When I read the book of Revelations, I’m nearly overwhelmed by its apocalyptic language. In fact, this last time through, all I could hear was a booming composition similar to the Inception soundtrack in my head - the part where all of the buildings are falling to pieces in DiCaprio’s limbo - you know what I’m talking about?
I just finished M’Cheyne’s One Year Bible reading plan, which takes the reader once through the Old Testament, twice through the NT, over the course of a year. It has been a year of growth, conviction, and sharpening. I can still remember the day that I started it: sitting on a patio swing in North Carolina, feeling downright condemned, frankly, that I had never read through the entire Bible before. Oh, I’d read the majority of it, but I really couldn’t believe that I had been a Christian my entire life without having ever systematically read the scriptures on which my faith was based. At the end of this first, completed time through, I am overjoyed at the kindness of my Father, and astounded to see and experience the entirety of the scriptures pointing to Jesus, the hero of the story.
I am writing this that those of you who care to may experience that same joy, and to implore you to make consistent, disciplined Bible reading a part of your everyday life.
I have come to see that there is a direct correlation between the increase of sin in my life and the lessened investment of my time into the Word. And, on the other hand, there is a decrease of sin in my life where Bible reading is consistent.
I guess I started thinking a lot about the practical outworking of systematic reading this year at Ichthus Festival during the conversations that I had with multiple guys who felt hopelessly addicted and condemned by their pornography addictions. All of their efforts had been religiously focused on trying harder and being better and having more accountability to more guys that are in the exact same boat, which is a downward spiral straight to accomplishing nothing at all, save self-condemnation. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that accountability is helpful and necessary and biblical, and I will always direct men struggling with pornography to XXXChurch.com, an organization which I am privileged to work with, which provides some of the most exemplary accountability and filtering software I’ve ever come across, and which I have used for years in my own battle against the clutches of pornography.
However… my prayer for them, and for myself, with any sin, is not that I would be better and try harder and become a more moral man, but that the Holy Spirit would change my very desires, and that he would become the single most desirable thing in my life, my deepest joy, my greatest longing - which will be the ultimate abolishment of any addictive stronghold. Jesus never invited us unto himself so that he could help us manage our sin - he invited us to become new creations.
So, at the very core of even the most successful accountability partners should be a heart for Christ’s increase which is birthed from the grace of a Father who initiates relationship and pursues sanctification for us, otherwise we will cultivate prideful self-sufficiency in seasons of abstinence, and the pits of religious self-condemnation when we stumble.
The question then becomes: how does Christ become most desirable? To get back to the point of this post, I am convinced that deliberate time in the word of God has made me fall more madly in love with my Maker, and into deeper relationship with my Savior, and more aware of the prodding of the Holy Spirit’s voice of conviction, and of compassion, and of refinement than ever before.
Of course, we as humans can make even the most beneficial of things into religious tasks and oppressors, and quite a few people have misinterpreted my advice as a sort of Bible-reading legalism, which, unfortunately, is probably prone to happen all too easily without prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit.
So pray! This is definitely not a call to remove spontaneous scripture reading from your life! But as R. Kent Hughes said: “You can never have a Christian mind without reading the Scriptures regularly because you cannot be profoundly influenced by that which you do not know.” Do you desire change? For the men like those whom I talked to about sexual sin, the common yearning is to overcome sin and rediscover the closeness to Christ that their vice strips from them. King David new the depths of sexual sin, as well as the transformative power of God’s word: “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” And, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.”
The Bible is amazing because God has chosen it as his main means of communicating with us, and his main instruction on how we are to communicate with him, for him, and through him. We have got to be in the word so that we can rightly pray. I will admit that, at time, the folly I find myself in is that I am so interested in learning that I neglect prayer and, as John Piper has written: “Study without prayer is pride. Prayer without study is presumption.” I need to pray, and I believe all of us should, that the Holy Spirit would guide us in consistency without legalism, into discernment without judgementalism, and into the practical outworking of our transformation that is visible and in accordance with right, Godly conduct without pride.
“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” We must know the word to know what to preach from the word.
Today, my wife and I are starting up another year. And here’s where the call to action comes in:
come along on the journey with us.
Countless people have gone to great lengths to make the Bible available to us in our technological world. Brandi and I use an application available on every smartphone market that I know of called “Bible” - it is a YouVersion (http://www.youversion.com) application, and you can find hundreds of plans, translations, studies, devotions, etc., right on your phone.
Here is the link to the “Plans” page: http://www.youversion.com/reading-plans/all
Brandi and I just began the “ESV Study Bible” plan, and will have completed it on July 31 of next year. If you want to, you can even “follow” someone’s plan on your phone or online via YouVersion if you want invite a friend along, or keep track (keep accountable - haha) of one another’s progress.
Commit yourselves to it, because “all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” If we claim to love Christ, and his word is the his love letter to us, should we not pour ourselves into the revealed will of God for the sake of our love, let alone the benefits he promises in return?
“… Train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.” - 1 Timothy 4:7-10