Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Am I A Legalist?

A Quick Look
I recently read an article (which no longer exists online) that challenged me. There were many points within this article that I found to be very poignant, true that need to be heard by all of us - whether we know these truths, have forgotten these truths, or need to experience them for the first time. There is one point, though, that I feel needs to be considered and grasped as we enter into this new year. I will quote it here since it was said well originally.
"Some people make daily Bible reading into law. They feel justified and holy when they read, but guilty when they don’t. This is messed up because the point of reading the Bible is to draw closer to God, to love him more, understand him better, and have your heart transformed—but it’s easy to take the gift of the Bible and turn it into a burden. It only becomes a burden when you use reading the Bible or any other new law that you create to make you feel righteous, instead of understanding that you are only made righteous by Christ."

A New Year
As we enter into this new year many of us will begin or annual renewal of a vow to read the whole Bible within the year. We will find a reading program that seems easy enough for us. We may even recruit a few friends to join us on the journey. But, sad to say, the majority of us will probably do well for a few weeks, even a month or more, then will reach the latter part of the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible) and will give up our noble quest all together.

My "New Law"
I hope I am not alone in what I am about to say, but if I am so be it. Whenever I have committed myself to this task, of reading through the Bible in a year (or in any set amount of time) and have failed, I begin to feel an overwhelming sense of guilt and shame, as if I have sinned against God, himself. This is absurd of me and only shows my own ignorance and idolatry.

Instead of pursuing the Bible to know, to love, and to worship Jesus better, I have created for myself a "new law." A law that is not from God, but from ourselves (or perhaps even well-meaning leaders or friends within the church - other legalists). Yes, it is good and right for us to read the Bible. Yes, I should read and know it all. But, to feel guilt and shame for not doing it in the manner that I have set out for myself is wrong - even sinful perhaps.

Why Do I Say All This?
I say all of this because I want to encourage us, myself included, to be careful not to set up for ourselves any new law this year that would turn our heart and our worship away from Jesus towards anything or anyone else. I am encouraging us to strive harder in our pursuit of knowing God's Word. I am encouraging us to be intentional in our reading and studying it. Yet, in that, let us not allow our own ideas and intentions to create a self-justifying law for ourselves. Yes, there will be some of us who will accomplish the task of reading through the Bible, and yes there will be some of us who will not. My prayer is that those of us who do accomplish it will not justify and worship ourselves for doing so, and that those of us who do not will not allow ourselves to be ruled by our pride or failures and to feel guilt that has not been rightfully placed on us by God.

Now What?
So, read your Bible! Read it well! But, may that lead us on to further repentance, knowledge,  love and worship, rather than pride, idolatry, guilt or shame.

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