I have an annual joke that gets less funny every year. I wait for someone to ask me what my New Year’s resolution is, and then I say, “To not make promises I can’t keep.” Actually, that joke was never funny. I should resolve to retire it.
It was probably just an attempt to deflect the question. If I make a joke, then I might be able to get out of trying to be better this year. It’s supposed to be a light-hearted way of saying, “I’m still a sinner, and I can’t fix that, so why bother?” But that’s a really bad way of thinking. It’s a misuse of good doctrine. Good habits are still good, even if our fallen natures remain corrupted.
Or we might say, “I’m saved by grace. I don’t make resolutions because my good works won’t save me anyway.” This is another misuse of good doctrine. Of course we are saved by grace, but that doesn’t make good works bad. Salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ is the main thing, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only thing. Good works are good, and good habits are good. That’s why we call them “good.” We just don’t measure our standing before God by them.
The New Year is as good a time as any to try to do something better. Christians, of all people, should be into New Year’s resolutions. They might be the same resolutions as the rest of the world: eat better, exercise more, learn a foreign language, etc. Or they might have to do with Christian piety: faithfully attend worship, start going to Sunday school (we have it for adults too), practice family devotions, sin less, etc.
Any and all of these are good, but I want to suggest one specific resolution to you for the New Year: read the Bible. In fact, I’d like to do this together as a congregation this year. Maybe you’ve done it before. Maybe you’ve tried and failed. Maybe you’ll fail again. Reading half the Bible (or even a few chapters) is better than not reading any of it. The Bible is the history of what God has done to save us from our sins. It is, by its very nature, the greatest story ever.
Reading the Bible can be hard, and I can’t really say or do anything to change that, but I can give you a few things that will help:
- We’ll read it together, all on the same plan. A typical day includes a couple chapters from the Old Testament, one from the New Testament, and sometimes a reading from Psalms or Proverbs. Click here to see the plan. We all read at different speeds, but you can listen to the readings in about fifteen minutes a day.
- Come to midweek Bible study (Tuesdays at 7pm). We’ll discuss the readings from the previous week. If you have questions, this is a great time to get them answered. If you fell behind, this is a great way to get caught up with a brief summary.
- It’s probably not a sin to skip or skim the genealogies. The names are important to the history of the Bible, but until you figure out who some of the people are, it won’t make much sense to you.
- It’s also not a sin to just do the New Testament readings. If you don’t think you’ll succeed with the whole thing, it’s better to do part of it than none of it.
- When you get to short books, like some of the Minor Prophets or the letters in the New Testament, instead of reading one or two chapters a day like the plan suggests, just read the whole thing in one sitting. Many of these books were intended to be read in one sitting. It will feel good to read an entire book.
- Don’t try too hard to apply what you read to your life. In most cases the Bible applies itself. For example, when it says, “You shall not murder” (Ex. 20:13), the application is what it says. When it says, “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10), the application is simply that Jesus came to seek and to save you. And when it says, “Samuel hacked Agag to pieces” (1 Sam. 15:33), it really just means that Samuel hacked Agag to pieces. In short, read the Bible the same way you read any book. Let it speak for itself.
The Bible is an extraordinary book. It is the divinely inspired history of how God has worked in this world to save sinners through Jesus Christ. I hope you will join me in this resolution, and I pray it will be a blessing to you.
The peace of Christ be with you all,