The Gospel Coalition

When it comes to daily (or not-so-daily) Bible reading, January 1 can be a welcome arrival. A new year signals a new start. You're motivated to freshly commit to what you know is of indispensable importance: the Word of God.

Yet this isn't the first time you've felt this way. You were entertaining pretty similar thoughts 365 days ago. And 365 days before that. And 365 days . . . you know how it goes.

So what's going to make 2013 different? What, under God, will keep you plodding along in April this year when staying power has generally vanished in Aprils of yore? From one stumbling pilgrim to another, here are five suggestions for what not to do in 2013.

1. Don't Overextend 


"Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars!"

This hackneyed high school yearbook quote is bad advice for most things, Bible reading plans not excepted. If you shoot for and miss the "moon" of six chapters a day, you won't quietly land among the "stars" of three. You'll just be lost in space.

It's better to read one chapter a day, every day, than four a day, every now and then. Moreover, the value of meditation cannot be overstressed. Meditation isn't spiritualized daydreaming; it's riveted reflection on revelation. Read less, if you must, to meditate more. It's easy to encounter a torrent of God's truth, but without absorption---and application---you will be little better for the experience.

As Thomas White once said, "It is better to hear one sermon only and meditate on that, than to hear two sermons and meditate on neither." I think that's pretty sage advice for Scripture reading, too.

2. Don't Do It Alone


When it comes to Bible reading consistency, a solo sport mentality can be lethal. Surely that's why many run out of gas; they feel like they're running alone. To forestall the dangers of isolation, then, invite one or two others to join you in 2013. Set goals, make a commitment, and hold one another accountable. Turn your personal Scripture reading into a team effort, a community project.

A daily devotional, too, can function as a helpful companion and guide. D. A. Carson's For the Love of God (Volume 1Volume 2) and Nancy Guthrie's Discovering Jesus in the Old Testament are two excellent options.

3. Don't Just Do It Whenever


Every morning we awaken to a fresh deluge of information. We've now reached the point where, I've heard it said, an average weekday edition of The New York Times contains more information than Jonathan Edwards encountered in his entire lifetime. I don't know if that's true, but it sure makes me think.

It is imperative, then, to set a specific time each day when you will get alone with God. Even if it's a modest window, guard it with your life. Explain your goal to those closest to you, and invite their help. Otherwise, the tyranny of the urgent will continue to rear its unappeasable head. What is urgent will fast displace what is important, and what is good will supplant what is best.

If your basic game plan is to read your Bible whenever, chances are you'll read it never. And if you don't control your schedule, your schedule will control you. It's happened to me more times than I care to admit.

4. Don't Live as if Paul Lied


Did you know Leviticus and Chronicles and Obadiah were written to encourage you? That's what Paul believed, anyway: "For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope" (Rom. 15:4; cf. 1 Cor. 9:10; 10:6, 11; 2 Tim. 3:16).

What a sweeping word! Paul is going so far as to claim the entirety of the Old Testament is for you---to instruct you, to encourage you, to help you endure, and to give you hope.

Few of you will conclude Paul is simply mistaken here. Good evangelicals, after all, are happy to take inspired apostles at their word. But does our approach to our Bibles tell a different story? Do we act as if Numbers or Kings or Nahum has the power to infuse our lives with help and hope?

Whenever you open your Bible, labor to believe that God has something here to say to me. Whatever I encounter in his Word was written with me, his cherished child, in view. So pursue God's graces on the pages of Scripture this year. Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow everywhere await.

5. Don't Turn a Means of Grace into a Means of Merit


Your Father's love for you doesn't rise and fall with your quiet times. If you are united to Jesus by faith, the verdict is out, and the court is dismissed. You're as accepted and embraced as the Son himself. Period.

To be sure, you'll desire to hear and follow his voice if you're truly one of his sheep (John 10:1-30; cf. 8:47; 18:37). Not always and not perfectly, of course, but sincerely and increasingly.

So as another year dawns, commit yourself anew to becoming a man or woman of the Word. But don't overextend, do it alone, just do it whenever, live as if Paul lied, or treat means of grace like means of merit.

