This may seem like a strange follow-up to my last post encouraging you to follow an annual Bible reading plan in 2016. But if you go charging into an annual Bible reading plan without a little warning, there’s an excellent chance you’ll fall into at least one of the following traps:
Trap #1: Accomplishing, Not Connecting
The more achievement oriented you are, the more likely you’ll plunge headlong into this trap. It’s the trap that develops when reaching your daily reading goal becomes far more important than connecting with the God who breathed the Scripture to life. It’s so easy to turn Bible reading into a box you check rather than an encounter with God. The goal isn’t to get your eyes over the page, it’s to get the Word into your heart. As my friend J.D. Greear often says, “the verse must become a voice.”
If a Bible reading plan ensures that you are constantly sitting under the voice of Your Creator, it’s a win. But if it’s nothing more than an obligation, it’s setting the stage for an even more dangerous trap.
Trap #2: Earning, Not Receiving
This is the most dangerous trap because it’s the one that causes us to forget the gospel. Somehow our self-righteous, achievement oriented flesh starts to believe God should reward us for our new commitment to reading the Bible. I’m not talking about the rewards of knowing Christ more, gaining wisdom and increased reverence for God. I’m talking about the line of thinking that goes, “God, I’ve been so good about reading the Bible that You really need to help me get that promotion.” Or fill in your own ending. This way of thinking turns God into an emotionally insecure author who you can manipulate simply by paying attention to his book.
If a Bible reading plan ensures that you are constantly dazzled by the story of God’s grace, then it’s a win. But if it’s just your attempt to put God in your debt, it’ll only frustrate you and cause your heart to grow colder.
Trap #3: Reading, Not Doing
Reading the Bible is wonderful. Obeying it is even better. That’s what James is driving at when he writes, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.“(James 1:21) It’s not just about reading to increase our knowledge. It’s about increased knowledge producing increased affection which produces increased mission. If all of your reading isn’t leading to any doing, you’re perpetuating a fraud on yourself.
If a Bible reading plan ensures that you are systematically examining your heart to bring it into alignment with the character of Jesus, it’s a win. If it’s just about helping you have a few more verses at your disposal for theological arguments, then you’re missing the whole point.
Friends, I really believe in the power of organized Bible reading plans. I still want you to pick a plan and a partner today or tomorrow. Just go into it aware of the traps. If you avoid them, you’ll have a life shaping 2016.