The Book that Changed the World: I am holding Erasmus’ first edition tour de force Novum Instrumentum (est. AD 1516). Erasmus’ contribution to the Reformation and eventually, our English Bible, was incalculable.

Here is the headline of this email: If I am in the Word of God, I will discover and implement God’s will for my life. But that is a big “if,” isn’t it? Let me offer some suggestions for your 2021 Bible Reading Plan. I also offer some important practical lessons on how to learn and apply the Bible to your life.  

Did you see the latest news that Bible sales are … soaring?! Bible sales soaring as more people worship at home from our friends at LifeWay.

First, let me encourage you to READ the Bible! Live in it. Pray it. Internalize it. Listen to it. Memorize it. Here’s a testimony from my life … it wasn’t until 2006 that Audrey and I read the Bible through from Genesis to Revelation for the first time (within one year). It was a discipline we wanted to have in our marriage, ministry, and more importantly, in our walk with Christ. 

What is the Bible?

In some ways, it is misleading to call it a Bible, which means Book. That title originated from the ancient Phoenician city of Byblos, where papyrus, which was used in making ancient scrolls and books, was sold. The Bible is really a library, a well-chosen library. We could even say the Bible is similar to an anthology of 66 volumes consisting of an Old Testament, written mostly in Hebrew (39 books), and a New Testament, written in Greek (27 books).

What Bible(s) am I reading right now? What do we recommend from the Christian Thinkers Society? 

Audrey and I are currently using the NLT (3rd Edition) Life Application Study Bible. I highly recommend.

Audrey and I also love Tom Wright’s The New Testament for Everyone: Complete Eighteen-Volume Set (The New Testament for Everyone) Illustrated Edition

The first study Bible Audrey and I completed was the Charles Ryrie Study Bible. Still holds a special place in my heart. His notes are brief and memorable.

This is my favorite bible reading plan (from the Ryrie Study Bible): Download the PDF free here. 

There are many opinions about the Bible. 

Everyone has an opinion about the Bible. Politicians attempt to use the Bible, Grammy-award winners quote the Bible, and Hollywood has portrayed the Bible on the big screen. Yet one problem remains: most people are oblivious to the Bible’s basic content, meaning, and message. We say we believe in the Bible. We say we regard it as inspired and authoritative. We say we agree with the historical stance of the church that the Scriptures infallibly communicate God’s truth. If this is the case, we should show the Bible some respect by knowing more about it.

All of us should be interested in biblical illiteracy because the result of it is an increasing number of Christians who are unable to answer the unanswered questions about their faith. A lack of biblical knowledge leads to skepticism and eventual departure from the faith. It is my prayer that the tools you take from this study will equip and inspire you to present an intelligent argument for your faith, a faith in Christ that is deeply rooted in the Bible.

Americans spend nearly 2.5 billion dollars a year on Bibles and related Christian materials (it has been estimated Americans spend a half-billion dollars per year buying new Bibles—and that number is increasing). This reality brings to mind the thoughts of Samuel Clemens (aka, Mark Twain), who once remarked, “Classic. A book which people praise and don’t read.” I am hopeful his quib does not describe your approach to the Bible.

What are some other payoffs of regularly encountering God through His Word?

If I am in the Bible, it will give me strength and wisdom.

If I am in the Word of God, I will become convicted when there are sin and disobedience in my life.

If I am in the Word of God, I will successfully resist temptation and compromise in my life.

Often, reality is stranger than fiction. Today’s church is malnourished. Many Christians are biblically illiterate and theologically shallow. What is the Bible? Unfortunately, we are living in unprecedented times of biblical illiteracy. We even have some people who are attempting to be Christians with little if any use of or appeal to the Bible. Consider the stark reality of biblical illiteracy that we face today:

  • Twenty-five million new copies of the Bible are sold annually.
  • Eighty percent of Americans believe the Bible is the Word of God.
  • The average American household owns 3 to10 Bibles.
  • Forty-two percent of American Christians say they are too busy to read the Bible.
  • Seventy-two percent of Americans incorrectly believe the Bible is available in all languages; in reality, over 50 percent of the world’s languages still do not have a Bible translation.

Attempting to be a Christian without the Bible is no different from attempting to strengthen your body by depriving yourself of nutrition and sleep. Yet this is the reality of a growing swath of churches across North America, in both small churches and megachurches. I refer to this trend as “Bible-ish” Christianity, or perhaps, more pejoratively, knowing just enough about the Bible to be dangerous.

The Word of God Stands Forever.

The Word of God stands forever, and it empowers my walk with Christ. Therefore, it is not enough to know the Bibleintellectually; in fact, we don’t really know the Bible until we encounter it experientially. We truly learn God’s truth as we apply it to our lives. To that end, adopt one of these principles:

The K-D Principle: Know what the Word says, then Do what the Word says. The M-A Principle: Discover the Meaning of the Scripture, then Apply that meaning to your life. Only when you understand the meaning of Scripture do you have the confidence to apply that meaning to your life.

Choose a Bible Reading Plan! Make a decision to develop this discipline in your life in 2021!

Here are some helpful links to several Bible reading options:

The Moody Church offers some excellent Bible Reading Plans. 

Finding the Right Bible Reading Plan (Trevin Wax offers some great options here).  

Download “YouVersion” on all of your devices. They offer numerous Bible reading plans.

I say with the Psalmist, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”


Jeremiah J. Johnston, Ph.D.

Christian Thinkers Society