My wife once related to me a humorous story from her seminary days. It seems a certain young woman at her seminary, on fire for the Lord but new to the seminary environment and unfamiliar with theological vocabulary, overheard some students discussing their "exegesis" class. Only she didn't hear "exegesis" - she heard it as "extra-Jesus". The gall of those students!, she thought, Thinking they have extra Jesus just because they take this class!
The story is humorous, and yet it's tragic. It's tragic because I identify with it. I have a tendency to believe that engaging in spiritual disciplines like prayer and Bible reading in some way earns me more of God's favor. Yes, I tend to believe that exegesis earns me extra Jesus. In the name of "discipline" or "passionate pursuit of God," we can become legalists, basing our acceptance with God on our ability to engage in rigorous spiritual activity. We can turn the means of grace into the basis of grace.
As a new husband and full-time graduate student, I simply don't have the free time I once had to pursue spiritual disciplines to the degree I would like. It's easy to spend hours a day studying Scripture when you're a single guy with few commitments in your life. Those in such situations can easily acquire an aura of spiritual superiority (What, brother?!? Thou only spent an hour in the Word today? Such sloth! I shall intercede for thee). But what of the graduate student cramming for finals? What of the single parent, working two jobs and raising kids? What do you do when real life intrudes on your bourgeois theological leisure time?
I'm not suggesting that time in the Word, in prayer, etc. is unimportant - in fact, the busier we are, the more important it is. But what I am suggesting is that we (I) must not let the necessity of these things become a legalistic burden. If, in the midst of studying for a midterm, I miss a meal, my stomach will let me know. But I don't condemn myself for missing a meal - rather, I run to the fridge, where the food is! In the same way, if in the midst of our busy lives, we find that we don't have all the time we would like for spiritual disciplines, rather than beating ourselves up, we should appreciate the hunger that we do feel. Hunger is good - it points us to food! If we miss a devotion, a prayer time, a Bible study, we'll feel a gnawing hunger. And that hunger isn't meant to drive us from the Bread of Life - it's meant to drive us to Him!
Yes, pursue spiritual growth. Yes, seek God with all your heart. Yes, become a student of the Word. But don't fall for the lie that exegesis equals "extra Jesus."