Every year around this time I write a blog encouraging people to read through the whole Bible in the coming year. I’ve been doing it since 2012 and I believe in the value of this discipline wholeheartedly.
But this year feels different.
It almost feels as though words like “encourage” and “commend” are entirely inadequate to a need of this urgency and immediacy. I think we are well past the time for “resolutions” and “good intentions”; I think we are at the place where a practice like this ought to be as obvious as the need for drawing breath.
I need this.
We all need this!
If you have any intention whatsoever of following Jesus Christ in this culture over the next 10 years then YOU NEED THIS.
You need it like a man who has been shot needs blood.
You need this like a woman lost in the desert needs water.
No one should have to convince you.
No one should have to encourage you.
After the last 22 months we have been through and given the changes and forces at work in this world, every true Spirit filled believer in Jesus Christ ought to be saying like David said:
“My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word!” (Psalm 119:25 ESV)
So this year I’m not encouraging you to do anything. You do what seems wise to you. But as for me, I will be reading through the whole Word of God in 2022. I will be doing it first thing in the morning. I will be reading, highlighting, praying and studying my way through the whole of this life-giving Book.
Let me tell you why.
1. Because I don’t trust myself
I want things I shouldn’t want; I believe things that are not true; I desire things that lead to death and destruction. As the Bible says:
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9 ESV)
If I were to follow my heart or trust my instincts in 2022 it would only lead to harm and confusion, so instead, I plan on reading, receiving and submitting to the unchanging Word of God. My Creator knows me better than I know myself. He sees the whole Board and he wants only what is best for me. He sees things I cannot see and he is not subject to the same corrupting influences that tug constantly at my heart and soul. Therefore, his Word will be the most authoritative voice in my life over the coming year.
2. Because the way that leads to life is hard to find
Jesus said a number of things that cause me great concern. He said:
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:13–14 ESV)
Later in that same chapter he said:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:21–23 ESV)
Putting that all together it sounds to me like many people who think they are walking the path that leads to eternal life are not. They sincerely believe that they are followers of Christ, but they are not. Somehow, they got walking on a road that leads to death.
I don’t want that to happen to me and therefore I will pay attention to the light and guidance of Holy Scripture.
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105 ESV)
If I am constantly reading the Bible – the whole Bible – then I should be able to notice when something in my faith system departs from the path of Holy Scripture. I should be able to see where my Christianity stops and my cultural beliefs and convictions begin. I need that, because the world is dark, the path is narrow, and few there are who find it.
3. Because I live among a people of unclean lips
When I was very young it felt to me like there was a lot of passive support for my Christian faith within the wider culture. I remember praying the Lord’s Prayer at school. I remember pledging to honour God, the Queen and my country every Wednesday night at Cub Scouts. I remember being taught about respect, charity, mercy and kindness through values education at school and through club sports. Those things didn’t make me a Christian, but in several subtle ways they supported and encouraged me in my faith.
That world, I fear, is gone forever.
Now I feel like the prophet Isaiah who confessed:
“Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5 ESV)
The morality that was shared and assumed by almost all of my unbelieving neighbours 25 years ago is now distasteful, suspect and in some cases, possibly illegal. I can expect absolutely no support in my journey of faith from the culture now and I must be aware of the influence that so many contrary influences can have on my belief and practice. As the Bible says:
Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” (1 Corinthians 15:33 ESV)
I worry that this process of moral and spiritual degradation might already be taking place within me. I probably wouldn’t even notice it while it was happening – and therefore, I am determined to LIVE in the Bible in 2022. I want that world to be my frame of reference. Like most people, I tend to compare myself to the average – but the average has changed in the outside world – and therefore I need to live more in the inside world. I need to make the world of the text my authoritative standard and norm.
4. Because I have many enemies
Jesus tells us to love our enemies, not to deny their existence. Of course, the Apostle Paul would have us remember that the ultimate adversary is not the person seeking your downfall but the spirit instigating the hatred behind the attack.
