Is it already Wednesday? It still feels like Monday to me. I haven’t lost my determination to step on the toes of performance-based religion. In fact, I’m now determined to stamp it out! I will wear steel-toed boots myself and let Him direct my feet anywhere and everywhere the weeds of legalism threaten to spoil the joy of the harvest! And you can too, starting now, by eliminating one of the items on the “spiritual to do list” you may have picked up since you “invited Jesus into” your life.
First…the truth is, He invited you into His life! Change your viewpoint! You should be abiding in Him, and thinking more of others than of yourself and your non-existent need to measure your “performance” as a Christian. It’s that “to do list”! That’s the biggest thing keeping you from serving others and becoming more like the Lord. I know, the pastor and other saints you respect and admire suggested it. You want to get as “good at it” as they are. And if you are a pastor, I realize you thought it was a good thing to give your folks some “things they can do” in order to “do better” in their walk. But seriously… you’re putting a yoke of legalism on yourself and others—even though you don’t mean to.
Yesterday, I wrote, “If ‘what you need to do from now on’ entails anything more than ‘abide in Him’, it comes from the devil. It flies in the face of ‘freedom in Christ’, wherein we celebrate what He has done.” That’s my premise and I’m sticking to it! So, who’s ready to eliminate a faith-killing legalism that presents an obstacle for saints at every level of maturity?
Waiting to see which one it is before you take the leap? Afraid it might be one you really need to “do better at” so you’ll be as good as Sister S0-and-So? Stuff some cotton in your ears so you can’t hear the accuser and get ready. Relax. As many times as I’ve heard brothers and sisters “confess” they’ve been “backsliding” on this one, it’s a nice, easy place to start!
We’re getting rid of the “Bible Reading Plan.” That’s right. Take a big fat magic marker and blot it off your “spiritual to do list”. “But…but…it’s on my “to DO list!” So? Don’t you wonder why I want you to get rid of it? Why don’t you read on, and if you can tell me the Bible Reading Plan you’re keeping up with—or probably not—really is responsible for making you more Christlike, you can keep it with my blessing! (Good luck convincing me—because legalistic adherence to a check list of “correct behavior” can’t do what “abiding in Him” does.)
Every denominational or institutional church with which I have ever been associated has had a “Bible Reading Plan”. Sometimes it was published in a glossy little full color leaflet and distributed by the denomination. Sometimes it was printed on a cardstock with little daily check boxes. Regardless of format, “goal setting” was geared toward a measurable outcome, ususally “reading the whole Bible” in a year.
The celebrated and revered “Bible Reading Plan” is a legalistic “chapter and verse” pathway toward a human achievement that relies on human effort. If you “fall behind” or are less than faithful in “keeping up”, at some level you are going to feel guilty about it! I have never seen this method result in “transformation”, or in God’s Word being written on the heart! You miss a few days. When you “feel convicted”, you go back to the place you left off, determined to “make up for” your neglect. And there you are, lost somewhere in a list of good and bad kings with weird names who reigned over Israel and Judah–and you’ve lost sight of the important fact that Israel had chosen a human king over God-their-King (if you even got that point as you snored through it with your eyes open)! Guess what! That feeling of “conviction” is probably the devil saying, “Oh look, you failed. You’ll never be as good a Christian as Sister So-and-So. She’s faithful to the Bible Reading Plan. See, you’re one of those backsliders and even God isn’t able to keep you from falling away!” But Jude (Jude 1:24) said God IS able! Emphasis: GOD is able—not you. Trash the “Bible Reading Plan” and the entire checklist of things Satan can use to make you feel guilty!
Am I saying “Don’t read the Bible”? Of course not! Read the Bible! Read it in its entire, magnificently sweeping scope. Read it in a version you can understand and get a good companion for study like the Believers Bible Commentary or Halley’s Bible Handbook. More importantly, read it prayerfully, asking the Holy Spirit to illuminate the truth of God’s Word. Discuss it with other believers and don’t overlook the fact that Christ is present in every passage from cover to cover. Don’t rely on just one commentator’s or one preacher’s interpretation. You might get more out of it if you set aside a large block of time one or two days a week to really read it. Start or join a Bible study group and get into the Word. The Word comes alive when you read and explore the wealth of scripture together–and you have friends to keep you awake. Start with The Gospel of John and focus on Jesus as described by someone who truly knew Him. Or start with Galatians and carefully study the freedom presented there that defies performance-based patterns of living.
Now, the burden has been taken off you and the work belongs to the Holy Spirit. You’re going to read. But the Holy Spirit is going to do the teaching—without any condemnation when you miss a day…or a few days…or a month! You’ll be blessed every time you read. But Jesus doesn’t love you any less if you don’t. The Father won’t put you up for adoption and cast you out of the household. Now, you can want to read in order to gaze upon your beloved Savior. He’s there from Genesis to Revelation and He redeemed you (from the curse of the law and any requirement to fulfill a “to do list”) in order for you to enjoy eternal life in Him!
Depend totally on Him and know that, as your Father, He has already acted in your best interest by making it possible for you to be hidden in the precious wounded side of His Son without conforming to a “list” that brings judgment and condemnation. That’s the relationship that makes our faith different from all religions! Get to know your Father and His Son as the Spirit guides you through the scriptures. Enjoy the family relationship instead of working so fruitlessly—and unnecessarily—to be approved.