Now is a good time to think about new year's resolutions. It's an often maligned tradition, given how often they're broken or forgotten. But I do think that it's helpful to plan ahead on the time scale of about a year, and New Year's Day is as good a time as any to do that.
And I cannot think of a better resolution than to read the Bible.
It's nearly impossible to overemphasize how important this is: if you want to know God - if you want a direct line of communication with him without filters like the predilections of our culture, the distractions in our preconceptions, or the follies of our time - then go straight to the source. You want to pray more this coming year? The Bible will tell you how to pray. You want to be kinder and more spiritually attuned? The Bible will show you how Jesus treated people and what spirituality looks like. You want to be a better Christian, or grow closer to God? Reading the Bible is probably the most tangible thing you can do that will return the greatest results.
Seriously, if you believe in God, and believe that he wants to communicate with us, how could you not read the Bible? The creator of the universe wrote down the things that he wants you to know in a book, and you're NOT going to read it? How could you then call yourself a Christian? What then do you mean when you say you believe in God, or want to be in communication with him?
I realize I sound pretty legalistic there - maybe it sounds like I'm saying "you're not a Christian unless you've read a certain amount of the Bible". But you know what? I think I can live with that. I think reading the Bible is that important. For the record, I'm not a legalist (Don't fall into legalism, it's bad - like, really bad), but I'm perfectly willing to bear some false accusations if it'll better emphasize how important it is to read the Bible. Again, for the record, it's not the reading of the Bible that makes you a Christian, but God's unconditional grace working through your faith in his Son Jesus Christ. But guess how I know that, or that legalism is wrong? That's right; by reading it in the Bible. And it would be a peculiar person indeed who did have that grace working through faith and yet did not think the Bible worth reading.
I've sometimes wondered if there is a simple formula to making life work out. Like if all you had to do was wake up at 7am each morning, or just run a mile every day, and everything will just come up roses. Needless to say, I haven't found anything like that. But, I do find that reading the Bible often - daily, if possible - comes closest to this nonexistent magical procedure.
Reading the Bible in a year is a popular New Year's resolution, one that I fully endorse. There are a number of things that makes this well-suited for a New Year's resolution: first, it seems challenging, but it's actually quite doable. The overall length of the Bible is no excuse to not start. The Bible is far shorter than many other book series (Harry Potter, A song of Ice and Fire, etc). It's typically about a thousand pages long. You might've read more while cramming for a final for a single class. If you really wanted to, you can probably get it all done in a very long weekend. If you want to tackle it daily, it only takes about ten minutes a day. Think of all that time you spend before you go to sleep, reading pointless internet drivel on your phone or tablet. You can easily spare ten minutes a day out of that time. In fact, if you're in bed and you haven't read your Bible today yet, stop reading this post. Pick up your Bible and read it instead. Believe me, it's a far better use of your time. Why are you still reading this?
Well, I suppose you've already read your Bible for today. So then - here's the second reason that reading the Bible in a year is well-suited for a new year's resolution: your progress is tangible. At any point in time, you can say, "I've read this much of the Bible". On any given day, you can say "I've done my Bible reading for today". Again, this should not fuel legalistic impulses, but being able to track your progress does give you a greater likelihood of keeping to your goal and completing your resolution.
Third, the benefit is immense. There is nothing like the timeless truths in the Bible to correct the follies of our attention-deficit culture. There is no medicine like a verse that you don't understand - or better still, disagree with - to cure us of our tendency to imagine God in our own image. And finally, how else will you get to know God? Where else will you go for a direct record of what God has actually said and done?
So, read your Bible. I hope you have a happy new year - one where you grow in your relationship with God, through a deeper communication with him and a more intimate knowledge of what he has said in his word.
You may next want to read:
Key principles in interpreting the Bible
Make the most of your time and your life. Number your days.
Another post, from the table of contents