by Kelsie Petersen
Ever since my early teen years, I have wanted to read through the entire Bible. As a child and teenager, I spent countless Sabbath afternoons in my room with the cassette player, listening to Bible stories on tape. I was, therefore, confident in my knowledge of Bible stories and was always quick in any “sword drill”. I was so confident, in fact, that I believed reading the Bible through would have been simply an exercise in confirming the actual words of everything I had already learned and heard in Sabbath School, in Bible classes, and on The Bible Story tapes.
In fact, I have ingested quite a lot of Bible over the years. Several times over the years I started to read through the Bible. both before and after leaving Adventism, but—as seems to be typical—I never made it past Leviticus or Deuteronomy. Furthermore, the non-denominational Christian school I attended from eighth grade through high school graduation encouraged me to read the Bible devotionally, and I was also required to memorize some significant passages in the New Testament. Even since leaving Adventism, I have read the Epistles many times and the Gospels a handful of times—but I have never been successful at reading it from cover to cover.
At the beginning of this year, I made it my goal actually to make it through the entire Bible. I started with a fairly standard “read through the Bible in a year” plan, taking me through the Old and New Testaments simultaneously, as well as through a small portion of Psalms and Proverbs each day. To my surprise and delight, I made it all the way through 2 Chronicles on schedule! About that time, though, I started to feel restless with the reading plan. I was also taken aback by the fact that Kings and Chronicles speak of the exact same time periods!
I am ashamed to admit that, even with my extensive Bible story knowledge and experience, I had no idea that this overlap was the case! I was more bothered than I expected to be by this fact, and it only added to my restlessness. The recovering legalist in me fought hard. I had made a commitment to myself, and I was hesitant to deviate from the plan. But now, I wanted MORE…I wanted to be able to see more of the big picture of Scripture and was eager to see what was ahead.
So, with my eye on my actual goal, which was just to read the Bible through, I decided to stick with just the Old Testament and aggressively read through 10 pages each day. It’s been an adventure! I have had spells here and there where I have not read for a few days, or even for a week or two, but I have kept on, determined to let go of perfection and expectations and just read the next 10 pages. As I write this, I am halfway through Romans, and I should finish the New Testament well ahead of my original one-year plan.
Connecting the dots
I don’t have any recollection of being encouraged to read through the Bible as an Adventist. I do, however, have many memories of being assured that everything I was being taught was in the Bible. I also remember being taught different methods of “Bible study”, some following carefully marked “chains” of verses, and some using the Sabbath School lesson or different devotional books as my guide to stringing together several seemingly related verses. I remember wondering why references in the Sabbath School lesson would read, for example, “Matthew 5:12-14, 16.” I wondered, “Why are we skipping 15? What does it say that warrants it being left out?” As time went by, however, and my Bible story competence grew, I associated knowing the stories with Biblical literacy. In fact, I felt quite confident that I knew the Bible well—although I was always mystified with my Christian friends’ biblical knowledge, especially of the New Testament.
These past nine months, however, have been an exercise in peeling back another layer, of discovering more areas of my life and understanding that were colored by Adventism without my being aware of it. I thought I knew the Bible. I thought all that I was missing was the specific wording of the Scripture verses. I believed I knew the stories and the main ideas and themes, especially of the Old Testament. Reading through the Bible this year, however, has shown me that I really only had a surface knowledge of the basic stories. More specifically, I had only moral applications of these stories. Now, reading through Scripture as a born again believer, I have had the amazing privilege of seeing these stories through the lens of the cross rather than through the lens of Ellen White—a lens, by the way, of which I was totally unaware. In fact, I would have denied having an Ellen White lens, since I never directly read any of her books.
This year, reading the Bible with unveiled eyes has allowed me to see the beauty of God’s sovereignty, His merciful keeping of the people of Israel throughout the ages, and His full and complete plan of atonement for all mankind which was foreshadowed and prophesied throughout the entire Old Testament and brought to beautiful fruition in the New Testament through the birth, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus.
Throughout this experience, I have also had a much-increased desire to pick up the Bible and read it, not from any feelings of guilt that I should, nor even from fear that I might fall behind in my schedule and fail to complete my commitment to read it cover-to-cover. Surprisingly, I have found that I WANT to read it with a stronger desire than I ever have had before. In fact, I look forward to what I will discover the next timeI sit down with my Bible‚ and sometimes I can’t wait until the next day; I have to grab another chance to read before the day is gone!
In my current home church, we have been studying Ephesians during this year of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, and our pastor has been connecting the Five Solas of the Reformation (by faith alone, through grace alone, by Scripture alone, in Christ alone, to God alone the glory). Simultaneously I’ve been doing some of my own reading and studying as well, and I have been struck by the great privilege we have to read the word of God for ourselves. Not only does our church heritage derive from a place and time when average people were not allowed to read the Bible, but as former Adventists, we come from a group heritage where we were not necessarily encouraged to read large portions of the Bible on our own. At very least we were taught how to interpret the Bible according to our unique beliefs, and then we were shown exactly where to find the proof texts to support our interpretation through eisegesis.
This year, however, God has granted me the privilege of having new, deeper layers of my Adventist filter stripped away through the normal, plain reading of His word. 2 Corinthians 3 speaks of the veil that Moses had to wear to keep the Israelites from gazing into the radiance of God that shone from his face when he returned from Mount Sinai. Verses 14-16 reads:
But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.
I pray that you, too, will know the joy and freedom the Lord brings as He strips away that veil from your heart.
As I was reading just today, I realized that the exercise of going through the entirety of Scripture has given me two things: confidence and determination. While I am far from having any large portion of the Bible memorized (my next project, perhaps?), I already feel that I can speak up with more confidence about Biblical things, knowing that, even if there is something that I forget, or something that didn’t “stick,” I have actually read it, and be more certain that I know what I am talking about. My Bible is fairly heavily marked up, particularly in the Epistles and Gospels, and as I am reading through them, I’m coming across places where I had previously marked a section with question marks, indicating I wasn’t sure exactly how to read or apply that particular portion. Reading through, and the motivation and enthusiasm I’ve experienced has also given me the push I needed to seek out answers to these questions and difficult passages, and I’m excited to learn more and to clear up these long-unanswered things.
I am so very thrilled at what the Lord Jesus has done in my heart and in my life this year through this journey! It is also my prayer that as you seek Him, and seek truth, He will also give you more love, and more hunger, for His word.