A Pastor’s Plea to Take Up and Read

What did you read from the Scriptures today?

I ask this question of people a lot. As a Pastor, my greatest hope is that more and more people will be spending time daily in the Word of God. In this means of grace, we hear God speak to us, we immerse ourselves in truth, and we learn God’s will for our lives. We see God, and our own lives, most clearly only through the lens of Scripture.

Sadly, too many of us are haphazard in our reading of God’s word. We read randomly, with no purpose or plan to our study. We read occasionally, and often go for long periods without drawing near to the Lord in His Word. We read casually, without prayer, without devotion, and without any intention to be transformed by what we have read.

As we approach a new year, I want to encourage each of you to commit to reading God’s Word. Each day I use the M’Cheyne Bible Reading plan, and I recently came across his appeal to his own congregation to do the same. I thought I’d share that with you here, and provide a link for a download of the plan to print and tuck in the cover of your Bible.

What the coming year is to bring forth, who can tell? There is plainly a weight lying on the spirits of all good men, and a looking for some strange work of judgment coming upon this land. There is need now to ask that solemn question: “If in a safe land you are so trusting, what will you do in the thicket of the Jordan” (Jer. 12:5)?

Those believers will stand firmest who have no dependence upon self or upon creatures, but upon the Lord our Righteousness. We must be driven more to our Bibles, and to the mercy-seat, if we are to stand in the evil day. Then we shall be able to say, like David, “The insolent utterly deride me, but I do not turn away from your law” (Psalm 119:51).  “Princes persecute me without cause, but my heart stands in awe of your words” (Psalm 119:161).

It has long been in my mind to prepare a plan of Scripture reading, in which as many as were made willing by God might agree, so that the whole Bible might be read once by you in the year, and all might be feeding in the same portion of the green pasture at the same time.

I am quite aware that such a plan is accompanied with many Dangers :

  1. Formality. We are such weak creatures that any regularly returning duty is apt to degenerate into a lifeless form. The tendency of reading the word by a fixed rule may, in same minds, be to create this skeleton religion. This is to be the peculiar sin of the last days: “Having the form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.” Guard against this. Let the calendar perish rather than this rust eat up your souls.
  2. Self-righteousness. Some, when they have devoted their set time to reading the word, and accomplished their prescribed portion, may be tempted to look at themselves with self-complacency. Many, I am persuaded, are living without any divine work on their soul—unpardoned and unsanctified, and ready to perish—who spend their appointed times in secret and family devotion. This is going to hell with a lie in the right hand.
  3. Careless reading. Few tremble at the word of God. Few, in reading it, hear the voice of Jehovah, which is full of majesty. Some, by having so large a portion, may be tempted to weary of it, as Israel did of the daily manna, saying, “Our soul loathes this light bread!” and to read it in a slight and careless manner. This would be fearfully provoking to God. Take heed lest that word be true of you: “Ye said also, Behold, what a weariness is it! and ye have snuffed at it, saith the Lord of Hosts.”
  4. A yoke too heavy to bear.—Some may engage in reading with alacrity for a time, and afterwards feel it a burden, grievous to be borne. They may find conscience dragging them through the appointed task without any relish of the heavenly food. If this be the case with any, throw aside the fetter, and feed at liberty in the sweet garden of God. My desire is not to cast a snare upon you, but to be a helper of your joy.

If there be so many dangers, why propose such a plan at all? To this I answer, that the best things are accompanied with danger, as the fairest flowers are often gathered in the clefts of some dangerous precipice. Let us weigh the advantages

  1. The whole Bible will be read through in an orderly manner in the course of a year.  The Old Testament once, the New Testament and Psalms twice. I fear many of you never read the whole Bible; and yet it is all equally divine: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect.” If we pass over some parts of Scripture, we shall be incomplete Christians.
  2. Time will not be wasted in choosing what portions to read. Often believers are at a loss to determine towards which part of the mountains of spices they should bend their steps. Here the question will be solved at once in a very simple manner.
  3. Parents will have a regular subject upon which to examine their children and servants. It is much to be desired that family worship were made more instructive than it generally is. The mere reading of the chapter is often too like water spilt on the ground. Let it be read by every member of the family beforehand, and then the meaning and application drawn out by simple question and answer. The calendar will be helpful in this. Friends, also, when they meet, will have a subject for profitable conversation in the portions read that day. The meaning of difficult passages may be inquired from the more judicious and ripe Christians, and the fragrance of simpler scriptures spread abroad.
  4. The pastor will know in what part of the pasture the flock are feeding. He will thus be enabled to speak more suitably to them on the Sabbath; and both pastor and elders will be able to drop a word of light and comfort in visiting from house to house, which will be more readily responded to.
  5. The sweet bond of Christian love and unity will be strengthened.  We shall be often led to think of those dear brothers and sisters in the Lord, here and elsewhere, who agree to join with us in reading these portions. We shall more often be led to agree on earth, touching something we shall ask of God. We shall pray over the same promises, mourn over the same confessions, praise God in the same songs, and be nourished by the some words of eternal life.

