Merry Christmas! This is the time of year that many of us think about starting a Bible reading plan. Here are some important principles to keep in mind:

The Word of God is a means of grace. We need God’s grace, and one means by which God sends that grace is through His Word – as we set our hearts to read it, do it, and tell others about it. This is why the “good hand of the Lord” is “on” Ezra, in Ezra 7:9-10. He “set his heart” on the Word. That’s what we want and need: the “good hand of the Lord” upon us. So let’s set our hearts on His Word.

The Word of God is therefore a means of joy and glory. Our aim is His glory, which means our aim is our joy in God. Yes, there’s discipline involved, but the discipline required is not the end. Joy is.

Plan for what you want. Find a Bible reading plan, that will take you through the whole Bible. Personally, I follow the M’Cheyne plan, but cut it in half (see why below).

Let your execution of the plan be shaped by the gospel. Many of us fail in the execution, because the gospel of the Bible does not shape our reading of the Bible. A “law” shapes us instead: that I have to read XX chapters per day, to be “good”, “right”, etc.

But the gospel of God’s grace says, you are already justified, whether you read your Bible today or not. You are no less “in” Christ when your devotions are good, than when they are bad, or non-existent.

Yet Bible reading does matter greatly, for whether we enjoy what we have in Christ.

So the gospel should shape our Bible reading, in three ways:

  1. With renewed energy, to consume the Word this coming year. Because the pressure’s off. We’re not earning something here; we’re enjoying.
  2. With restful freedom, to give ourselves permission to NOT go back and “catch up”, when we miss a day. If you want to, do it. But we can also trust God to show us yesterday’s truth some other way.
  3. With earthy realism, for what I’m capable of in the new year. For me, that’s two chapters a day, which is a two-year plan. Often I only get in one chapter, because I’m “soaking” in what I’m reading. Less often but sometimes, it’s none.

The goal is joy, which requires humble, consistent listening to God, through His Word.