Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Trusting Externals

It is easy to take for granted that God is with us due to our background, our part in a specific group, or our involvement in certain external rituals. The Jews in Jesus’ day had these problems (Romans 9:4,5; 2:17-20: Matthew 3:9). Now as far as the historical facts went, they had a basis for their belief (Romans 3:1; John 4:22; Ephesians 2:11,12). But God is not interested in externals but the condition of the heart (Matthew 6:1-18; John 4:24; Malachi 1:10). The same is true for us today. It easy to see the external trappings--being born into a Christian home, being members of a church, having gone through the sacraments of baptism and communion--as a basis for believing we are Christians or mature Christians. But it is not these externals that ultimately matter but God’s view of the inner man (Matthew 7:21-23; Hebrews 4:12,13; Romans 2:16). The foundational issue is whether we have put our faith in Christ for His salvation (Romans 4:4,5; Ephesians 2:8,9; John 3:16-18). This should result in inner transformation (Titus 2:11-14; Ephesians 2:10; Romans 6:12-14) through the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives (2 Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 2:13; Colossians 1:29). The result of this is involvement in the externals of worship (Hebrews 10:24,25; Matthew 28:18-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26). But participating in the externals without the right heart attitude accomplishes nothing (Romans 2:25-29; 4:9-12; Colossians 2:20-23).   

Now it is important not to go too far in minimizing the externals. God did institute them (assuming we are speaking of things genuinely commanded in Scripture), and He did so for a purpose. They are meant to be aids to assist us in coming to Christ and to help us to grow in Him. There is a danger of developing an artificial spirituality that is focused totally inward and avoids all external supports. But it is equally dangerous to confuse the form and the substance and to believe that because we have gone through the motions, we have the reality. This is true as regards salvation, but it also can be true as regards living for Christ. We can think that being involved in the right activities, going to the right meetings, following the right forms, are what commend us to God. But the ultimate truth is that the thing that really matters is not what we do, but what Christ has done in dying for our sins (1 Peter 2:24,25; Colossians 2:13-15; Romans 5:6-8). We were sinners (Romans 3:23; Isaiah 64:6; Jeremiah 17:9) and unable to save ourselves (Romans 7:18; 8:8; John 15:5) when God intervened and made it possible for those who put their faith in Him to become His children (Romans 8:14-17; John 1:12,13; 1 John 3:1). We need to live our lives, both in the internal and external realms, in the light of what Christ has done for us (1 John 4:19; 2 Corinthians 5:14,15; Romans 12:1,2). And when we do so, we will have the externals in perspective.

No comments:

Post a Comment