The faith family of which my wife and I are members (First Baptist Church East Bernstadt) has committed to read and study the book of John over the next thirty days. Though I typically do not read the Bible in this fashion, I am going to add this to the reading plan that I have been on all year because I believe that unity among believers is best forged in the fires of diligent, disciplined, and corporate Bible study. I believe if our faith family will commit to corporately giving ourselves to the study of the Gospel of John over the next thirty days, then small groups, Sunday School classes, families, couples, and individuals will be radically effected from the inside out. Saturation in the Word of God is the breeding ground for satisfaction in God. And where there is satisfaction in God, obedience to God becomes a grace of delightful duty rather than a legalistic lull in your otherwise self-sufficient life.
The rest of this post will dually serve as an unpacking of the final sentence of the above paragraph and as a personal challenge and encouragement to my faith family at First Baptist Church East Bernstadt. In essence what I want to do is give you a biblical and theological motivation for reading through the Gospel of John these next thirty days.
Note that I wrote it is “saturation in the Word of God” that brings about all of these things (Christian unity, delight in God, holiness through obedience, etc.). This sparks some questions that are particularly pertinent to the believers at FBCEB (and more generally) to all believers everywhere. Is it enough to just give a passing glance to the Gospel of John over the next thirty days, FBCEB? Is it enough to give five minutes to merely reading a few verses in order to “stick with the program” or be a part of what the church as a whole is doing or to check off the next box on your daily religious check list? Well, yes and no. Go with me here.
God’s Word is Sufficient
Firstly, in one sense it is enough to just read the Bible. Submission to the shepherd-leadership of the pastor is important. So, if you are reading John’s Gospel because our pastor asked us to, then you are not at all on the wrong track. Also, it is enough to just read the Bible in another sense. You do not have to do anything to unleash the power of Scripture in your life. There is no mystical chant, no special ritual, and no right or wrong time or place to read the Bible. The power of the Bible is in the One who sovereignly wrote or inspired it. Remember, all Scripture is God-breathed (the Gospel of John included). It has the imprint of God and by nature is divine. Because of this, simply reading the words of God in the Bible through the pens of men, is very sanctifying. The Holy Spirit through the Word pierces our hearts and satisfies our souls. I am not talking about reading John 1, for example, and then trying to find a list of things to do today based on that passage, which will satisfy you. What I mean here is that reading what God himself, your Creator-Redeemer has written is powerful enough in the hands of the Holy Spirit to change our hearts.
Dig Deep for Precious Treasure
Though this is true, we should definitely not stop here. Although there is not a right or wrong time or place to read the Bible, I believe that there is a right and wrong way to read the Bible. And although I will contend that the Holy Spirit works in our hearts through the words of God in Scripture just through reading, this assumes a right kind of reading and the Spirit works more powerfully when he is more heavily relied upon through diligent Bible study. So, FBCEB, do not blindly read through the book of John over the next thirty days. Do not casually skim over the glorious content of this Gospel. There are invaluable treasures buried deep within the pages of this Gospel. Digging for the most precious of treasures takes work. In order to saturate yourself in the Word of God, you must read, study, and meditate on the Word of God. The reason that I am so utterly satisfied in my wife is because of my frequent saturation in who she is. If I rarely talked to her, casually spent time with her, and only thought about her when she was with me, my satisfaction in her would be absent. However, when I think about her when she is at work, text her throughout the day, write about her, talk her ears off when she gets home, take her on dates, and spend significant time with her, my delight in her is only increased and she is clearly seen as being supremely valuable and worthy over all other humans in my life. My satisfaction in her and her honor or glory are connected. It is the same with Bible study. In the words of John Piper, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.”
Reading for God’s Glory by Satisfaction in Scripture
Faith family, if we commit ourselves to casually reading the book of John over the next thirty days in order to appease our pastor, family, friends, or small groups, then we will be wasting our time and making God out to be a needy and empty river that has dried up. I have a different challenge for us all. Instead of reading John’s Gospel for our pastor’s pleasure and instead of reading John’s Gospel as a way to earn God’s favor, I encourage you to read John’s Gospel for your own satisfaction. Basically, read John’s Gospel for you. Because when you do this, you will be satisfied and God will be glorified. Reading to the glory of God is reading to the holy satisfaction of self. Note I did not write “self-satisfaction.” This is not just any kind of satisfaction. This is satisfaction in God. So, read and study the Gospel of John these next thirty days in such a way that you are utterly satisfied in God. Why should we read the Gospel of John? For the glory of God in our satisfaction of him in his Word. God’s Word is an ever-flowing, ever-satisfying river. This river flows from the Fountain that is always full. Come and drink.
We Need Grace
As I have argued, satisfaction in God in his Word is highly dependent on saturation in the Word of God. Saturation in the Bible means we should not only read, but study by asking questions and taking notes, and meditate by thinking about what we have just read and sitting in prayer over what we have just read. The best way to do this is to make use of valuable resources to aid you in your study. In the next post is a vast array of different resources from study Bibles to commentaries. I pray that you will make use of these because I know they will serve the purpose of helping you saturate yourself in God’s Word. From there, depend on the power of God’s grace in his Word to change you from the inside out. Finally, remember, that in all of this hard work, in all of this diligent study and faithful reading, you must rely on God’s grace. Relish and rely on God’s grace to empower you to read and study. Relish and rely on God’s grace to forgive you when you fail to read and study. Do not fall into a legalistic lull by jumping in headlong into the vast and satisfying pool of God’s Word. Your holiness will increase. And it will be sweet.