I like to-do lists. More specifically, I like the sight of having items crossed off the list. It communicates a sense of completion. Seeing the list, I actually feel like I’m being productive, even if it’s things like taking out the trash or calling a friend I haven’t spoken to in a while.
I use to-do lists in practically every area of life, including the spiritual disciplines, those activities God has given us to grow in grace and godliness, such as Bible reading and worship. Reading my Bible is a daily entry on the program that I use for my to-do list. The same goes for memorizing/reviewing Scripture. But I’ve found a sinful personal tendency as I work through my spiritual to-do list. There have been far too many times where I checked the box beside “Read Bible” and the material I read never crossed my mind the rest of the day. This spiritual discipline became like any other item on my list, an activity or job to be completed and then put out of mind.
If you’re like most Americans your to-do list has probably grown slightly because of your New Year’s resolutions, and most Christians resolve each year to read the Bible more, pray more, evangelize more, and the like. Now, I’m not saying these goals are unworthy of your time and effort. But I want to make a suggestion to you: Another entry on your to-do list is not the solution. What you and I need is a greater understanding of God’s glory. The spiritual disciplines will only come to have true significance in our lives after we see the greatness of the triune God.
Moses was willing to confront Pharaoh and lead the people of Israel after he encountered God in the burning bush (Exod. 3). Isaiah became a proclaimer of God’s Word after being overwhelmed by God’s glory in the temple (Isa. 6). Paul, a man bent on destroying Christianity, became its most zealous missionary after experiencing the blinding glory of Christ (Acts 9).
True spiritual vitality is a fruit of seeing and rejoicing in the glory of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.This is the only way to move beyond a “checklist Christianity.” Your Bible reading will never be truly important to you unless it moves from a good thing, in the same way that flossing or eating healthy is good for you, to a necessary thing, and this necessity will come as a result of feeling the weight of the fact that our only means of knowing God is through His inspired Word. There is life in its pages, eternal life and the fullness of life now. We know God and commune with Him as we study, meditate upon, and apply the Bible.
Likewise, our prayers won’t become dead air after two minutes if we truly grasp the unbelievable blessing it is to speak to the infinitely holy Lord of the universe. Praise and confession are products of seeing God for who He is. Isaiah didn’t need a step-by-step instruction for what to do in the presence of God. When he faced God’s glory, he couldn’t help but to worship, confess, and obey.
If you struggle with treating your relationship with Christ as a tedious obligation, try this: Pray that the Holy Spirit would give you eyes to see the glory of our God. We must confess our sin of flippantly viewing our Christian life and pray that God would make His Word burn within us. Then, dive into the Scriptures. See the wisdom of God as He authored the great narrative of our universe. Feel the weight of His holiness as He judges the sin that has temporarily pervaded His creation. Rejoice in the free-flowing grace that the Father has poured out in Christ by the power of the Spirit. Let your heart sing with the hope of new creation, the time when “checklist Christianity” will be no more because we will see Jesus face-to-face in the new heavens and earth.
The blessings of knowing and following Christ are too great to be limited to a mere line on a to-do list. Christianity is not another chore added to our lives. It is the means by which we see and experience the glory of our great God. Only when this grips us by the heart will our spiritual resolutions become life- and joy-producing practices.