Your Bible is one of God's chief gifts to you in 2013. Open, read, ruminate, and obey. May you be ever transformed into the image of our incarnate King, and may he alone receive the acclaim.


Comments:

where are your roots? | matthewjmcdermott

November 7, 2013 at 05:15 PM

[…] how not to read the bible […]

[...] How Not to Read Your Bible in 2013 Autor: Matt Smethurst Fonte: The Gospel Coalition When it comes to daily (or not-so-daily) Bible [...]

Catch of the day, March 6, 2014 | re:gen

March 5, 2014 at 11:49 PM

[…] How Not to Read Your Bible in 2013 What, under God, will keep you plodding along in April this year when staying power has generally vanished in Aprils of yore? […]

Catch of the day, January 7, 2013 | re:gen

March 4, 2014 at 11:04 PM

[…] How Not to Read Your Bible in 2013 What, under God, will keep you plodding along in April this year when staying power has generally vanished in Aprils of yore? […]

[...] por Ju Néris | Extraído do iPródigo.com | Original aqui Curtir isso:Curtir [...]

Bibellese im neuen Jahr | Christus allein

January 9, 2013 at 09:47 AM

[...] Ich auf jeden Fall nicht. Darum bin ich für fünf Anregungen von Matt Smethurst dankbar, die er über seinen Blog veröffentlicht hat. Ich habe seine Vorschläge auszugsweise (und freizügig) übersetzt:  Wenn wir auf unsere [...]

[…] This link has some helpful advice on “How not to read your Bible”which is quite encouraging. […]

[...] http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2012/12/30/how-not-to-read-your-bible-in-2013/ [...]

[...] for The Gospel Coalition’s blog. He kicked off the year with a blog post titled, “How Not to Read Your Bible in 2013.” I’ll be sharing more thoughts from this article, but here’s the first point to [...]

ralph scott allen

January 8, 2013 at 05:34 AM

very good advice...
In the Philippine Island of Mindanao its not easy to find a person willing to be your reading partner..food for thought which is makeing me search my memory to locate the nearest sencere Christian..
thanks again
r s allen

Craver-Vii

January 7, 2013 at 10:03 AM

Good words of encouragement here. I happen to think that overextending is okay once in a while. Undoubtedly, it is good to take things slowly and soak up the meaning of the texts, but I have found riches in those times that I just didn't feel like reading, but forced myself to honor a commitment. A lazy person such as myself can benefit from pushing to finish reading X amount at a time.

Again, slow and meditative is best, but tackling big chunks is better than skipping it altogether, don't you think?

fredder

January 7, 2013 at 07:57 AM

right on, brother!

[...] You can read the rest of the article here. [...]

Matt Smethurst

January 7, 2013 at 04:34 PM

Craver-Vii,

"Slow and meditative is best, but tackling big chunks is better than skipping it altogether, don't you think?"

Yes, reading the Bible is always better than not reading it! And there are unique benefits to be gleaned from occasionally reading large chunks at once. Not only were many biblical books written to be heard/read in one "sitting," but there are things we'll see and learn from 10,000 feet that we'll miss if we always remain at ground level.

Blessings in Christ,
Matt

Anar

January 7, 2013 at 03:46 PM

I don't really like Bible reading plans especially for us in the American culture context. I already struggle with idolizing structure too much. Manmade structure is not a prerequisite for instruction from God.

Laudable Linkage « Stray Thoughts

January 5, 2013 at 11:01 AM

[...] How Not To Read Your Bible in 2013. I’d disagree with the part of not reading it alone: I get much more out of it that way, but for some reading it with others might be helpful. [...]

[...] 3. Matt Smethurst is an Associate Editor for the Gospel Coalition and writes an article entitled “How Not To Read Your Bible in 2013.” [...]

[...] importance: the Word of God. Yet this isn’t the first time you’ve felt this way. [READ MORE] Sorrowful Yet Always Rejoicing | John Piper John Piper’s last sermon at Bethlehem Baptist [...]

