Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Looking for Magic

If growth in Christ is a process, there are many things that can help us in that process. But the danger is that it is possible to take these things and make them into a series of steps to automatic spirituality. If I can only manage to go down the checklist by going through the motions of carrying these things out, I will magically become the person God wants me to be. Now I do not want to minimize the power these things have to work in our lives. But we need to realize that there is a Scriptural rebuke against just going through the outer forms without the inner reality (Matthew 6:1-18; 23:23-28; Malachi 1:10).

But in order to avoid this, we can conclude that unless we can work up a certain kind of feeling or a certain degree of excitement, we are simply going through the motions. Now I have nothing against feeling and excitement. I think both have a legitimate place in the Christian life. But the issue is not the state of our experience but our sincerity. Do we mean what we are doing, or are we just putting on a show, particularly to please other people rather than God (Galatians 1:10; Proverbs 29:25; Matthew 23:4-12)? But the bottom line is, are we really looking to find ways to grow in Christ (Hebrews 5:11-14; Ephesians 4:13-16; Philippians 3:12-16)? Or are we simply looking for some shortcut which will enable us to instantly become spiritual (John 4:24; Romans 2:25-29; Psalms 50:7-15)? So the point is not to work up a particular experience, but to be genuinely open to what God wants to do in our lives. 

Now every help for living the Christian life is in danger of being becoming just another duty we perform, rather than helping us to better know and serve God. We can engage in Bible study and prayer as a duty that we carry out, rather than something that allows us to learn about and speak to God. We can see the meeting together of the saints as merely another duty to perform, rather than developing real community where we actually love and encourage one another in the faith. We can, in the extreme, end up judging people by things such as how many meetings they attend, whether or not the meetings are of much value to the person in question. We can see the ordinances, the rituals, and the worship style of the congregation as something  carried out as a duty, rather than something that points to God and His truth.  So we need to be sure, as we approach these, that we do them to seek God and not simply to check another item off our list. For if we do not approach these things the right way, they can harm rather than help. Also, we can convince ourselves we are already doing something when the very thing we need to go forward with God is actually doing it.

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