Saturday, March 25, 2017
SERVING WITH JOY AND NOT COMPULSION
Why is the Western church in such disarray? Spiritually speaking, one of the most deadly practices we find in the church is compulsory service and observances. Compulsory service has an appearance of godliness, but in reality is worthless and hollow. How many come to church begrudgingly, slogging through the worship songs with no thought given to words sung nor to the One sung to? How many paltry dollars are dropped in the offering plate out of a sense of obligation or coercion? How many zoned out heart and minds sit through a carefully prepared message from the Word? How many think they have done their duty for God by suffering through yet another church service or performing some religious task? This is why the church is dying in America, too many people are pretending and not enough are truly committed to what they claim to believe.
In 2 Chronicles 30-31, we find the Hebrews celebrating Passover, properly, for what may be the first time in 250 years. Though they celebrated it a month late and not all the people were ceremonially clean, the hearts of the people were wholly dedicated to God and His glory. So joyful an event was the 7 day festival, the people decided to celebrate for another 7 days. After they celebrated, they willfully and joyfully went through the land and destroyed all that brought dishonor to God. The Hebrews did not begrudgingly quit doing things they enjoyed for fear of retribution or punishment, they genuinely desired to honor and please God with their daily lives. God's wrath on the nation was temporarily averted because the people served Him with their heart, rather than out of obligation.
Coming to that place, where we are desiring to please God, not just trying to avoid punishment, is part of maturing in Christ. When we repent from bad habits and attitudes because our hearts are truly convicted by our love for God, this is real Christianity. When we simply attempt to live by a set of rules because the rules seem to be what Christians are supposed to do, we are deceiving ourselves and opening the door for self righteousness. True obedience and discipleship start with a change within. Inward change does not begin with outward subjugation to a given set of dos and don'ts. There is no joy found in compulsion, only a sense of duty and obligation that can bring stress or pride, both destructive.
Authentic change can only come by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit through faith in Jesus Christ. Attempting to live a holy life without the supernatural empowerment of the Holy Spirit is frustrating at best and self destructive at worst. It simply cannot be done. Religion is a system of order and compulsory behaviors designed to bring us closer to God. Religion is empty and without power. Relationship draws us closer to God through knowledge and understanding of His word and desire to please Him.