[...] How Not to Read Your Bible in 2013 - 5. Don’t Turn a Means of Grace into a Means of Merit.  Your Father’s love for you doesn’t rise and fall with your quiet times. If you are united to Jesus by faith, the verdict is out, and the court is dismissed. You’re as accepted and embraced as the Son himself. Period. - Matt Smethurst [...]

Latest Links | blog of dan

January 4, 2013 at 04:01 AM

[...] How Not to Read Your Bible in 2013 [...]

How Not to Read Your Bible in 2013 | male2Man

January 3, 2013 at 10:49 AM

[...] How Not to Read Your Bible in 2013. Share this:TwitterFacebookEmailPrintLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. Tags: Bible, Discipleship, Discipline, Reading [...]

[...] How NOT to Read Your Bible in 2013 by Matt Smethurst : This article features five practical tips for success. [...]

[...] How Not to Read Your Bible in 2013 by Matt Smethurst  [...]

[...] Andrew Jacobson on January 3, 2013 I found this post by Matt Smethurst to be very wise counsel when it comes to approaching the general practice of Bible [...]

[...] first of all, consider these wise words on how not to read your Bible in [...]

Make This Your 2013 Resolution » Dianne Jago

January 3, 2013 at 04:41 PM

[...] I was reading an article on one of my favorite Christian blogs, Gospel Coalition, about how not to read your Bible in 2013. One of the reasons people fall away from Bible reading is because they don’t have a plan. [...]

[...] How Not to Read Your Bible in 2013- A few great tips on how to avoid a few pitfalls that can derail your Bible reading in the new year. [...]

[...] How Not to Read Your Bible in 2013 Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. [...]

[...] How Not to Read Your Bible in 2013 [...]

[…] How Not to Read Your Bible :: If digging into the Word is something you want to do more this year, we’re cheering you on. But be realistic and remember that you are loved by the Father regardless of how well you perform. […]

Mere Links 01.02.13 - Mere Comments

January 2, 2013 at 10:00 AM

[...] How Not to Read Your Bible in 2013 Matt Smethurst, The Gospel Coalition From one stumbling pilgrim to another, here are five suggestions for what not to do in 2013. [...]

News of Note | Santa Monica Church Blog

January 2, 2013 at 09:58 AM

[...] “How Not to Read Your Bible in 2013″ – Heard a lot of the wise counsel being given about starting a Bible reading plan for the new [...]

[...] http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2012/12/30/how-not-to-read-your-bible-in-2013/ Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. ← Labor With Me in Prayer [...]

[...] there is a blog post on the Gospel Coalition site where Matt Smethurst discusses a number of traps to avoid in your Bible reading this [...]

Pete Gross

January 2, 2013 at 07:50 PM

While I agree that a chapter a day is better than quitting and reading nothing. Failure to consider the context in our meditation of a small portion is where many fail to interpret a given passage correctly. So I would say shoot for four or five chapters a day and don't get discouraged when you only have time for one. My father began reading the Bible through in a year when I was a small child. He's done so almost every year since (over 35 times). This requires about four chapters a day. Although He is no theologian, he has grown tremendously in his walk with Christ and in his sanctification, and I think he understands the heart of God more than many theologians. So be brave and read large portions over and over again!

[...] Nice add to the conversation: How Not to Read Your Bible in 2013 [...]

[...] In passing, here are some advice about how not to read your Bible: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2012/12/30/how-not-to-read-your-bible-in-2013/ [...]

[...] How NOT to read your Bible this year. [...]

[...] UK Blog linked to a post on five ways not to read the Bible and then added a sixth.. Don’t read the Bible as if it was [...]

David Morgan

January 14, 2013 at 06:46 PM

I like your web site and blog posts a lot, they are very inspiring and informative. Thank you for providing good articles.

Just wanted to say that reading the Bible is so very important for me. Finding time to spend in the Word of God is probable the best use of my time. I also like the Audio Bible and listen to that when I am driving. Found that to be a great time saver.

Problem is that people really don't seem to have enough time to read or listen to the Bible as much as they would like to in today's hectic pace.

