I’m a bit cynical of New Year’s resolutions. I’m a master of broken resolutions. I’ve failed to exercise, eat healthier, and spend more time with the Lord. One thing I’ve learned about resolutions is that while they are filled with good intentions, they often have many unintended consequences.
One resolution that I see every year is people who wish to spend more time with God. They boldly make the resolution to read the Bible in a year. They open their favorite Bible app and select a plan that helps them keep track of their progress. The first day goes perfectly. The second day goes well. The third day is challenging but it gets done. Inevitably something goes horribly wrong at work or home and sometime within the first week or two, you miss a day.
That’s when the first unintended consequence shows itself. You feel guilty that you have missed a day of reading your Bible. You can’t shake the feeling of failure. You promise that you’ll read enough for two days the next day, which seems odd doesn’t it? You missed one day so now you have to read two days worth because somehow that will make up for it, right?
Setting a resolution to read the Bible in a year is problematic because of its reliance on performance based spirituality. This may sound odd, especially if you’ve spent a significant amount of time in the church. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told that mark of a mature believer is daily time in prayer and the Word. Because of this we encourage all to do these two things everyday.
Please do not misunderstand, I believe that these things are certainly characteristics of a mature disciple of Christ. However, daily prayer and Bible reading are not the way to maturity; they are only characteristics of those who are mature. When people make a resolution to read the Bible in a year, their goal isn’t to accomplish that goal, it’s to mature further in Christ.
So how does one become a mature disciple of Christ?
It’s, as Eugene Peterson would say, a long obedience in the same direction. Yet, how we view obedience is often something different than what it should be. True biblical obedience is an application of trust in Christ. In the New Testament, there are a lot of scriptures about believing or having faith in Christ. The Greek word for believing or having faith is pistis or a slight variation of it. While this does in fact mean belief or faith; its meaning is something that is different than how we typically think of the terms. In reality, biblical belief or faith is rooted in trust.
Trust in Christ propels us toward prolonged obedience to Christ’s commands — none of which is to read the Bible in a year. A better resolution would be to trust in Christ more in the coming year. This will certainly include reading the Bible but also includes prayer, reading other books, and having intentional Christ-centered conversations with other disciples. Yet these things are only characteristics, they’re not the full path.
Consider Paul’s words in Colossians 3:1-17:
“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
Trust in Christ displayed through obedience is the mark of a mature disciple of Christ. Do not resolve to perform a daily ritual, you’ll likely fail. Instead, resolve to trust Christ more fully this year. You’ll feel less performance anxiety and more freedom to enjoy Christ’s goodness.
Perhaps, that first step in trusting him further is reading His Word, in which case I’d recommend starting with one of the four gospels to remind you of the beauty of Jesus. However, your first step may be turning from sin in your life, praying, reading a book, or asking someone in your life to walk beside you as a guide.
Here are a few other resources you may want to consider:
Book: Renovation of the Heart
Resource: HEAR Bible Study Method
Kevin Fontenot is the pastor of City Church Denton, a church plant in Denton, Texas.