And the Word became flesh … We celebrate at this time of year that God, according to His faithful promises, sent His salvation into the world through the person of Jesus, the Christ. Our ears revel in the glorious words:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it … And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1–5, 14).
God’s Word continues to come through the Scriptures, the Word of God, as we read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest it. Jesus said, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples. You will know the truth and the truth will make you free” (John 8:31–32). And also, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life, and it is they that testify about me” (John 5:39).
Let’s do that. Let’s continue in His Word. Let’s search the Scriptures.
Does this capture your imagination? What would happen if thousands of us, tens of thousands of us read through the entire Bible in 2023? Would that change us? Would that draw us closer to Jesus? Would that make us clearer on God’s love, grace, mercy, wisdom? Would that give us something to talk about with our neighbors, friends, and relatives?
Do not receive this as some sort of command, a function of the Law. Receive it as an invitation, like when Jesus said, “Take and eat” (Matthew 26:26 NIV) or like when Ananias invited Saul, “Rise and be baptized washing away your sins” (Acts 22:16).
Consider these three items as, together, we build an ethic of Bible reading.
Always look for Jesus
First, always look for Jesus. The Bible is Christocentric—it centers around Jesus. Too often when we approach the Scriptures we start with questions like “What does this mean to me?” or “What is this saying about me?” Remember, the Bible is not about you; it is about Jesus. We should lead with the question, “What is this passage telling me about or helping me to understand about Jesus?”
For instance, when we read about Job, or Esther, or David when he slew Goliath, we should not first think about how those accounts compare to our lives, but rather how they compare to Jesus’. He went through horrific suffering and was restored. He came at just the right time to save His people. He stands in and rescues His brothers from death. Certainly, these accounts apply to us, but they point to Jesus.
Don’t stop starting
Second, don’t stop starting. Some of you reading this are thinking, “I tried that before, but I ended up quitting.” Somewhat like the advice given to smokers who want to quit—“Don’t quit quitting”—when it comes to reading through the Bible, don’t stop starting. “I started before but didn’t make it.” Well, start again.
Here are a few helps:
- Find a partner to encourage you.
- Find a reading schedule that alternates between Old Testament, New Testament, and Psalm passages.
- Set aside a consistent time of day.
- Worship weekly (the serendipitous connections to what you read at home that week will motivate you to continue your reading schedule).
Don’t be discouraged
Third, don’t be discouraged if you do not fully understand—or even agree with—everything that you read. Reading the Scriptures is an encounter with God; of course, you will not understand everything about Him. There will always be a hiddenness about Him this side of eternity. Keep in mind also that we are sinful and fallible; our mind will not be fully aligned with His. However, we look to His word to change our thinking—not the other way around. Reading the Bible and different difficult portions of it make us, like Jacob, wrestle with God. In the midst of the wrestling is blessing.
And then what? What if thousands of us successfully complete reading through the Bible in 2023? What next? Let’s do it again the next year. Each year we will see something we missed or were not ready to understand before. Each year we are at a different place in life and different passages will apply in a way they had not before. Each year we will gain more than an abundance of biblical truths; we will gain a more intimate relationship with Jesus and the life He has for us. He prayed, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3 NIV).
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