However, I try to put time aside everyday to read my Bible, If I don’t then I just feel that my day is not complete and I'm not fulfilled. Some people are dedicated to working out, playing golf, and many other things they do all the time.

For me it’s reading my Bible and I would advise the same for everyone. It’s a source of joy and inspiration as well as comfort and encouragement.

God Bless you in your ministry

David Morgan

[...] you look at your  daily Bible reading plan which you were aspiring to accomplish.  Here’s a great post by Matt Smethurst who shares five practices you want to avoid as you get going or keep going in the [...]

[...] be sharing a few reflections from a Gospel Coalition blog post by Matt Smethurst titled, “How Not to Read Your Bible in 2013” (or any year, I might [...]

Hugh

January 13, 2013 at 01:59 AM

It is a belief in the Bible, the fruits of deep meditation, which has served me as the guide of my moral and literary life. I have found it a capital safely invested and richly productive of interest.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Lire la Bible en 2013 « Christ au Centre

January 1, 2013 at 11:47 AM

[...] de cette nouvelle année, laissez-moi reproduire ici cinq conseils proposés par un des blog de Gospel [...]

[...] “How Not to Read Your Bible in 2013″, by Matt Smethurst [...]

[...] Chronological Reading Plan that will get you through all of God’s word in 1 year.  Here are some additional tips and helpful reminders to get you started and keep you going as you dig in. If you decide to try it out, let me know so I [...]

Joshua Waulk

January 1, 2013 at 11:30 AM

Point #4, "Don't live as if Paul lied", is a dagger to my unbelieving heart. As for being intentional in our devotional time, I couldn't agree more. Anything less is to give up our time with God to the "tyranny of the urgent."

reading the Bible in 2013

January 1, 2013 at 10:40 AM

[...] we suggest you read the article How Not to Read Your Bible in 2013. The article offers five tips with which we heartily agree. In fact several of them are key to our [...]

[...] Great short article at: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2012/12/30/how-not-to-read-your-bible-in-2013/ [...]

[...] How Not to Read Your Bible in 2013 | The Gospel Coalition Blog [...]

[...] http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2012/12/30/how-not-to-read-your-bible-in-2013/ [...]

[...] Here is a good post from Matt Smethurst on how to not read your bible this year. [...]

[...] recent article by the Gospel Coalition offers five highly focused and practical tips toward developing one’s devotional habits.  If [...]

Gail Brock

January 1, 2013 at 04:20 PM

The time Spent each Day Studying the Word of God, in Woship and in prayer is to be to us a Special Treat...Where we actually have access through Jesus Christ to the Throne of God for Forgiveness, Petitions and Praise...Never think of the Time of Devotion as Something we must do...It is a Special Priviledge to those who have a Personal Relationship with Jesus Christ.

[...] I would also recommend that you read this post on “How Not to Read Your Bible in 2013″ (emphasis mine). I have included the five [...]

[...] assure you, this is the type of prayer that the Lord wants to answer.  For more on this, read this post called How Not to Read Your Bible in 2013, or check out my Elevate handout on the subject of Bible [...]

Mike Heyns

December 31, 2013 at 09:41 AM

This was on facebook and sent from my pastor. Thought it was very good for us to read. Love, Mary

How Not to Read Your Bible in 2013

December 31, 2012 at 11:02 PM

[...] Read More [...]

Michael Glodo

December 31, 2012 at 10:50 AM

Let me add an encouragement to read your Bible with the church. It's tremendously helpful when the church read the Bible together and in common, such as through the lectio continue reading in worship or prescribed schedule for small groups and individuals. But most importantly, it is the preaching of the Word which the Spirit makes a "special" a means of grace (WSC 89), along with the teaching of someone lawfully ordained (qualified) to do so. That is where the means of personal profitable Bible reading is acquired.

Chris

December 31, 2012 at 10:49 AM

6. Don't naively assume that we can take everything at face value and think that it applies directly to our lives because we think it was written to us. The Bible means what it meant. We should ask ourselves what the Bible was saying to the people it was written to thousands of years ago, understanding the context that it was written in and the message that was intended at the time of the writing. We don't get to look at it today and assume it means something different than its intent. Don't get wrapped up in yourself when you read the Bible. It's not about us. It's about God, so let's keep it that way.

