Beginning with the Bible

I’ve been browsing the Christian blog sites lately.  This is always a risky move; you never know exactly what you’ll find.  But in the first few weeks of the New Year, there are some articles you can count on seeing.  There are plenty of reflections on the year past.  And there are always resolutions for the year ahead.

It’s hard to know what to make of New Year’s resolutions.  The biblical record of God’s people keeping their oaths to him is certainly not good; the failure rate is high.  And yet there are moments here and there—both in the Bible and in Church History – in which some of the saints have made worthwhile promises and resolutions.  It also seems that God, in his providence, gives us new mornings and births and years to foster a renewal of purpose in our lives.  So, speaking personally, I greet resolutions with skepticism, but not with hostility: humility, prayer, and dependence seem to be the appropriate posture.

One of the most popular Christian resolutions for the New Year is reading the Bible from beginning to end.  A quick survey of the most popular Christian websites yields an impressive array of possibilities: three chapters per day straight through; chronological readings; Psalms twice, gospels twice; two- and three-year plans.  These all have their place.  All of them are valuable.  We can hope that, by God’s grace, most of the Christians who start with one of these plans finish what they’ve started.

It’s good to see this focus on the Bible at the outset of every New Year.  The Bible is foundational for growing in our knowledge of God, and for understanding both what He has done in the past and what He demands for our future.  There is a reason why the London Baptist Confession of 1689 (alongside many other historic Protestant confessions) begins with the Bible.  The Baptist Confession begins this way: “The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience.  Although the light of nature and the works of creation and providence manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God so much that man is left without any excuse, they are not sufficient to provide that knowledge of God and His will which is necessary for salvation.”

Looking forward to the New Year, we know that the only certain and infallible guide to understanding God is the Bible.  If you want to grow in your comprehension of God, start with the Bible. If you want to understand what God values and commands, study the Bible.  If you want to begin to make sense of yourself and the world in which you live, look to the scriptures.  There are many other sources which claim to teach us about God; many other value systems and words to live by, but the Bible is the only certain and infallible one.

Keep the Bible in mind as you as you look behind you at the year just past as well.  The second half of the confession’s statement reminds us of the limits of creation and providence.  Although they leave us without excuse before God, they are insufficient in providing us knowledge of God and His will.  But God has given us His word so that we might know Him and His will, that we might not be simply in the dark, guessing.

While I don’t always know what to make of New Year’s resolutions, and I’m somewhat skeptical about our ability to discern the ways of God from our limited view of the past, I take heart that in this New Year many Christians are at least considering how to make the Bible a greater, more regular part of their lives in the days ahead.  The Bible is indeed the place to begin.  This book is God’s gift to us, enabling us to understand who He is and know with certainty His priorities for us – whatever this next year may bring.

Jonathan Master