When I was in college reading was definitely not one of my favorite things to do. I think part of the problem was the fact I kept being told ‘you have to read this ____,’ just never sat very well with me. I really only wanted to read something if I wanted to, not because someone was telling me I had to.
Realizing that was my thought process, at times I would also take that into how I looked at reading the Bible. At times I would also not look at the Bible for what it says it is, and what I say I believe it is.
So last year I decided I wanted to read the Bible in one year. The entire thing; and not just skim reading but actually read all of it. Every. Single. Word.
This may seem like a daunting task to some especially if you’re like me and not a huge fan of reading in the first place. However, it was something I truly wanted to do and knew could be done if I was serious about it.
I got a reading plan from my roommate and started reading. Everyday there was a couple chapters from different books that the plan said I would read and then after a year, I would have the entire Bible read.
At first, it was simply something I wanted to do because then I could say I had done it! After all, I was a Biblical Studies major in college…so I should have read the Bible all the way through at least once, right?
Then, about two or three months into the reading plan I developed a very legalistic mindset. It became something I had to do to please God. Obviously He wanted me to be reading the Bible, so if I wasn’t then I wasn’t doing a good job…
This wasn’t the mindset I wanted to have, and I really wanted to believe God didn’t intend that for me either. I’ve never liked the legalistic mindset. I believe creating space and disciplines in our lives is more than needed, but being legalistic in those disciplines is not. So I was looking for something that would confirm exactly how I was feeling.
Then, one day, I was listening to a sermon by Matt Chandler from The Village Church (Check Resources Page) and something he said was very subtle, but had a huge impact on my thought process for creating those disciplines and finding freedom in them. Not legalism.
He was talking about his somewhat normal routine for when he wakes up in the morning. He was saying that part of his process is getting out of bed, making a pot of coffee and spending time reading his Bible before his kids wake up because he finds that when he starts his day off in the Word of God, he is simply a better man that day because his heart is aligned with the things of God. Then, in a bit of sarcasm, he quickly pointed out that, “It’s not legalism, it’s smart.”
It’s not legalism, it’s smart.
That was all I needed to hear. It made so much sense to me. I don’t read because God is forcing me to or will be angry with me if I don’t. And I don’t read because of some legalistic rule set that has been placed over me.
BUT, I read the Word of God simply as a discipline in my life to help me grow and connect more with God. To align my heart and mind to the things that His heart and mind are focused on.
So no, I do not read out of guilt and a legalistic mindset. But I do read out of freedom and for the growth of myself and hopefully the encouragement of people around me.