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12 ESV)
Regardless of who is in the foreground and who is in the background, I have learned over the last few years that my Christian life is not uncontested. There are many who would love to see me fall. There are many who would rejoice in my apostasy or moral failure. Many are the traps that have been laid; many are the pits that have been dug – but great is the wisdom at my disposal. David said:
“Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me.” (Psalm 119:98 ESV)
The Word of God is my best defense against the schemes of my enemy. Therefore, I will take refuge in the Scriptures in 2022 and in every year thereafter, should the Lord tarry.
5. Because I have been afflicted
The last 2 years have been hard. Many people are suffering from prolonged exposure to low grade stress. Friendships have been strained. Families have been divided. Tribal alliances have solidified. Wounds have been given and received.
None of this has been easy – but it will all have been worth it if it drives us back into the text. David was able to give thanks for his troubles:
“It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.” (Psalm 119:71 ESV)
People read the Bible better in seasons of stress and difficulty. They are less sure of themselves, more hungry, more aware of their own need.
Perhaps, one day, we might look back on these years and identify them with God’s kindness and loving concern. David came to that place in his own life. He said:
“I know, O LORD, that your rules are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.” (Psalm 119:75 ESV)
David saw God’s decision to visit affliction upon him as an act of his covenant faithfulness. He understood that his various difficulties had humbled him and served to nail his feet to the floor. They kept him on his knees and they kept him in the Word.
If it has that effect on the evangelical church in North America I will view it as a blessing.
Whether that happens to my wider community or not, I am determined that it would happen to me. As a youngest child I’ve often felt it wise to respond immediately to parental chastisement and therefore, I am resolved to be launched by this Providential affliction further in and farther up into strange new world of the Bible.
6. Because I hate every false way
We are just beginning to observe the fruit of our departure from God within the wider culture. There is a sense in which that may prove to be helpful. When apostasy and autonomy are considered in the abstract, they tend to hold forth a certain attraction. As a lifestyle however, they tend to underdeliver. As the fruits of our rebellion begin to ripen, I find myself identifying with David in Psalm 119:
“Therefore I consider all your precepts to be right; I hate every false way.” (Psalm 119:128 ESV)
The contrast between the way of God and the way of the world has never been more stark. All of that “two roads” teaching in the Bible really seems to resonate:
“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
2 but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.
3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
4 The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.” (Psalm 1:1–4 ESV)
As a culture we have chosen a path that leads to conflict, chaos and confusion.
The centre will not hold.
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.
Forgive me if I will not go along.
As for me, I will return to the old path and I will drink from the wells of my fathers.
7. Because in it I see Jesus
Lastly, and most significantly, I will read through the whole Bible in 2022 because in the Bible I see Jesus. Not the Jesus of my imagination, not the Jesus of post-war American culture, not the Jesus of post-modern moral relativism – but the CHRIST OF HOLY SCRIPTURE.
That’s the Jesus I need and he draws near to me in the pages of the Bible.
“Salvation is far from the wicked, for they do not seek your statutes.” (Psalm 119:155 ESV)
If you turn away from the Bible you turn away from the presence and the person of the Lord. Jesus taught the disciples to look for him in the pages of Holy Scripture. He said:
“These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” (Luke 24:44 ESV)
The Old Testament looked forward to Jesus and the New Testament looks back upon Jesus. He is the centre, the sum and the source of it all. If you are reading the Bible and seeing anything other than Jesus, you are reading it wrong. Jesus said:
“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me” (John 5:39 ESV)
I’ll be reading the Bible in 2022 because I need Jesus.
I need him as my Savior, my Teacher and my Lord.
And if you will forgive me for saying so, I believe that you need him too, so I would love it if you decided to come along.
Soli Deo Gloria,
Pastor Paul Carter
If you want to join me as I read verse by verse and chapter by chapter through the Bible you can do that by subscribing to the Into The Word podcast on iTunes, Spotify or wherever you find your podcasts. You can find the most recent episodes of the podcast at the TGC Canada website. To access the entire library of available episodes online see here. Watch for a brand new series walking through the Book of Ezra, releasing January 1st, 2022.
 Citing The Second Coming by W.B. Yeats.