It's Not How We Rehearse, But How We Live That Counts
by Patrick Roberts 11/11/2007 / Christian Living
God, in His wisdom, requires a soul-deep quality of character from us rather than anything we can manufacture on our own. This is reflected in His simple command for us, which is to work diligently with whatever grace He sees fit to give us. As we work with the grace He allots us right now, we will demonstrate our belief that He knows what He is doing. This is authentic, God-honoring faith.
However our fleshly minds tend to wander. In our foolishness, we scorn the grace God gives us by envying the grace He gives others. Our shortsightedness fails to perceive God distributing His gifts purposefully, according to His greater, heavenly goals.
Therefore the man who schemes to obtain an alternate amount of grace is offensive to God. This man's thinking is overrun with sinful rottenness; the fruit of his actions will be only greater discontentment and frustration. This is the folly of churchgoers who desire both Godly freedom and worldly riches at the same time.
Tragically, the majority of American Christendom strives against the Lord and tortures themselves by trying to adapt His Spirit to their own worldly, versions of faith. Churchgoers think they're pretty clever for living a way that looks the part while their hearts are filled with every kind of bitterness and putrefaction. Many who sit in their usual pews and listen faithfully to the weekly sermon are willfully misguided so they can ignore God as long as they want.
Deceived people suppose they can call the shots for their faith, but every deceived person is only an underling of the head master of deception himself. Deception in general is designed by the father of lies to destroy people all the while giving them the illusion of control. But trusting anything or anyone besides Christ amounts to eternal futility as well as boldfaced rebellion against our Maker.
Misguided people suppose that they can occupy themselves with more than one, life-enveloping object at once. Satan is quite content to divide people's hearts into two or three parts (or into something they suppose is a careful balance between God and other things). The opponent is delighted to divide people any way they desire. He is content with this because he knows, and Christ confirms it, that a soul cannot be balanced between God and something else, but only 100% enslaved to God or else 100% enslaved to the father of lies. Distracted, divided men will not help to bring the kingdom of God to earth, but rather they will only contribute their frustrations to an already frustrated world.
Religion in particular distracts and divides men to the point that they forget altogether what Spirit-led, God-pleasing obedience might even look like. Mind-numbing, religious activity keeps churchgoers from noticing the disturbing state of their rebellious hearts. The subtlety here is that people's success in religion leads them to suppose they are successful from God's point of view.
But to the Lord, who is Spirit and Truth, outward signs are not of primary importance. In fact, He so jealously desires the undivided souls of His chosen people that He will kill their bodies to save their souls. He won't hesitate to do away with what was dying anyway in order to secure that which is undying. This sounds harsh to the shallow, distraction-loving masses but, nevertheless, God is too smart to mix up His eternal, heavenly priorities with the fleeting priorities of men.
This leads us to the fact that God cares less about tasks in themselves and more about the state of our hearts as we strive toward obedience. Of course, we should value right action, but God desires a far more fundamental prerequisite, which is that our hearts, souls and motivations for living should be upright before His omniscient perception. This is especially obvious in regards to Christ's church, whose calling amounts to much more than finishing a list of chores. It is the extent to which we belong to Him, from the inside-out, that really matters.
And Godly obedience amounts to much more than some mysterious, evasive guessing game. It is following the powerful, unmistakable lead of God's Spirit among us.
Fellowship amongst believers is a good example of the "how it's done" coming before the "what is done." Though fellowship doesn't accomplish any measurable task, yet it is, in itself, a vital aspect of God's kingdom. Obedient action within Christ's church depends more on how we relate to each other than how high and wide we stack our religious bricks or how many people we've successfully assembled into one of our buildings.
If God leads us into working together as a spiritual family to build some physical structure, then the flawlessness of our finished, physical product is not our first priority (though we should strive for excellence in everything we do). But God, in His wisdom, cares more about the state of my heart as I hand the hammer over to my workmate than He cares about how well any nail is secured into a wooden board. He cares about how I ask for that bucket of paint, even despite my physical fatigue. The ultimate purpose for this is to lead us into trusting Christ first. Then it will be obvious to the world that it is He who works out every meaningful aspect of our lives.
Therefore, when in doubt, let's determine nothing more than to love God, our spiritual family and whoever is our neighbor so that there will be more than concrete and wood that holds up our construction.
Following Christ is necessarily humbling to the man who takes his life into his own hands. All-abandoning trust in God is, in fact, offensive to the natural, willful man.
A churchgoing man who, in reality, is distant from God might say glibly, "Oh yes, God could easily do anything He liked, even without my help..." and then go on to deny this by never consulting the Lord before he goes about his daily business. The foolishness of sinful hypocrisy is to acknowledge Christ and yet hold Him at arm's length, choosing instead to plod along fruitlessly.
Therefore it remains for spiritually infantile manly-men, or anyone else who wants to be spiritually potty-trained, to humble themselves and seek out Christ with childlike sincerity. This includes well-seasoned churchgoers, no matter how sure they are of themselves and their right answers. It is appropriate for such people as these, who are still dribbling, spiritual toddlers, to weep and moan in light of their desperate need for God's mercy.
How frustrating God's wisdom must be to the working man who prides himself in the sweat of his brow! Tragically, this is the majority of men, both inside and outside of church walls. Fleshly men work today in order to earn for themselves the right to look backward and say, "Look at what I've done!" Then they bolster themselves, assuming they will live another day, saying, "Look at what I'm going to do!" But this clashes with Christ's command for us, which is: Trust God alone and be content whatever blessing He sees fit to give us.
What man can boast in his future? No mortal can know whether this day is his last. The future does not yet exist.
On a similar note, Christ did not respect the most impressive religious construction of His day. He chided those who gazed at men's buildings, because He knew the day was close at hand when not one brick would be left sitting upon another. That which men plant must whither and die quickly, Christ says, but that which God plants can never be uprooted.
Look and marvel at this, O earthly man, that Christ commands His followers to pray for only enough to survive today and yet at the same time seek the fullness of God's glory on earth. He injects heavenly significance into everyday things, which has the side-effect of minimizing men and maximizing God in men. This is a terrifying prospect for those who are in love with their itineraries and plans. Do we dare ask God if our plans might fit into His?
Obedience to Christ requires that we should continually ask Christ, "How, Lord, might a people such as ourselves ever contribute to Your heavenly plans? Lord, please bring us to whatever place you want us to be. Put us on the same page as You, forcibly if needs be!"
This is an excerpt from To the Church of the West, Scattered Throughout the World. Find this book and similar articles at www.BooksByPatrick.com
Patrick is an average Christ-seeker. His goal is to turn people to Jesus Christ.