“pretentious and infantile religion”

pietyPeople who try to act ‘spiritual’ sometimes just amuse me and sometimes, I hate to admit this, they irritate me. Does loving God really mean being incapable of laughter, unable to acknowledge the absurdity of life, or being stuffy? I love to laugh, enjoy a practical joke, and I eat bean burritos and find the consequences a source of silly amusement. Does that mean I am not spiritual? To some, perhaps. Spirituality often gets confused with pious acts.  Is that what it is all about?

The Pharisees of Jesus’ time desired to be holy, but mostly they got it wrong. I have that on the best authority – that of Jesus Himself! He told them that if they really loved God they should take care of their aging parents and clean up their inner thoughts. (Mark 7) They focused their ‘spirituality’ on a set of rigid rules about where they went, how they ate, what they said, and how they dressed. Sound familiar? But listen to Jesus’ observation about the relative unimportance of all those things to God: “And so you cancel the word of God in order to hand down your own tradition. And this is only one example among many others. … For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.” (Mark 7:21-23, NLT)

The disciples in the Church in the city of Corinth wanted to ‘spiritual.’ They spoke, at length, in tongues, prophesied, and had meeting that supposedly were non-stop Holy Spirit manifestations.  And, then at their ‘love feast’ they discriminated rich from poor! Paul wrote a corrective letter about true spirituality. They must have been shocked to read, “when I was with you I couldn’t talk to you as I would to spiritual people. I had to talk as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in the Christian life.” (1 Corinthians 3:1, NLT)

In spite of their spiritual gifts, they were a moral mess! They had constant conflict, indicating that they did not truly love. They were arrogant and took their disputes to the courts! They tolerated an open incestuous relationship, thinking they were so spiritual it did not matter! They were proud and took little thought about how their choices were affecting baby Believers. Pastor Paul told them, “You think you’re so spiritual, but you’re really not very deep in God, at all! You have not even grasped the basics!” Throughout his letter, he reminds them that true spirituality will produce a transformation of character. True spirituality is first about experiencing the love of God and subsequently about living with a love for God and others. Real ‘spiritual’ worship is about mutuality. “What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.” (1 Corinthians 14:26, NIV)

Mastery of church doctrine, speaking in tongues, and engaging in prayers shaped by “King James” language – does not make one spiritual!

Want to really please God and make His wonderful Presence known in your world?  Here is how Jesus said it happens– “Love God and love others!”
Want to grow in grace, to develop a great soul?  Learn to repent when you sin against God. Learn to die daily to Self and forget about being known or recognized.

A by-product of self-made ‘spirituality’ is arrogance, something Paul called being ‘puffed up.’  He told the Corinthians that they “have become arrogant … I will come—and soon—if the Lord will let me, and then I’ll find out whether these arrogant people are just big talkers or whether they really have God’s power. For the Kingdom of God is not just fancy talk; it is living by God’s power.” (1 Corinthians 4:18-21, NLT)

Spirituality that is formed around external choices turns you and me into actors. In no time looking good will replace being good!  I really do want to live a holy life. I want to know God and make Him known. No desire in me is greater than those. Will others see Jesus in me? Will my heart overflow with loving concern for people in my home and my world? If I am living with integrity about that desire to honor the One Whom I call, “Lord” – I will be ‘spiritual’ but it will have nothing to do with pious acting.

Oh God protect us from religiosity and superficial piety. Create the true and lasting beauty of genuine holiness in us, Spirit, I pray.

Here’s a word from the Word.  “So, then, if with Christ you’ve put all that pretentious and infantile religion behind you, why do you let yourselves be bullied by it? “Don’t touch this! Don’t taste that! Don’t go near this!” Do you think things that are here today and gone tomorrow are worth that kind of attention? Such things sound impressive if said in a deep enough voice. They even give the illusion of being pious and humble and ascetic. But they’re just another way of showing off, making yourselves look important. So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides.” (Colossians 2:20-3:1, The Message)


Refiner’s Fire

Purify my heart
Let me be as gold
And precious silver
Purify my heart
Let me be as gold
Pure gold

Refiner’s fire
My heart’s one desire
Is to be holy
Set apart for You Lord
I choose to be holy
Set apart for You my Master
Ready to do Your will

Purify my heart
Cleanse me from within
And make me holy
Purify my heart
Cleanse me from my sin
Deep within

Brian Doerksen © 1990 Mercy / Vineyard Publishing (Admin. by Vineyard Music USA)
CCLI License # 810055

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