 McCheyne, Robert Murray, and Andrew A. Bonar. Memoir and Remains of the Rev. Robert Murray McCheyne. Edinburgh; London: Oliphant Anderson & Ferrier, 1894. Print.

Click here to download a copy of the reading plan:

Mercy Ministry in Jude

“Save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.”
Jude 23

COVID has entered the building. 

This weekend my wife and oldest son both tested positive for COVID. We’ve seen others in the church and community deal with this, and we know we need to take it seriously, so we’ve taken drastic measures to help bring them back to good health, and to keep the rest of the family safe.  

This of course means a period fo quarantine for the entire family, and enforced isolation for those who are sick. We are trying to be dutiful and responsible; masking when we have to be in the same room, wiping everything down with Clorox wipes, spraying rooms  with disinfectant, working and schooling from home so as not to run the risk of spreading the virus to others.

The virus is serious, and needs to be treated seriously. We’ve taken these steps to help the sick get better, and to keep the healthy well.  In this there is a connection here to Jude’s final instruction to the faithful in the church.  Jude wrote to the church because many had been led astray by false teaching; a teaching which twisted the Gospel of Salvation in Jesus Christ into a license for sensuality, even denying Jesus as  Lord and Master.

After exposing the character and motives of the false teachers, Jude instructs the faithful of the church in how they are to respond.  In verse 22 he says that we are to “show mercy to those who doubt,” and here in verse 23 he identifies two other groups of people and how we are to relate to them.

“Saving others by snatching them from the fire.” Like the angels rescuing Lot from the coming destruction on Sodom and Gomorrah, the Church is called to pluck those who have strayed from the truth out the fire.  The work of discipline within the Church ends with the elders, but has always rested upon its members. When you see a brother or sister wandering from the truth, being led astray into sin and destructive behavior, out of love and mercy we must call them to repentance and restore them to the path of righteousness.  The faithful must take drastic measures to rescue those who have fallen away, as James 5:19-20 says, “My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.”

“To others show mercy with fear…”. Unlike the first two categories (those who doubt, and those who are in the fire), this third category seems to describe those who have completely turned from the faith and are given over to sin. Like those first two cases, however, we are to show those who are lost mercy; only here there is a caveat, mercy is combined with fear and hatred of the sin that stains.

In the OT there was a such a fear of the spread of leprosy that even the clothing of a leper was considered unclean. The risk of contamination was great, and so, while showing mercy and compassion toward the sick, the priest was careful not to contract the disease himself.  Warren Wiersbe comments on this passage, writing, “We certainly must love God’s people, but we must also hate sin. Wherever there is sin, Satan has a foothold and can go to work. Defilement spreads rapidly and secretly, and it must be dealt with drastically.”

We must watch ourselves when we are ministering to the lost and those who have wandered from the faith. It is often the case that we approach those caught in sin with good intentions, only to get caught up in sin ourselves.  We confront those who are filled with arrogance, and take pride in our own orthodoxy. We give warning to those caught up in immorality, only to comfort ourselves with our own self-righteousness. In our mercy and love for those who are lost in false teaching and bound up in sin, we must be careful that we don’t get caught up in the sin as well.

The call to ministry that Jude is giving here is a call to mercy; mercy for those who doubt, mercy in rescuing the perishing, mercy to those lost in sin. Mercy, the loving-kindness and patience with others, is tempered with a healthy respect, a fear, of the very sin and corruption which has led so many astray.

In closing, I found this note from The Expositor’s Bible Commentary very helpful: “All our efforts for the reformation of others must be begun and continued with self-reformation; and therefore St. Jude insists on the necessity for spiritual progress and prayer, before advising as to the treatment of the fallen. It is while we are earnestly detesting and contending against a particular sin in ourselves that we can most safely and effectually deal with that sin in others.”

Be merciful, be careful, be faithful!