Written by: Dr. Philip Nation
“2020 was the longest decade of my life.”
“Nope. Can’t hear you. You’re still on mute.”
“Hold on. I forgot my mask in the car. Again.”
“How is it that something called ‘murder hornets’ was the least thing to worry about during last year?”
These were all things that I said during the last months of 2020. If you’re like me, the start of a new year takes on special significance as we cross over into 2021. It’s a time that we can reset and look for a renewal of our spirit. To do so, I’m committing to reading, engaging, and learning from God’s Word—and I want to invite you to do the same. Let me offer you six questions to ask yourself, five reading plans to choose from, and four principles to use.
To properly understand a passage of Scripture, you need to ask the right questions. In my book Habits for Our Holiness, I outline a process that anyone can use to study the Word. You can boil it down to asking six key questions:
- God question: How does the passage reveal God’s character?
- Salvation question: How does the passage reveal God’s redemptive plan?
- Context question: How did the passage apply to the original hearers?
- Personal question: How does this truth affect my relationship with Christ?
- Sin question: In what ways do I rebel against the truth of this passage?
- Mission question: What is the impact of the passage on the church?
As you work through passages in your devotional life, use these questions to keep your thoughts God-centric as you explore His Word.
Five Reading Plans
Finding a way to read and study God’s Word will help you stay focused. Reading plans are plentiful, but you need to pick one that will work for you. Here are five that I find to be helpful:
- Old/New Testament: Each day throughout the entire year includes a passage from both the Old and New Testaments.
- 90-Days through the Bible: It is an intensive way to read but beneficial to get the whole storyline in mind as you study.
- 24 Weeks in the New Testament: A reading plan that walks through the entire New Testament in 24 weeks of daily readings.
- M’Cheyne Bible Reading Plan: The classic M’Cheyne plan—read the Old Testament, the New Testament, and Psalms or the Gospels every day.
- 365-Chronological Reading: Read the Bible in the chronological order in which its stories and events occurred.
As you consider how you’ll deepen your devotional life and understanding of the Bible, let me make a few suggestions:
- Remember the goal. The main reason for reading the Bible is to encounter God. The Scriptures are His self-revelation to us. Use “finishing the plan” as a goal but not the goal. Make your aim to become more intimate with God through engaging His Word.
- Plans are made for you and you are not made for the plans. Over the course of the year, you will likely have a smattering of days where the Bible reading plan goes unattended. It will be because of a blip of spiritual apathy and sinfulness. You’ll have an emergency that interrupts the whole of life. Events will occur where you need to abandon the plan for reading and studying some other portion of the Bible. Remember that the reading plan is a tool for you to use, not a master that decides your spiritual fate. Be faithful to God and His Word; not to a plan that someone wrote and posted online.
- Seek the whole counsel of God. Too many people hop, skip, and jump through topical readings about their favorite subjects. Finding a solid plan and sticking with it will allow you to get the full overview of God’s revelation and a deeper understanding of how it all works together.
- Pick a plan that will benefit you. There are no shortages of plans to use. The ones listed above are just a fraction of what you can find to use. The key is to use a plan that is well suited for you. If you are in need of mercy, stop and dwell in passages about it. The same goes for your need of deeper commitment to holiness, guidance for relationships, or any other issue in your life. God has been gracious to reveal Himself and His truth to us. Allow the Word to have its full effect on your life by keeping your focus on knowing God with the reading plan as a tool.
As you get rolling with 2021, I am praying that it will be a year of spiritual fruitfulness for you. Stay in God’s Word and we can all be assured that He will do great things in our lives.
Dr. Philip Nation is the VP/Publisher Thomas Nelson Bibles. He’s a pastor, professor, and author of numerous works including Habits for Our Holiness, Compelled: Living the Mission of God, and Pursuing Holiness: Applications from James. He and his wife Angie are the happy parents to a set of 20-something sons.