The Gospel vs Church ritualism
There are only three things that will last for eternity and should remind us of what our
priorities on this earth should be; they are: God vs 5, His Word vs 4 and people vs 2, 7. However, in today’s busy world, we spend our time chasing after “things”, “self” and “personal pleasure”. We get so fixated on our physical existence that the things which are important to God become undesirable to us. God made this whole world for one reason, so short human existence could be spent learning to love Him more than just our personal happiness. And to help others live to love Him as well. When we get distracted away from God, that which He loves above all else, namely people, become nuisances to us. We are not immune to this tendency in the church. Instead of celebrating our distinctiveness as we worship God together, our unique differences alienate us from each other, and we think that God is only interested in the way that we worship him. As we know the difference between the Gospel and ritualism this would not be as dramatic a problem for the church.
Romans 15:1-7 Use this link for the NIV or use your favorite version. Highlight vs 2, 4, 5, 6, 7
As we ponder God’s character from the above passage, I wonder if God would answer our signature question below in the following way…
Who Are You Lord?
I AM the God who gives endurance and encouragement and unity. The goal of truth is to help you grow in your knowledge of your position in me. Your position in me is perfect, and as you grow in your understanding of your position, your life will change from the inside out to be pleasing to me. The same goes for those who worship with you. Thus the goal of your Christian life is to help others to grow with you until you all attain the goal of your faith together – which is the perfection of your souls. Until then, realize that none of you are perfect in this life, so stop judging the other’s faith, rather let them help you make sure yours is as solid as you can make it. Because of your sin nature, it is very hard for you to see where you are lacking in your Christian life, like the proverbial log in your own eye. You need eyes outside of yourself to see your shortcomings. This is why you need others from different perspectives. Humble yourself and I will lift you up in due season. Only through humility can you experience Unity.
I AM the God who accepted you even though it cost me everything, including my life. What should you focus on instead of others faults? The fact of your own faults and my forgiveness and acceptance of you just as you are. I am the author of your faith and will perfect it through my word and the witness of other believers that I bring into your life from various walks of life and different cultures. So rather than be proud of your current position and maturity, humbly help others overcome their weaknesses and misunderstandings of the Word, and allow others to help you to understand it better too.
I AM the God who gives hope through my eternal word. My Word is absolute truth. Truth dispels error and confusion and sets you free from the snare of popular opinion. I have told you plainly what my plans are for the future so that you will not fear it. All of the important questions of life are answered in my Word if you would believe me and let me show you. I have a plan for you to be with me if you would receive my gift of eternal life in Christ. Then you will never need fear in this world again. This world will continue to bring tribulations, but you need not fear, for I AM with you always and have a plan for them in your life. Rather give thanks, for this is my will concerning you.
Your acceptance is not based on your ritualism
When the “how-to’s” of your religion become more important to you than the “why” of it, then you have succumbed to ritualism. How do you walk in the liberty of Christ before other believers when there are so many who are confused about what true Christian liberty is? It boils down to knowing the Gospel and being able to distinguish anything that is added to the Gospel by man’s traditions. Just like people who can pick out a counterfeit ten dollar bill, the better you know the Gospel the better you can avoid the booby traps or ritualism’s that cause divisions. Then you will also be able to avoid unnecessary judgment from others who celebrate the Gospel differently than you. As I defined it in earlier posts, the Gospel is what Jesus did for us historically, externally, and objectively 2000 years ago when he lived to fulfill all righteousness on our behalf and died on our behalf to satisfy God’s judgment for our sin. When we make the Gospel about what we do in response to the it, or even what happens internally in us as a result of it, then it is no longer objective, rather it becomes subjective and wishy washy. It becomes subject to each of our interpretations, divisions and confusion. It is no longer a matter of faith, but rather an object of ritual to be compared against the rituals of others. Once we truly understand that the Gospel is not about ritual but the finished work of Christ and my simply believing in that fact, we have the ability like Paul to “become all things to all men”. We can worship acceptably with a clear conscience on any day, eat any food or choose not to. We can sing praise in any venue with any style because we know what salvation is truly about, and we realize that our acceptance by God is not based on anyone does but rather on what Christ did for us for which we can all agree and be happy.
“You say potato, I say potato”
You cannot see it in print, but potato can be pronounced two different ways depending on where you come from. As a missionary to a foreign country, we have become very sensitive to how different English speaking cultures speak English let alone practice their Christianity. When I come home to the USA, I am sometimes surprised at the mono-cultural mentality of some Americans within the church. However, the common denominator of all true believers is Jesus Christ crucified not how we celebrate him. Personal preferences are fine, it is OK for style to be different; God loves variety, but know the difference between the Gospel, and rituals within the church and you will be in a better position to accept brothers of differing traditions. The key is to know the reason why you believe and use the words you use in church and why you sing the songs you sing. Otherwise you are practicing vain repetitions. Remember God sees your heart, and whatever is not of faith, is sin.
More to come,