With a new year comes new goals, right? Maybe not. Not all of us warm to the idea of new years’ resolutions. Having grown jaded from our failed attempts at self-improvement, we may find it wearisome to make new goals at the beginning of the year. I get that. As a pastor of souls, I certainly do not want to set up a Christian for failure by giving him unnecessary burdens.
That said, I do want to encourage you to read the Bible daily in 2016. Whether you are a new believer or a seasoned disciple, one of the best things you can do this year is read the Word of God on a daily basis. Word, sacrament, and prayer are the basics of Christian discipleship, the means that God has provided for our sanctification and spiritual progress. We receive these in the local church every lord's Day. When we neglect these means, we inevitably do spiritual harm to ourselves. Daily Bible reading is an important supplement to those means. Here are some reasons why:
1. Daily Bible reading allows us to commune with God
We all know that a good relationship requires good communication. When there is poor communication, the relationship grows distant, and may be in peril. The same is true in our relationship with God. We need to communicate with our Father in heaven, and the way we do so is through Word, sacrament, and prayer: he speaks to us in Word and sacrament, and we speak to him in prayer.
The primary way by which God speaks to us through his Word is through the public reading and preaching of the Bible in the Divine Service on the Lord's Day (Rom 10.14-17; 16.25; Eph 4.11-14; Col 4.16; 1 Thess 5.27; 1 Tim 4.13; 2 Tim 4.1-5). For most of the church’s history, this was practically the only way a Christian could hear the Word of God. But since the Protestant Reformation, the Bible has rapidly grown more accessible. Today, there are a dizzying number of options available to read and hear the God-breathed Scriptures each day. We should take advantage of this gift.
While the public reading and preaching of the Word in the local church will always be God’s primary way to speak to us, it is not the only way. Daily Bible reading as individuals and families is also an important part of God’s communication to us, and helps nurture our relationship with him.
2. Daily Bible reading provides food for our souls
After his resurrection, Jesus commanded Peter: “Feed my lambs…Feed my sheep” (John 21.15b, 17b). Beyond the nourishment that food provides to the body and the enjoyment it brings to the soul, lies a deeper human need that is received only from the Bread of Life, which is given freely to us each week in Word and sacrament at the public assembly of the saints. Each Lord’s Day, through the ministry of the Word, God spreads a table for us in the wilderness, calling us to a rich feast of good food and drink for the soul (Isa 55.1-3; Jer 3.15; 23.1-4; 31.10).
During the week, however, we can receive spiritual nourishment by reading and meditating upon the Word of God. While we cannot preach to ourselves effectively or be sustained as self-feeders while neglecting the family meal on Sunday, we can still find food for our souls during the week. In fact, this eating during the week grows out of and responds to the feast on the Lord’s Day.
Or, to use a different analogy, think of it this way: the public means of grace on Sunday is like a garden being tended by a gardener: there is pruning, weeding, planting, fertilizing, etc. Daily reading of the Bible, however, is like the sprinkler system that turns on each day for a few minutes to help keep the garden green. We read the Bible and meditate on it day and night because we want to be “like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither” (Ps 1.2-3).
3. Daily Bible reading helps sanctify the home
In the old covenant, God commanded his people to train up their children in the Word of God: “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deut 6.6-9).
God requires the same thing from his people in the new covenant: "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord" (Eph 6.4). Daily Bible reading is an important part of this instruction. By opening the Bible each day, children - as well as husbands, wives, and anyone else in the house - have opportunity to hear God's commands and promises, and learn his ways. They will learn about his holiness, as well as his grace. They will learn the history of redemption, and how it is fulfilled in Christ.
We must remember that no other book or form of media is breathed out by God and holds forth the power of salvation. 2 Timothy 3.16-17 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 complete, equipped for every good work." Consider the spiritual benefit that reading the Bible daily will have upon you and your family.
4. Daily Bible reading helps prepare us to die well
According to one study, the average American spends 40 minutes a day checking a Facebook feed. Other studies show that Americans spend more than five hours a day watching television. On our death beds, we may regret the amount of hours we wasted watching TV or dawdling on social media. We may wish we could get that time back.
One thing we will not regret, however, is the amount of time we spent reading the Bible. On our deathbeds, we will prepare to meet the Lord in whom we have trusted and to whom we have prayed. Actually, that preparation begins now, not later. In daily Bible reading, we are investing time to get to know better the Lord in whose presence we will dwell forever.
So, in conclusion, I encourage us to read the Bible daily in 2016. You can find a reading plan here. Try to get into a routine where you spend a few minutes in devotion. It takes less than 15 minutes a day to read through its entirety in one year. But if you don’t make it all the way through, or miss a day or two (or three or four!), don’t despair. Just pick it up again and continue, remembering that you are saved by grace in Christ alone. Don’t let the fear of failure stand in your way, “for God gave us a spirit not of fear, but of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim 1.9).
Affectionately in Christ,