I remember early on in my Christian walk being taught to simply “read the Bible.” My youth pastor told us that it only takes 30 days to develop a habit. So with an accountability partner, I would both read one chapter a day, and tell her if I had or had not. We were in this together.
Twenty-six years later, the things he taught are still with me. The things we tell each other can have lasting impact! Let us encourage one another, knowing that it really matters!
Back to my story… I went off to college, where unfortunately I learned a harmful habit–one that has caused angst to many others as well. From the friends I made I learned that each time I set aside to “do devotions” or “have quiet time” (phrases we ought to phase out) I should either just open up the Bible and start reading, or ask the LORD to show me what to read, what He had for me that day. That was mysticism, not Christianity, I did not yet know the difference.
Why is this attitude harmful? It is decidedly “ME” centered. Christianity is Christ-centered. Who is He, beloved? Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer, Upholder of the ENTIRE UNIVERSE, Friend, Brother, King of Kings and LORD of Lords…This list is the just the beginning. It is a delightful practice to ponder some of His names, please keep going if you’d like…
Good Attitude, Good Habit
Coming to His Word with a different attitude, and a different set of questions, will revolutionize one’s times in the WORD. At one time, I thought it best to fight legalism by never having a plan. This was a knee-jerk reaction born of fear, and over time the LORD has showed me that having a plan does not mean I am doomed to “going through the motions” or “mindlessly carrying on.” Yes, that could happen. But it is a heart issue, not an issue of planning.
In Life Together, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, (page 52f), he makes the valid point that young or old, most Christians will simply complain that reading a chapter a day is “too long” “too boring” “too difficult.” In my college days it would also have been called “not spiritual enough.” Not much has changed since Life Together was published in the 1940s, but this attitude can be unlearned, it can be put off as you put off your old man (Ephesians 4:22-24). We die daily–as Paul says, so learning a good habit and putting off a bad one may take time, but maybe as little as 30 days.
What the LORD has for us is really much more simple, beautiful, and enriching than either our man-centered ways, or our mystical pseudo-spiritual efforts. We come to His Word that we might know Him, and grow in grace and knowledge; and He does His powerful work in us. We do not come to the Word and try to conjure up feelings or search for eternal life apart from Him (John 5:39f!). We do not search apart from what He has revealed–the secret things belong to the LORD, but what He has revealed, these will delight in! (see Deuteronomy 29:29).
We Come to Him
“So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue [abide!] in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, ‘You will become free’?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are Abraham’s descendents; yet you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you…”John 8:31-37
We who are His disciples will continue in His Word. We read, we listen to it being read, we hear it being preached, we talk to one another about what we have read, we study, we journal, we join a Bible Study and encourage one another in our studies, we meditate on the Word, we memorize it and muse upon it at will…we continue in His Word. We are Psalm 119 and Deuteronomy 6 communities.
Continue in His Word, beloved; as you listen to Him in His Word you will not be disappointed. Trying to listen apart from His Word is an attempt to be “spiritual” apart from His Spirit at work in you. The Spirit enlightens, gives understanding, teaches, guides–but not because you sit still and wait aimlessly. He wields His sword, the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. He is the Spirit of Truth, Who is sent to work as Jesus describes in John 16–inspiring the authors of Scripture, and illumining us (the readers) to understand Scripture, growing us in wisdom and knowledge (see 1 Corinthians 2!). (Do not fear knowledge as some do, based on one verse…see here or here.)
Find a reading plan, I like Robert Murray M’Cheyne’s plan, found here https://www.mcheyne.info/calendar.pdf Be willing to stick to it, and be willing to set it aside if you want to read sometime else for the day.
As a family, we read one book in the Old Testament, one in the New Testament, alternating days. As my children grow older, they will be taught not only to continue in our family morning readings, but to read on their own, to journal, to study, to read commentaries and other helpful books.
If you are about to read one of the Old Testament prophets, first read the corresponding chapters in the history books as background (1 and 2 Kings or 1 and 2 Chronicles). Likewise, for the New Testament epistles, there may be a corresponding section in Acts that will help in understanding.
Read each book as part of a whole–the whole story of redemptive history. Each book points us to Christ, each book adds to our understanding of God’s work through Christ.
Find a brother or sister in Christ to talk openly with. This could happen by joining a Bible Study or small group. We must encourage one another, and share life under the Word, rather than keeping all our “fellowship” at the coffee and doughnut level. True fellowship happens when we share the Word. When I was a YoungLife leader, our area director always told us that if we didn’t talk about Jesus, we didn’t really fellowship–and I have been thankful for that admonition ever since.
Normalize some conversational phrases like “what have you been reading lately?” “What have you been pondering from Scripture?” or “what has the LORD been teaching you?” and let us help one another to continue in the Word.