1/8/2020 – Pastor Brian’s Blog –
If you are passionate about professional football and you live outside of New England, chances are you are just one of millions of people rejoicing on Saturday night when the New England Patriots lost to the Tennessee Titans and were eliminated from the playoffs.
For us in New England, we have become complacent in that we just expect the Patriots to be fighting for the Superbowl each year. It is true that recently we have not been playing well, and it is also true that our receivers were not that good, the defense has slipped, and Tom Brady hasn’t been on the top of his game. Yet it is also true that it is January and we just expect Brady to overcome deficits, we expect the defense to step up and for Julian Edelman to make that unbelievable catch. We just expected them to show up because it is January, and it always works out in January!!
As we begin 2020, consider how we, as Christians, can become complacent as well. We can think that our relationship with God will just work out. We must fight against the thought that if my belief system remains the same, if I keep going to church on Sunday morning, if I don’t commit the wrong sins, if people have a good opinion of me then at the end of the year, I will be spiritually victorious.
Although all those things are important, it does not guarantee spiritual success. You can know the right Christian lingo and yet have Jesus say this to you… “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” Matthew 15:7-8
You might be performing the right habits, checking off your spiritual ‘to do’ list and still have Jesus say to you… “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.” Revelation 3:15-18
God expects so much more from us than just living a life of ritual and compliance. God wants us to be better in 2020 then we were in 2019. Not better than my neighbor, not better than the people I attend church with, not even better that my pastor! God wants us to be more like Him; God wants us to be better than we were! Better at forgiving, better at showing grace, better at loving our spouse, better at longsuffering, better at reflecting Him in 2020 than I was in 2019. Better to the point where like Paul we can say… “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 11:1
As followers of Christ we have been designed for worship, to be looking for God in whatever we do. Yet we will not become better if we allow our lives to degenerate into a life of habits and rituals, the very thing Jesus hated: religion.
What are some warnings signs that we have moved from a relational to a ritual relationship with God? When we get more excited about things we have planned to do that day, than we are spending time with God. We are to quick to settle for what WE want to do, instead of seeking out God to see what HE wants us to do.
We show up on Sundays and sing songs that no longer reflect our life. Fellowship has become shallow, sliding by with a “How are you? I am fine.” conversation. We pay our dues at offering time, usually based on the bills we personally owe and not on the needs that God has set before us. The pastor speaks, our mind wanders, and the word from God is often forgotten minutes after we leave the building.
We know that we are not getting better when at the end of the day we realized that we have not included God in our day at all. If our goal is not to get better, we will allow ourselves to drift and become complacent. We will get caught up in the religious ritual and not experience the presence of God. And when that happens it is impossible to get better.
We just expected the Patriots to win, because, well, they are the Patriots and that is what they do. We just got used to it. Don’t settle for that kind of spiritual life in 2020. When we live our lives in the presence of God, we will know it and those in our lives will know it because the difference will be obvious. We will be better!!