So often we make spiritual disciplines like prayer, fasting, worship and attending church meetings ends in themselves. We do them because they’re good things to do. Or else we make them means to our own ends be they obtaining God’s favour, being a better Christian or whatever other locks in life we make them the skeleton key of pastoral advice for.
This is to completely miss the point!
Bible study isn’t the point; the point of bible study is knowing Christ.
Prayer isn’t the point; the point of prayer is knowing Christ.
Fasting isn’t the point; the point of fasting is hungering after Christ.
Church attendance isn’t the point; the point of meeting other believers is knowing Christ better through His revelation and working in one another, and because we can know Him more faithfully this way than we can possibly on our own.
Yes, Bible study is good – it’s good to know good doctrine and know the bible better. Yes, prayer is good – it’s good to pour our fears, requests and thanks out to God. Yes, fasting is good – it can even lead to a bit of weight loss . Yes, it is good to live a disciplined life – certainly better than a lazy slovenly one.
Yet all these things become meaningless if it is these benefits we have in mind and are chasing after.
In all these things, if we focus on the activities and temporal benefits as ends in themselves, we will miss out on their true blessing and benefit. Ultimately they’ll be of no profit to us at all.
Instead, if we count these pragmatic and temporal reasons as dung (Phil 3:8-11) and focus on making knowing and relating to Christ our true aim, we will not only find we get all the other benefits thrown in. We will also find that we have the greatest reward of all, which will never be taken from us – nothing less than Christ Himself!