Sunday, January 03, 2016

2016: The Year Of The Word

Like many Christians I am starting out 2016 with the intent of reading the Bible through in a year. We have done this before with varying degrees of success. It can be a challenge especially when one risks getting bogged down in the genealogies and lists of building materials or Levitical laws. This year my wife and I are using a chronological reading plan provided by the good folks who bring us the English Standard Version. It is a change of pace from the "start at Genesis and read through Revelation" cover to cover plan while still covering the entire Bible. For example today we read Genesis 8-11 and then start with Job before returning to Genesis on the 16th. Whatever plan you use, and there are plenty of them, the important thing is to just open the Bible up. An unopened Bible on the shelf is of no benefit to anyone but an open Bible in the hands of a Christian is the voice of God thundering through the ages.

I have been unsparing in my criticism of the malaise of biblical illiteracy that infects the church and I definitely see myself as a patient in need of the medicine of Scripture just as any other Christian in this land. I definitely find myself fixated on certain passages and books because of a topic I am exploring and in doing so I am giving short shrift to wide swathes of the Bible. I think this is true of a lot of Christians. The Reformed spend lots of time in Romans and Ephesians and John, conservative Mennonites on passages about separation and holiness, charismatics on sections dealing with prophecy and manifested spiritual gifts. What is far worse than fixation on certain topics and sections of the Bible is the maddening intentional and willful Biblical ignorance that some wear like a badge of honor. 2015 was the year of "Keep your Bible, just give me Jesus!", a breathtakingly ignorant statement that nevertheless gets applause from many. We have not outgrown our need for the Scriptures. We are not so advanced and wise that we can dispense with the written revelation of Jesus Christ because what inevitably replaces the Jesus revealed in Scripture is an erroneous caricature in our own minds and in our image, making Jesus more tame and palatable for polite society. The best and perhaps only remedy to this error is to let God speak for Himself in the manner He has ordained. Biblical illiteracy among the church in America is every bit as dangerous as our comfort and affluence along with our conflation of American patriotic fervor with the Kingdom of God.

When we read through the Bible I usually read aloud while my wife follows along and there is something very different, very powerful about the Bible being vocalized rather than silently read. Reading to yourself is great as well but the Bible was meant to be spoken. It is also extremely beneficial, at least for me, to have someone else to reading the Bible with me. It encourages me on days when I don't feel like reading, which is critical to me because the times I don't feel like reading are exactly the times when I need to read God's written Word the most. If you don't have a spouse or sibling handy, get a friend to help encourage you and for you to encourage in turn.

There is nothing especially Scriptural about reading the Bible in a year. We aren't commanded to read all 66 books in 12 months. It is just a convenient time period to target the reading of the most important book we can read. John Piper says, correctly, that the Bible is the One Must-Read This Year.
The truth of God, rising continually through the roots of faith planted in God’s word, is the way God keeps Christians alive and enables them to bear the faith-authenticating fruit of love, so that they will not be castaways in the last day. This is the essence of why I say the Bible is a “must-read” — the only must read.

It is to our shame that a people who have unprecedented access to something so many died to bring to others are often the least interested in what God has said and is saying right now. We want to "worship" him by singing emotional songs or listening to how God can help me be a better person or checking off "religion" on our weekly checklist. That is not what we need. We need Jesus and there is one authoritative and comprehensive place to find Him.

Don't be part of that crowd, the blind and deaf sheep who have gone astray because they don't hear the voice of the Good Shepherd. Hear Him. Heed Him. Follow Him. Proclaim Him. Drink deeply brothers and sisters. The well is never-ending which is proper because the thirst for truth for those born-again can never be slaked.

Lord, give us more of Jesus.

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