I suspect you would never intend this, but this is what happens. When you attempt to live by your own religious plans and projects, you are cut off from Christ, you fall out of grace. Meanwhile we expectantly wait for a satisfying relationship with the Spirit. For in Christ, neither our most conscientious religion nor disregard of religion amounts to anything. What matters is something far more interior: faith expressed in love. (Galatians 5:4-6)
I bet no one will be surprised to know that I spent a great deal of time trying to be holy by completing various religious 'plans' and 'projects'. I'd fast for a day, not really knowing why I was doing it, but someone told me it would 'make me closer to God'. I'd read a certain number of chapters in the Bible every day, not really getting much out of it, all because someone told me I needed to make a 'plan' for reading through the Bible every year. I'd go to church every Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday night - not because I always felt like it, but because it was 'expected'. How many of us have been in the same boat - going about 'doing the plan', but not really getting much out of it?
Truth be told, as I have grown a bit wiser, I find myself happy to simply 'ingest' a few verses every day, thinking upon them, seeing what God wants to tell me about how to make wise decisions, find peace, or get my life in order somehow. I attend church, listen online, or just celebrate God out in nature while out of town, not out of obligation, but because I enjoy being taught as much as I enjoy teaching others. What made the difference? I guess it was listening to God's 'small voice' deep inside asking why I did these things - what purpose were they serving in my life. When I really stopped to consider the 'exercises' in faith, I realized they were simply 'religious exercises' that weren't really accomplishing the intended purpose!
Once I asked God to help me be less 'religious' and 'pious', do you know what happened? I fell in love with him! I enjoyed my time that I regularly set aside for the two of us. I found he spoke to me very clearly and that I actually listened to what he told me. It wasn't a magic formula that brought me closer to God - it was a yielded and obedient heart. Did the change happen overnight? Nope, but it happened! Did it change the way I acted? Yes, now the actions are genuine and without second thought. They are purposeful and life-giving. Do I still find myself in kind of 'mulligrub' spiritual moments where it doesn't seem like I am getting much from the time I am spending with him? Yup, but they are usually because I need a little attitude adjustment, not that I need to engage in anymore 'spiritual rituals'.
How about you? Have you been going through the motions, but not really connecting with him? Have you settled into a place of 'activity', but not really 'pursuit'? Is your heart in it? If not, maybe it is time to ask yourself the 'w' questions. Why am I doing this? Who am I doing this for? What is the purpose behind this action? When I 'perform' this activity, what is the outcome? Answering those tough questions honestly could just give each of us a little bit of insight into how committed our heart is to getting the most from our relationship with him. Just sayin!
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