Has worship become empty and just going through the motions? God has a remedy.
IT’S WORTH CONSIDERING
If you have been a subscriber to my newsletter or blog for a while, you have noticed that I write a lot about the sad condition of the church in America. At times, it may seem that I’m on a church-bashing crusade. Today, I’d like to explain my motivation any what I hope to gain from these “tirades.”
My observations come from personal experience. I have been caught up in the same things I condemn. I have personally been complacent and have found myself falling into a meaningless routine of religious activity, thinking I was pleasing God. I have found myself settling for something far beneath what God has for me. I have been guilty of subconsciously evaluating my “spiritual maturity” by the wrong standards. I’ve made most of the mistakes that are “common to man.”
Yet God, in His grace and mercy, has brought me through it all, into a place where my failures and mistakes are now easy to identify. I am experiencing life on a higher plane than I ever thought possible. I am learning what the joy of God’s presence is all about. I am finally starting to see my experiences and others through God’s eyes instead of my own. I’ve got a long way to go, but if what I have entered into is a preview of coming attractions, I have reason to be hopeful for the future, regardless of what life throws at me.
AS I SEE IT
I say all this to give credibility to my thought for today. My hope is that if you identify with any of the usual traps, you will realize the danger you are in and will take steps to make your faith more authentic. I hope you will come to understand that the gospel, the heart and soul of Christianity, is not a code of morals or ethics. It is not a creed of a set of beliefs to be held. It is not a list of sins to avoid. It is not good advice to be followed. It is a divinely given message concerning a divine person, Jesus, the Son of God, who desires a real, intimate and personal relationship with us. Everything He asks or commands is intended to deepen His love relationship with His people.
An essential element of this relationship is a meaningful worship experience in which we get beyond our own little worlds and actually see Him in His glory. Only when we have seen a glimpse of His majesty will we respond in a way that pleases Him. Too often, our worship is really nothing more than pre-planned religious activity. As I said, been there, done that.
Even in the Old Testament, what seems like God-ordained ritualistic religion was actually rooted in relational worship. The whole sacrificial system was a way that ordinary, sinful people could express their love to God. Unfortunately, both then and now, our sacrifices are often motivated by a desire to appease God or soothe our guilty consciences.
God’s commandments are rooted in a desire for a love relationship. They are for our protection. Yet, we often regress into legalism, making obedience an end in itself instead of a gateway to a deeper relationship. Prayer is intended to be an intimate time of talking to God and listening to Him. We, however, are often content to “say our prayers” and be on our way.
In many ways, the church in America has become like the people of Israel in the days of the prophets. Our empty ritual has rendered us unable to discern whether God is present or not. You will have to determine for yourself whether you have fallen into the trap of meaningless ritual. Are you just going through the motions, or are you enjoying the joy of our Lord’s presence?
If you have fallen short of God’s desire for you, don’t vow to try harder. Don’t devise a plan to have a more meaningful quiet time. What God desires is repentance. He will take it from there.
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ON THE LIGHTER SIDE
No matter how much you push the envelope, it’ll still be stationery.
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