This is a sponsored post from The Good Book Company and was written by Sam Allberry.
I love making New Year’s resolutions. At any moment, off the top of my head I can immediately think of several ways my life needs improving. Being more disciplined about exercise. Making healthy choices. Reading the Bible more. Praying more.
And so it is no hardship to imagine a future, better me – Sam 2.0 – taking 2017 by storm. It makes for a pleasant daydream—and maybe a few days into the year I’m feeling proud that I’ve finally made it a reality. But for all I might fantasize about unleashing a new and improved me on the world this year, I need to exercise some caution.
Take one example: the perennial need to be more disciplined about reading my Bible. No question that this is a genuine need. No question that it is a godly aspiration to be spending more time in God’s word this year. No question that it would be life-giving in incalculable ways to be better at this. But there is a great danger in hastily making a resolution to do so.
Once Bible-reading becomes a resolution, it easily (with me, at least) degenerates into an exercise in hitting targets. I’ve got to read this many Bible verses today, cover this many chapters this month. It becomes no more than making myself spend a bit of extra time on the spiritual treadmill.
Assuming I succeed at it (a big assumption) I can pat myself on the back and revel in a job well done. And that’s the problem. It isn’t a job; it’s a relationship.
Resolution-minded me quickly turns Bible reading into something mechanical. It becomes about advancing the bookmark an allotted number of pages in my Bible; not about getting to know my God better or letting his voice captivate my heart.
We see something of this danger reflected in what Jesus said to a group of Pharisees.
You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life. (John 5:39-40)
Notice the Pharisees have a very high view of Scripture (believing the Scriptures are key to having eternal life) and a disciplined approach to reading them (they study them diligently). And yet they manage to have both of these things without coming to Jesus.
This is truly frightening: it is possible for us to hold to the authority of God’s word, and to never miss a day of carefully reading our Bible, and yet all the while neglect coming to Jesus. There is a way to be biblical but not relational. But it makes us into a Pharisee, not a disciple. Biblical it may be, in one sense, but in a way that is profoundly unbiblical.
That is not to say we shouldn’t be making resolutions about reading the Bible; it is just to say that doing so isn’t nearly enough. To be sure, it is better to be studying the Bible rather than not studying it.
But it is even better to be loving the Bible rather than merely studying it. And loving it means loving the one who stands behind it. We will love Scripture when we love God, and when we love God we will certainly read Scripture. And with that attitude, we will find we increasingly love God because we read Scripture. It becomes a virtuous circle.
But what matters most is love for God. So I say to myself and to you: read the Bible in 2017. Read it, not to “conquer” books of the Bible or to “get them under your belt” (scare-quotes entirely necessary). Read it to kindle a fire for the Lord. Read it to prove his love for you, not to prove your self-discipline to him or to others.
Alongside Tim Keller, Sam Allberry is author of 90 days in John 14-17, Romans and James, an open-Bible devotional published by The Good Book Company. Available to order now from Amazon or direct from The Good Book Company. Or sign up here to get five days of devotionals for FREE.
Sam Allberry is on staff at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, works as the UK Editor for The Gospel Coalition and is author of Is God Anti-Gay? (The Good Book Company, 2013).
This post originally appeared on The Good Book Company blog.