My former Pastor, Rev. Danny Hyde, recently said in an interview in Christian Renewal magazine to use everything twice (he learned this himself from Joel Beeke). This is how he has pumped out so many books in the last four years. With this advice on my mind I thought I would post something on my blog that I wrote in response to a parishioner who asked me recently for advice on daily Bible reading. Because it is a fairly lengthy response, I’ll break it up into two parts: preliminary thoughts and practical advice.
Part 1: Preliminary Thoughts on Daily Bible Reading:
Now that I have time, let’s tackle your question about suggestions for daily Bible reading. To begin with this is something that is a daily battle for all Christians. Some struggle just to have some daily time in God’s Word to begin with. Others who are consistent at reading it every day battle with their own sins of doing it simply as a routine that never really impacts their faith and the way they live. In other words they just read it, without meditating on it and without responding in thankful obedience. The words of James come to mind:
James 1:22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
In other words, better to read God’s Word once a week on the Lord’s Day, meditating deeply on it and being refreshed by God’s grace so that it issues forth in good works done in gratitude than to read it every single day of the year and never be moved by God’s Word. The goal of reading God’s Word is to receive God’s grace through faith and to be transformed more into the image of Christ by the Spirit.
And as you mention, the ideal is that we are drawn into God’s Word because we want to. However, there are times when we don’t want to read God’s Word but we do it anyway knowing that God has promised to meet us in his Word. I have experienced many times where I am not in the mood to read God’s Word or lead my family in reading God’s Word, and yet I do it anyway in faith knowing that God will change my heart as I fulfill my calling as a Christian and as a husband/father. i.e. Don’t always wait until you feel like it. Love is more than an emotion, even love for God. Emotions may come before during, or after. And so, pray that God would give you the desire, and read God’s Word even when you don’t feel like it, your heart might be changed in the process.
I would also recommend that you continue to attend to the means of grace on Sunday’s. It has been an encouragement to see you and your family in the service. God in his wisdom and grace has given us a day that is to be set apart for rest, worship and fellowship with God’s people. It is a special day that he has promised to feed his flock through his ministers (Christ’s gift to the church; Eph. 4:11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ). And the reason we have two services in Reformed churches is because we believe that two meals are better than one.
There is also something special about receiving God’s Word through preaching. This is why the New Testament emphasizes preaching so much (Rom. 10:14-17; 1Cor. 1:21-23; 2Tim. 4:2; et. al.). We need someone outside of ourselves to draw us out of our natural tendency to look within ourselves for a righteousness and strength of our own. We need someone to point us to Jesus Christ and his righteous life and death in our place received by faith alone and to call us to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit becoming who we already are in Him. This is why I myself try to listen to audio sermons from other preachers and greatly value the times that I get a break to sit under another minister’s preaching. Here is how the Westminster Larger Catechism beautifully puts it:
Q. 155. How is the word made effectual to salvation?
A. The Spirit of God maketh the reading, but especially the preaching of the word, an effectual means of enlightening, convincing, and humbling sinners; of driving them out of themselves, and drawing them unto Christ; of conforming them to his image, and subduing them to his will; of strengthening them against temptations and corruptions; or building them up in grace, and establishing their hearts in holiness and comfort through faith unto salvation.
So that said, yes, I want to encourage people to read their Bible daily, but never to the neglect of the preached Word on the Lord’s Day. Remember that before the invention of the printing press in the 1500’s hardly anyone had a Bible on their shelf except ministers and a few wealthy people who could afford it. We often forget this and make daily Bible reading the standard for whether or not one is a mature Christian or even a Christian at all, when for the majority of the church’s history people didn’t even have a Bible to read daily (having to rely on their minister and memory instead). That said it is a great privilege to have the Bible in our own language on our shelf, and many died for that cause. It shouldn’t be taken for granted. It is something to be treasured. I simply mention this fact to relieve some of the burden of guilt that people have come under from the “quiet time” movement that I grew up with.
So I do want to encourage you and every Christian to read their Bible daily. But I want it to be done motivated by gratitude and not guilt. Remember that Christ already bore our guilt. Christ is the blessed man of Psalm 1 whose delight is in the law (instruction) of the LORD, and on his law (instruction) he meditates day and night. This is who we are already in Christ and God accepts us because of Him. Now how can we become more like our Savior and Lord as we behold his glory and the Spirit transforms us more into his image? To Be Continued. . .