It is not enough to know that we need to be spiritually disciplined, we then need to apply that discipline to every area of our lives so that we can effectively, joyfully, and lovingly accomplish what God desires. We do not pursue discipline in order to drag an approving glace from our dour Father, but in order to exercise the fullness of our relationship as those who are dearly loved and eternally secure.
1. Bible Intake
The pursuit of all discipline is necessarily driven by the truth of Scripture and thus the queen of disciplines is the intake of Scripture in every possible form. The foundational discipline is that of partaking of Scripture in all the different avenues available to us. However, the pursuit of discipline will be unfruitful if not properly motivated.
Motivation – desperate desire to know God and His will for your life
The motivation for immersing ourselves in the Word of God is manifest, Scripture is the only means by which we can truly know Him and His will for our life. The Bible contain everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3-5) and it is only in its pages that we are taught, reproved, corrected, and trained in righteous.
Furthermore, e are commanded by God to:
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. 2 Ti 2:15
We will only present ourselves approved when we deny ourselves in the following ways:
(1) Deny the natural tendency to “lean on your own understanding.”
To neglect Scripture is to effectively live according to our own understanding and to deny the wisdom found in Proverbs 3:5-6.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.
We must replace our understanding with the wisdom of the Ancient of Days – lovingly and carefully communicated through His inerrant, authoritative, sufficient Word. Not too shabby a trade if we would just take the time to think through the issue carefully.
(2) Deny the natural tendency toward sluggardliness and procrastination
If the Word is so desirable, then why do we experience such difficulty in actually feasting upon it. In a word, sluggardliness. In order to be effective and diligent in our pursuit of God’s Word we will have to overcome our inherent laziness. The following verses paint an unpleasant picture that strikes uncomfortably close to home:
Pr 26:14 As the door turns on its hinges, So does the sluggard on his bed. (Snooze button anyone?)
Pr 21:25 The desire of the sluggard puts him to death, For his hands refuse to work; (I want to be godly but why is is always so hard . . .)
Pr 26:16 The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes Than seven men who can give a discreet answer. (I know the Word is important but I can’t because – ______(fill in the excuse))
(3) Deny the natural tendency to let the urgent things squeeze out the important things (When things slow down)
The third denial is to set aside our procrastination – as Kris Lungaard (The Enemy Within) so bitingly states, “every season we offer up the cheer of the perennial loser, ‘We’ll get ‘em next year’.” We consistently tell ourselves that we will get to the Word after just “one more” blog is read, diaper is changed, house project is completed . . .
If, however, we will set our hearts on denying ourselves, taking up our Bibles, and following after Jesus, then the following practical suggestions will be helpful.
Consider time early in the morning
Consider taking time early in the morning. The Bible does not command this, but our Savior modeled it, and so did most of the godly men and women about whom stories are told and biographies written. Your worries are waiting for you the moment you wake up, what better time to set our minds on things above through the pursuit of the Word. If you wait till the end of the day your time is too easily claimed by others and by the fatigue of the previous hours.
Consider reading through the entire Bible
Over the years, I have heard every reason as to why reading through the entire Bible is undesirable (too much to read at one time, I want to really take time to study individual passages, etc..). These usually end up just being excuses and the Bible is neglected to the spiritual detriment of the excuser. A Christian who isn’t familiar with the whole Bible is like an engineer who doesn’t know the basic laws of physics!
Fortunately, we live in an age in which every kind of “One Year” Bible plan is available. The YouVersion app alone has hundreds of plans to choose from (with just the click of a button), and the ease of having the exact portion of Scripture conveniently awaiting each morning (and yes, reading electronically still counts as reading the Bible – it is the words not the medium that counts). Consider the following approaches: breaking the reading into two or three years, reading through just the New Testament this year and the Old Testament next year, read chronologically, read various genre’s of Scripture in one sitting, and read a different version (NASB, ESV, NIV, NKJV, HSB are good choices). My favorite plans include: The McCheyne Plan (various genres, fair amount of reading), The Horner Plan (really intense – 10 chapters a day), The One Year Chronological Plan, ESV Study Bible, the McArthur One Year Bible, and the Five Day Bible Reading Plan (allows two days a week for rest or “catch-up.”
Be sure to study smaller portions of Scripture in a more in-depth way
The in-depth study of smaller portions of Scripture is also important. This can be done in a variety of ways. Choose a smaller book of the Bible (or break a bigger book into small chunks) and read through it each day, pausing to underline key words and phrases and/or summarizing important themes and concepts. Use commentaries to help with understanding difficult concepts. Keep a journal to record your thoughts. Pick one verse or concept to meditate on throughout the day.
Perhaps the most effective way to study is to join a Bible study group through your church and use that for your “study” time. This can help keep you motivated and focused long after your personal efforts would have died out. There is no need to view “personal” study and “church” study as separate!
Reading books on biblical topics
Another way to immerse yourself in Scripture is to read good books that explain and apply Biblical truth. There is much benefit to reading history, science, etc. (as you have time), but godly men and women down throughout the ages have left a legacy of excellent material that is extremely beneficial in spurring spiritual growth. One aspect of motivation in this area is the desire to know what others have learned about God so that we can grow and be challenged beyond our personal prejudices and pet doctrines.
So, consider the following ideas: search for a series of “top ten” best Christian books from 2023 and try to read a book a month, check out the book list I provided on this blog (earlier in January) and pick one book from each major section to begin plowing through, download several audio books and listen in the car on the way to or from work (or maybe while you mop the floor and clean the kitchen!), or try the Tim Challies reading challenge – a really fun way to read more productively.
Read several blogs
Another way to get a lot of great Christian content in a short period of time is to subscribe to several internet blogs that present spiritual topics in encouraging and helpful ways. Perhaps the best way to do this is to use the app, “Feedly” (or some other “blog collecting” app) to consolidate all your favorite internet material in one place. My favorite blogs include: Tim Challies “A La Carte” (Tim peruses over 100 blogs and presents 6 to 8 of the best ones each day), The Cripplegate, Canon Fodder (Michael Kruger), Desiring God (John Piper Ministries), Denny Burk, and Reformation 21. I don’t agree with everything all these guys say – but they probably don’t agree with me on everything either!
Listen to sermons
Finally (for now), enhance your Bible intake by listening to lots of sermons. This is one of the best ways to get the most bang for your buck. Consider spending the majority of your listening time on solid, expository preaching. This format allows you to get Scripture reading, Bible study, and application all in one setting. I have been in ministry for over thirty-five years, and preach at least three times a week, yet I find myself in need of much greater input from God’s Word. I try to listen to five or six podcast length (30 minutes or so) sermons each week and always find myself longing for more.
The internet age provides an embarrassment of riches in this regard. You can go to the media portion of the GCC website and listen to (or download) any message preached the previous week (or previous years!).
We have five podcasts to chose from that put the messages in your earbuds at a moments notice (Sunday School, Sunday Sermon, Youth Messages, Women’s Ministry, and All of These Combined).
It is important to pick your teachers wisely. The downside of the internet is that there are heretics, wolves, and just really bad preachers lurking just a click of a button away. Some of my favorite reliable podcasts are: The Word Unleashed – Tom Pennington; Grace to You – John MacArthur, Truth for Life – Alistair Begg, Focal Point – Mike Fabarez, Ligonier Ministries – R.C. Sproul and others.
My prayer is that you will not be overwhelmed by the amount of resources and ideas presented in this post, but that you will be encouraged to move forward from whatever level of Bible intake you have had in the past to a greater level of “letting the Word of Christ dwell richly within you” (Col 3:16) in the coming year.