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“Follow me.” The Bible records that invitation being extended by Jesus to several people, most of whom were just ordinary, common individuals.
They were not powerful people. In fact, most were people caught in habits and behaviors that were destroying their lives. They were sinners, the very people with whom some Christians would hesitate to even talk to.
The people Jesus invited were not schooled in religion. In fact, few people would have considered them to be educated or even wise by worldly standards.
Yet, they accepted the offer and followed Jesus.
In doing so, they became wise. They engaged him in his teaching, and witnessed first-hand some of Jesus’ awe-inspiring miracles recorded in the Bible.
More importantly, they developed trust and confidence in Jesus that enabled them to enjoy a close, personal relationship with him.
In extending an invitation to follow him, Jesus did not say, “follow people who think they are following me.”
There is only one way to really know for sure if we are following Jesus, and that is by reading the Bible ourselves.
“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” — Hebrews 4:12-13
We might think we are doing the right things and that our faith is strong, but then when we encounter a Bible passage that convicts us a lot more of our stinkin’ thinkin’ needs to be challenged and corrected.
Bible in a Year
On Thursday, which marked the 34th anniversary of the date I was born again spiritually, I completed an online reading plan called Bible in a Year. It is offered free by YouVersion and is available for Apple and Android devices. You can also access it via any web browser.
The plan is a roadmap to read the Bible from cover to cover in 365 days.
Most days, it involves reading two chapters out of the Old Testament, one chapter out the New Testament along with a Psalm and a few verses from Proverbs.
It takes about 15 to 20 minutes a day to get through that day’s assignment, and I really appreciate how it incorporates different parts of the Bible.
Many new Christians who choose to embark on the task of reading the entire Bible often start in Genesis 1:1 and work their way through Revelation 22:21. However, they often get bogged down in Leviticus or Numbers, and never advance beyond that claiming it is too difficult to understand.
But, the YouVersion app’s approach is different. By combining the old with the new, it’s possible to see the connection between God’s promise and his plan for salvation that was set before the earth was formed.
I found there to be a remarkable difference in tone between the Old Testament, when God’s prophets proclaimed his message, and the New Testament when Jesus walked on earth and after he sent his Holy Spirit to guide his followers.
Adding snippets each day from Proverbs, which is like listening in on a conversation between a father and son as they walk down the street, and the ancient poetry of Psalms, is a breath of fresh air from what can be dry and dull reading in parts of the Old Testament.
There are three other benefits from reading the Bible cover to cover.
First, you can understand the context in which the Bible was written by 44 different authors on three continents during a span that some claim to be as much as 3,400 years.
By seeing all the pieces of the puzzle, it is possible for someone to spot false doctrine because whatever was said doesn’t measure up to what was written. Having that understanding also helps identify whatever is true because what was said measures up to what was written.
Second, a systematic daily study of the Bible really helps clarify who God is regarding all his character traits. Everyone jumps on God’s love, grace and patience, but he is also the God of justice and the infinite source of wisdom. God has dozens of attributes, and they are all spelled out in different chapters of the Bible.
I remember reading all the stories of the Israelites who witnessed some remarkable miracles, only to turn away from God to worship false idols and pretty much do their own thing. As I was remarking aloud what short memories they had, the Holy Spirit reminded me how often I act in the same way.
Third, reading the Bible certainly clarifies who Jesus is. It shows the multitude of prophesies foreshadowing his arrival, then shows how those prophecies were fulfilled.
Reading the New Testament puts Jesus’ life and mission in perspective and explains why people who encounter him – even today – report incredible life changes.
Since the Easter season is upon us, if you have not yet engaged in a systematic daily study of the Bible, this week is the ideal time to start.
It will be time well spent. I can’t wait to start over again to see what catches my eye in the year ahead.
Besides, now that I have made one full pass of the Bible, I don’t have to worry about bumping into the Old Testament author Nahum along the streets of heaven and dancing around after he asks me what I thought of his book.
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