Reading the Whole Bible: A Life-Changing Journey

ELIZABETH TURNAGE|CONTRIBUTOR

Many years ago, when our four children were ages four to then, I decided we should embark on a year of reading through the Bible. I chose the One Year Chronological Bible in the New Living Translation, hoping that the simpler language would help our children understand the reading. Leviticus is notoriously challenging, even for adult readers. One night, we were in Leviticus 18, and after the fifth or sixth repeated command, “Do not have sexual relations with…[your daughter, granddaughter, uncle, etc.]” (Leviticus 18:6-18), our ten-year-old son burst out, “Do we have to keep reading this?” I had to admit, it was a good question.

Should we read the whole Bible? Do we really need to make our way through all the begets and begats and the barely comprehensible Levitical laws? While there are many good arguments for reading the entire Bible, I’m going to focus on one here, and then offer some tips for doing it, along with several plans to consider.

A Really Good Reason to Read the Whole Bible

 Why read the entire Bible? Because it is the one true overarching story (meta-narrative) that defines the life of a Christian. Authored by God himself, it introduces us to the complexities of his character and grows our wonder and worship of him. Not only that, but through the work of his Holy Spirit, the Bible transforms us into the character of Christ—every single word of it. Let’s consider how knowing the overarching story of Scripture helps us to live as glory-giving creatures of God.

When we read Genesis 1 and 2 and see how marvelously and majestically God designed everything in the cosmos, we are awed at the Creator. We also reclaim our sense of self, our own God-shaped beauty and purpose, since we were created in his glorious image (Genesis 1:26-27).

As we move on to Genesis 3 and read of Satan’s seduction of Adam and Eve, we recognize our own temptation to doubt God and to do things our own way; that is, to sin. The “fall” addresses our questions about the brokenness we see in our own lives and in the world around us. It also grows our gratitude for God’s abundant mercy and forgiveness of sins.

Even plodding through the laws of Leviticus and the headcounts of Numbers reveals something about God and something about us: he is a covenantal King who counts his people as precious. Moving on through history and the prophets, we continue to see our King’s faithfulness to an unfaithful people.

The Psalms, more familiar to most of us, give us voice to sing and praise the majesty and wonder of our King and his awesome deeds of redemption. And the Proverbs provide the wisdom and guidance we need to live in God’s kingdom.

Arriving at the more familiar true stories in the gospels, we gaze at our Savior, and as we do, we actually become more and more like him. Reading the epistles, we grow more attuned to life as a citizen in God’s kingdom, which is so different from the kingdom of this world.

Finally, arriving at the end of the story—spoiler alert—we discover our profound hope for peace and restoration—the day when God will dwell with his people forever, and wipe away all tears (Revelation 21:1-5). As the book comes to a close, our cry rises with saints throughout history, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20).

If you’re now convinced, and you want to read the whole Bible, how should you go about it?

Five Tips for Reading the Whole Bible

  1. Ask God for help both in the discipline of making time and in understanding what you read.
  2. Set reasonable expectations. If you choose a one-year plan, be okay with not finishing in one year, and resist the temptation to stop if you get behind.
  3. Schedule an appointment. Choose the best time of day and make an appointment on your phone with a reminder.
  4. Join others. Read with a friend or family member, or join a group that gathers to discuss their reading.
  5. Recognize your own learning and reading style and find a plan that fits. You can find plans for reading, journaling, listening, and even watching.
  6. Don’t be discouraged when you don’t understand some passages. Either set aside some time later for further study, or make a note to ask a ministry leader or pastor.

Five Plans for Reading the Whole Bible

  1. Five-Day Reading Plan: The free Bible Class Material plan has readings from the Old and New Testament and Psalms each day for five days a week and gives you two days to catch up if you fall behind.
  2. The One Year Bible: This Bible comes in several different translations and offers daily readings from the Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs. There is also an NLT audio version online.  
  3. The Chronological Bible: Another Bible designed to be read in a year, but with passages arranged in chronological order. The D-group offers a podcast called The Bible Recap as well as a simple journal available for purchase if you enjoy taking notes about your daily reading.
  4. The Bible Project: Download the reading plan, and visit the Bible Project’s website for videos, or find them on The Bible app. Artistically animated videos introduce each book. This one would be great to do with elementary to high school age kids, who would likely enjoy and benefit from the videos.
  5. Exploring the Bible Together: A 52-Week Family Worship Plan: Speaking of kids, this book takes families through most of the Bible in a very user-friendly format.

If none of these plans suits you, check out more at Ligonier.

Reading the whole Bible promises to be a journey that will change you forever. Why not begin today?

About the Author:

Elizabeth Turnage

Elizabeth Turnage is a writer, story coach, and teacher. She founded Living Story to help people learn, live, and love the gospel. She is the author of The Waiting Room: 60 Meditations for Finding Peace & Hope in a Health Crisis and the Living Story Bible Study Series (P & R), Elizabeth offers gospel-centered resources at her blog, www.elizabethturnage.com.

Elizabeth has been married to orthopedic surgeon Kip Turnage for 36 years. They enjoy spending time with their children, Kirby and Amy Anne Turnage, Jackie and Matt Roelofs, Mary Elizabeth and Caleb Blake, and Robert Turnage. When they are not working or visiting their kids, they enjoy doting on their golden doodle, Rosie, the “best-dog-ever”!

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