keep doing it.”