[...] into what it will take to read the Bible obediently and effectively in 2013. In his blog post, How Not To Read Your Bible In 2013, Smethurst gives 5 suggestions of what not to do when reading the Bible in this New Year: 1.   [...]

Israel Sanchez

December 31, 2012 at 08:49 AM

Thanks for the practical advice and the encouraging words. I dedicate a chapter of my new book talking about the importance and inerrancy of the Bible, something that our culture needs to hear more.

How NOT to read your Bible

December 31, 2012 at 08:02 AM

[...] As you consider what your time with God will look like in 2013, Matt Smethurst of The Gospel Coalition has some sage advice about how NOT to read your Bible. [...]

[...] note: Matt Smethurst has written an excellent article on “How to not Read Your Bible this Year.” It will give you a good foundation to begin any of these bible reading [...]

Dave

December 31, 2012 at 07:28 AM

Thanks for sharing, Matt. We've found Carson's books (mentioned in your article) very helpful as a family to "staying on track." We have also found mixing in an audio Bible very useful. (The NLT is, in my opinion, a particularly very good version to listen to.)

One caveat on your point "Don't Live as if Paul Lied." Let's also acknowledge that, in general, it can be much more difficult to engage meditatively with many portions of the OT. Otherwise, people may despair, "What am I missing?" How many have enthusiastically started in Genesis only to get bogged down and discouraged when they hit the seemingly irrelevant minutiae of, say, the Levitical regulations, or the detailed genealogical history of the Chronicles? Read it all we must, but that doesn't mean we must completely flatten it--we also acknowledge that, this side of the cross, we have the final and clearer revelation of the shadows and types of the former.

[...] How Not to Read Your Bible -When it comes to daily (or not-so-daily) Bible reading, January 1 can be a welcome arrival. A new year signals a new start. You’re motivated to freshly commit to what you know is of indispensable importance: the Word of God. [...]

Riley Mac Byers

December 31, 2012 at 06:08 AM

Thanks bro!

[...] Great thoughts about reading the bible through found here: How Not to Read Your Bible in 2013. [...]

Kevin Subra

December 31, 2012 at 04:41 PM

Good words on the Good Word. I encourage people to do the same, reading at least one chapter daily. I do encourage people at least regularly to read through the entire Bible in a year, as it adds a perspective that does not come from 1189 days of reading. Reading through the Word in bits on a daily basis is the important thing though. Thanks!

theoldadam

December 31, 2012 at 02:53 PM

Great post!

Don't read your Bible as a 'how to' book for Christian progression. (that is Roman Catholicism)

Read it for what it is. A story of death (dying to the old) and new life, in Christ, and His forgiveness of sins for the ungodly (you and me).

Thanks. Happy New You!

[...] Matt Smethurst: [...]

Abram

December 31, 2012 at 01:41 PM

If anyone wants to join us (per #2 above), in early December (with the start of Advent) more than 150 of us joined a group to read through the Greek version of Isaiah in a year. Not too late to join if you're willing to catch up (about five verses every weekday). More here:

http://abramkj.wordpress.com/2012/12/01/greek-isaiah-in-a-year-the-reading-plan-free-online-lxx-texts-and-more-resources/

Wesley

December 30, 2012 at 11:52 PM

Great post. Thanks for sharing this. I've found myself that i can do the solo daily effort with much joy but i also make additional times to read with my wife and also my kids so maybe that makes it the same? Still, great thoughts and right up my alley as a lover of this precious book.

[…] for the flip side, reach Matt Smethurt’s post at The Gospel Coalition How Not to Read Your Bible. His […]

[…] for the flip side, reach Matt Smethurt’s post at The Gospel Coalition How Not to Read Your Bible in 2013. His […]

[...] Tips & Tricks :: We all know how hard it is to make a new habit stick. Check out this blog post for 5 helpful ideas to keep you on track. Help me! [...]