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Form without Function

Monday, January 11, 2010

Category: Character, God's Word, Spiritual Life, Your Walk With God

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:9-14 9

Doing spiritual things gets you nowhere with God if all you want is a checkmark.

Read my Bible—check!

Go to church—check!

Put my tithe in the offering plate—check!

When it comes to spiritual things, going through the motions is an empty exercise. Now I’m not saying you shouldn’t go to church or read your Bible or serve in a ministry. Just the opposite! Do all those great things—but with the right motivation. If your heart needs adjustment or repair, then get that done and get back to following hard after Christ.

In Luke 18:9-14, Jesus tells the story of two men going to worship. One, a Pharisee, had being religious down to a science. He let everyone know that he fasted (more than he had to), he tithed (more than he had to), and he was more spiritual than anyone else. But sadly, in spite of all his posing and posturing, the man’s heart was far from God.

The other guy knew where he stood before God. “The tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ ” (Luke 18:13). His words and his actions matched his heart.

Two guys stood praying in the temple, but God only heard one.

Before we get all pious and noble, let’s agree that it’s very easy to go through the form and not get to the function. Systematically, we must examine our hearts on this matter and look for blind spots. Ask yourself: Am I like that Pharisee, doing all the right things but with a heart that’s far from God? Ask yourself:

Why do I go to church? To show up, to be seen, to do and say the right things? Or to pour out a river of heartfelt adoration to Jesus Christ in the way I sing, in the way I give, in how I listen and respond to God’s Word?

Why am I part of a small group? Because I enjoy the people and the fellowship? Or to apply God’s Word to my life and to minister to and pray for and with others about our real needs and to hold each other accountable in our walk with God?

Why do I read the Bible and pray everyday? To get through the Bible-reading schedule in a year? Or to feed my spirit on what matters for eternity and to intentionally be with God? Matching the form of our spiritual life with our motivation for doing spiritual things really matters to the Lord. Humble yourself before Him and ask to see the true condition of your heart. Only God’s Spirit, using the mirror of His Word, will reflect the truth.


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