Do you ever find yourself running a through a checklist of things you do, to try to quell that sense in your heart that your true desire for God is not quite right?
-Attended church every Sunday this month. Check.
-Gave generous offerings to the church. Check.
-Said some kind words to my neighbor. Check.
-Avoided using curse words when angry. Check.

And yet the nagging sense that your heart is not full to overflowing with the Spirit, that your true devotion is not set on Christ Jesus, remains.

Jesus spoke to some people who were very religious but who did not actually love God with some harsh words. In part, He said,  “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.” (Matthew 23:23-24, NIV)

I think when He said that last line, the crowds probably laughed at it. “You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel!” They were careful not to let a little bug contaminate their beverage, but missed the large beast in it. Absurd? Yes, but meant to drive home the point!

Let’s not take away the wrong message. The Lord was not saying that things like church attendance, generous giving, clean language, or human kindness were unimportant to God. They are, but they cannot replace true devotion, genuine love for Him and others, concern for justice, and faithfulness in our relationships.

Religion can be used like an air freshener in a stinking room. Even if the garbage can is full of spoiled food, the kitchen can smell better temporarily when you spray a chemical mask over the odor but the best way to make the stink go away is to get rid of the garbage.

We cannot confuse the choice to look good on the outside with the decision to surrender ourselves to Christ Jesus and be transformed from the inside!

Jesus described this to a religious scholar named Nicodemus as being ‘born again.’ (John 3) A tragedy of our time is the way we abuse that wonderful concept. One is not ‘born again’ because they say a few words at the end of a church service as the preacher leads them, or pray the ‘sinner’s prayer’ with someone.  Yes, those things can be meaningful and often are, but new birth is the work of the Spirit Who comes to live in us, conceiving a completely new way of life in us – one that is God-centered, not self-centered.

Are there parts of your life that remain fully in your possession, where you have posted a ‘keep out’ sign to the Holy Spirit? Do you refuse His call to come near, to deal with that issue of unforgiveness, impurity, greed, racism – whatever it may be – and try to cover up your guilty conscience?

God loves us and wants our deepest devotion in response. There is wonderful peace to be found in a whole-hearted ‘yes’ to Him. There is joy and assurance in the center of His will. Do you know those things?

Here is a word from the Word. Jesus quoted from Isaiah, challenging us to change. “And so, by your own tradition, you nullify the direct commandment of God. You hypocrites! Isaiah was prophesying about you when he said, ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far away. Their worship is a farce, for they replace God’s commands with their own man-made teachings.’ ” (Matthew 15:6-9, NLT)  “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” (James 4:7-10, NIV)


Build My Life

(A great song that points us to real faith in the Builder)

Worthy of ev’ry song we could ever sing
Worthy of all the praise we could ever bring
Worthy of ev’ry breath we could ever breathe
We live for You

 Jesus the name above ev’ry other name
Jesus the only one who could ever save
Worthy of ev’ry breath we could ever breathe
We live for You
We live for You

 Holy there is no one like You
There is none besides You
Open up my eyes in wonder and show me who You are
And fill me with Your heart
And lead me in Your love to those around me

 I will build my life upon Your love
It is a firm foundation
I will put my trust in You alone
And I will not be shaken

Brett Younker | Karl Martin | Kirby Elizabeth Kaple | Matt Redman | Pat Barrett © 2016 Martin, Karl Andrew (Admin. by Arkyard Music Services Limited) Kaple Music (Admin. by Bethel Music Publishing) Bethel Music Publishing

CCLI License # 810055

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