“But he answered, “It is written, “ ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ”” (Matthew 4:4, ESV)
It’s April 21st. Do you know where your 2016 Bible Reading Plan is? You know, the plan you dedicated yourself to on January 1 and that you promised yourself you would get through this year? The plan that was going to be the plan to end all plans and demonstrate your growth and discipline and ability to comprehensively read the Bible in the entirety of the year. The plan that maybe got sideswiped by a week of sickness, busyness, and maybe a day or two of indifference? Yep - that plan…
Now before the tidal wave of guilt crashes down upon you, let me encourage you; I’m right there with you. Not that I’ve given up or am so far behind in the plan that I’ve abandoned it. But I do know the difficulty of keeping up with the plan, and the frustration of getting behind in it. I will confess, I am behind myself in the plan too. But I haven’t given up.
A few years ago I was encouraged to just keep working at these kinds of plans. Actually, the encouragement was to daily make some progress. Just read one chapter a day. Even if you only read one chapter a day you will still get through the Bible in the space of three years. How many people do you know who have read through the Bible in the space of 10 years, let alone 3?
I want to encourage you in this because our hearts can lean a few different ways when our spiritual work lags behind. On one hand we can despair, give up, and fail to make progress because we feel the hole has been dug so incredibly deep that we will never catch up. If this is your present state of mind, you may be in danger of thinking that your acceptance before God is based on your performance. Remember, Christ has completed the work you failed to complete so that in him you are identified as perfectly acceptable because of Christ’s work. Don’t despair, continue to press forward because you are already accepted.
On the other hand we can see the “law” of the Bible reading plan and believe that if we get back at it, catch up, and complete our Bible reading plan this year then we are really special. We might look with proud sorrow upon our meager friends who haven’t kept up like we have, and who haven’t performed like we have, and feel a tinge of judgment that they aren’t as close to God as we are. The reality is that even our righteous accomplishments are insufficient, and even filthy in the light of God’s holiness. We must repent of our self-righteousness.
These two perspectives can be applied to any good work; we either despair of not doing the work, or rise up in pride because we did do something good! But our hearts need something greater — we need a righteous one who gifts his good, perfect work to us and we need a superior one who humbles us to see our need and call us to repentance.
This is why the gospel must be central to all things for us. Christ must be the center. Our Bible reading is a means, a vehicle, by which we get to Christ and know Christ and grow in Christ. But it is by no means a substitute for having Christ. Jesus condemned the Pharisees for keeping up on their Bible reading plans but failing to see him in them (see John 5:39). And Jesus encouraged sinners to be sustained and nourished and grow by every word that comes from the mouth of God (see Matthew 4:4).
Let me encourage you, as I have, to reset your Bible reading plan and more importantly, reset your heart. Why are you reading? Why are you failing to read? What motivations stand behind your pursuit of engaging and embracing the Bible? May it be only because you long to see Jesus and be nourished by His word. May it never be to check off a box of superiority and self-righteousness. Let’s allow the gospel to reset our lives in every way.
Sunday we will continue our pursuit of wisdom by receiving from the Proverbs instruction in regard to wealth. Our ambition is to allow Christ, who is our wisdom, to shape every area of our heart to be in alignment with him, including our money. To help you be ready to sing on Sunday be sure to check out our setlist that we’ve put together on Spotify to be ready on Sunday.
- Mighty Warrior
- Even So Come
- Place of Freedom
- O Praise the Name
- Restore My Soul
India Mission Opportunity
Also, we wanted to be sure to remind you about the India Mission meeting this Sunday at 12:30. Lauren from our Life Impact team will be hosting the informational meeting in the conference room for any who are interested in going on a short-term, overseas mission trip to India with Woodside. The trip will take place in October this year and we are excited to see how God will use us to advance the gospel in India among those in need.
May the Lord bless you as you head into this weekend. I am eager to see his grace speak into our lives again as we gather. Please let me know if there is any way I can be in prayer for you.