Happy New Year! 2018 is here already, and I cannot believe it. Thanks for joining us for another year — our sixth year on the podcast. Pastor John, I cannot believe we have been doing this now for 230 weeks in row. And another new year is upon us. And that means Christians across the globe will be starting, or re-starting, their read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year plans. So, I want to ask: Can you make a case for the discipline? Name the plan you use. Explain why you like it. Explain the pace of reading. And maybe what you’ve learned after doing this for so many years.
The Bible reading plan that I have used more than any other over the years, and that I used right up to the end of 2017, is the Discipleship Journal Bible Reading Plan. I just googled it to make sure that you could get it, and you can. You can go online and just google “The Discipleship Journal Bible Reading Plan.” Probably the top entry is going to be a free PDF. You can print it out and join me because I’m going to use it again in 2018. You can also use a program. It’s baked in to some online Bible programs like Logos. I use Logos and read my Bible on my iPad. It has a little feature where, when you’re done, it just brings up the next day automatically, which is wonderful.
Broad and Deep
The way it works is — this why I use it and why I recommend it — there are four different places in the Bible where you read every day. By reading these four different places, you complete the entire Bible in one year. Two of those places are in the New Testament, two of them are in the Old Testament.
“I think it’s important to cover the whole range of the Bible and grow in understanding year after year.”
One of the effects of having two readings from the New Testament and two from the Old Testament is that two of the readings tend to be quite short, because the New Testament readings would get you through the New Testament much faster because it’s a shorter book than the Old Testament. Now, this has the great advantage of combining both a broad scope of reading and a narrow intensified reading.
I find that it’s very important that we read the Bible in both ways. We read the whole Bible — even though I know we are reading parts of it fast and not understanding everything we read because we’re not stopping to look everything up or find out what things mean that we don’t understand. I get that. That’s true for me as well. I still think it’s important to cover the whole range and grow in understanding year after year, rather than think we have to stop and understand everything we’re reading.
It’s important to slow down and meditate significantly, deeply, over a few verses or a few phrases. It’s not easy, I admit. It’s not easy to maintain this balance of covering the whole and going deep in a few places. But I think it’s worth a try; I think it’s worth the effort to try to do both.
Here’s another advantage of this Discipleship Journal Reading Plan — namely, it only schedules 25 days each month for Bible reading. Which means that at the end of every month, there are five or six days with no assignments. Now this, I think, is a stroke of genius because most people give up reading the Bible in the year because by February they’re behind. They say, “Well, there’s no hope.” Then in March they’re farther behind, so they give up.
Whereas this plan gives you a gracious five or six days at the end of every month to catch up if you’ve fallen behind. And if you happen to stay up, then you use those, that’s what I do, for memorization or some other use. I love to take a psalm, say a psalm like Psalm 25 (which I worked on recently). During those five days, I try to memorize the psalm that I wouldn’t have time for any other way.
Okay, so that’s what I do; that’s my plan. I’ve used it for years and years. We used to use it together as a church. If you’ve got a better way that suits you better, that is just fine. I’m not saying this is the best way; I’m saying it’s a way that I’ve found helpful.
The Goal of Life
The bigger question for me and for us all, I believe, is not what method or plan you use or even if you get through the whole Bible in a year. That is not the main point. The big issue is, why do you read your Bible and what happens when you read it? So, why do we care about daily Bible reading in the new year anyway?
“The big issue is, why do you read your Bible and what happens when you read it?”
I think the ultimate goal of every Christian should be to glorify God in your life every day — or, to use the words of Philippians 1:20, to magnify Christ in your body, whether you live or whether you die. We exist ultimately on this planet to make God in Christ look magnificent — to make him look precious and valuable, to look like the supreme treasure that he is. That’s the goal of life: make God look like a treasure.
Now, how do we go about that since, in our sin, even as believers, there’s so much in us that is inclined to think or feel or act in ways that don’t make Christ look great? The answer to how we do this is that we have to see the glory of Christ. To see him as glorious, to see the magnificence and the value and the beauty and the greatness and the desirableness of Christ, we have to see him for what he’s really like.
You can’t savor what you don’t see. You can’t cherish and desire and love and enjoy and treasure what you’re not aware of. If we don’t desire and cherish and enjoy and savor and treasure Christ, we will not commend him as magnificent in what we feel and say and do. Christ is most magnified in us when we are most satisfied in him, and we cannot be daily satisfied in the depths of our soul in Christ if we don’t see him and savor him. My point is that that can only happen by a steady meditation on the word of God in the Bible.
According to 2 Corinthians 4:4, the glory of Christ shines through the gospel — that is through the narrative, the story, the message of the good news of the Scriptures. We see the glory of Christ in the word of God. We encounter him in Scripture. And then, in 2 Corinthians 3:18 it says that in seeing the glory, we become transformed into the same glory, from glory to glory.
“The reason I read the Bible is because I am stone-cold dead without Christ and his word.”
So if we’re going to see the glory and savor the glory and become images of the glory for others to see, we have to see Christ. It only happens as we meditate on the Bible. But of course, I’m assuming something. This implies reading the Bible in a certain way. It means in this new year, at every point we are crying out over the pages of Scripture that lie before us. We are crying out to God for the supernatural act of his Spirit to open the eyes of our hearts to see spectacular, beautiful, glorious, wonderful, valuable things in the Bible.
The reason I read the Bible is because I am stone-cold dead without Christ and his word. But I want all my life — every part of it — I want my life to be glorious. I want life to be beautiful. I want life to be vastly more than it is if I’m left to myself. I want to see how astonishing reality is at every turn — every person, every rock, every tree, every animal, every work of salvation.
I know that, left to myself, I am an absolute dud. I am blank, nothing deep, nothing moving, nothing intense, nothing beautiful, nothing precious, nothing sweet or wonderful — just empty, blank, unmoved, coasting along from one worldly preoccupation to another. There is one hope for John Piper in 2018: that I would have eyes to see the God-entranced magnificence of everything — namely, that God would be pleased in my Bible reading to cause me to see the glory that is really there. That’s why we read our Bible: to see glory, to savor glory, to be shaped into the image of the glory of God, to show the glory so that God is magnified as we are satisfied in him.
So that’s why I’m in the Bible every day and read it through the whole year. I really hope that you will join me. It is an awesome quest.