While these disciplines are important they are not the end. However, at times there are those of us who will measure how we are doing in the Christian life by how we are doing in these disciplines.
Take a look at Acts 4:13 (here @ Bible Gateway). The passage is striking for a number of reasons. Peter and John were not educated men. They were fishermen. They knew boats, weather, fish behavior, how to read the water, and how to find the fish. They were brought before the educated, the priests, the rulers, the elders, and the scribes. Men who knew the Bible, men who studied, men who had been mentored, taught by others the intricacies of the Law. From and education standpoint Peter and John were far outclassed.
Then Peter spoke.
He blew their minds. It was not a small explosion. The priest, rulers, elders, and scribes recognized that they were “untrained,” but were nevertheless amazed. They attributed it to their having been with Jesus.
That’s the point is it not?
That is what the Lord told the Pharisees in John 5:39 – 40 (here @ Bible Gateway). For the Pharisees and by extension the priests, the rulers, the elders, and the scribes, it was about the Word of God. These had the first five books of the Bible memorized. Jesus told them that this was not sufficient. They studied, they memorized, they probably spent time in personal devotion in the Law, they prayed, they were regular in the synagogue, some even taught there. Jesus said they missed the point.
It wasn’t about knowing all of those things or engaging in all those disciplines. It was about knowing Him. Coming to Him. Following Him.
It is the same for us. Those disciplines are important, key, and indispensable in our walk with Him. But engaging in those disciplines to the extent that they are what we measure, keep track of or revel in is missing the same point that the Pharisees missed. They are tools. Essential tools, but tools nonetheless. If through them we are not learning more of Him, if we are not growing closer to Him through our engagement with those tools we are missing it.
The whole point of engaging in these, even in reading this blog or Christian books, is to get to know Him better. If it is not working that way for you. Something needs to change. If you are in a group of guys, or if you are meeting with someone regularly to talk about your Christian life, tell them you are struggling with this. What you are doing, rather the amount of it, is not the issue. The issue is through what you are doing, are you increasing in your relationship with Him.
I have to continually check this. It’s kind of like the scheduled maintenance on your car. If you do not pay attention the car will wear out and not work as well. Same thing with us. We need to continually ask are we knowing Him better or has our focus drifted on to the means rather than the end.