Scripture: Isaiah 1:
13-17"Quit your worship charades.
I can’t stand your trivial religious games:
Monthly conferences, weekly Sabbaths, special meetings—
meetings, meetings, meetings—I can’t stand one more!
Meetings for this, meetings for that. I hate them!
You’ve worn me out!
I’m sick of your religion, religion, religion,
while you go right on sinning.
When you put on your next prayer-performance,
I’ll be looking the other way.
No matter how long or loud or often you pray,
I’ll not be listening.
And do you know why? Because you’ve been tearing
people to pieces, and your hands are bloody.
Go home and wash up.
Clean up your act.
Sweep your lives clean of your evildoings
so I don’t have to look at them any longer.
Say no to wrong.
Learn to do good.
Work for justice.
Help the down-and-out.
Stand up for the homeless.
Go to bat for the defenseless.
Observation: The practice of church, and the practice of prayer, can become empty and meaningless rituals if we fail to do what God is calling us to do.
Application: Going to church, praying together in public, and performing the sacraments are supposed to be tools which keep our minds focused on God and our obedience to Him. These acts of worship are to guide us toward a fuller obedience of His commands to love and serve each other as they remind us that God has loved us and served us even though we didn’t deserve it. Religion is not about bringing God down to us, it’s about realizing God is here now, its about changing our own point of view and seeing things in a different way than we would otherwise.
But what often happens is, as we practice our religion we start to think (maybe subconsciously without fully realizing it) that we are being obedient to God because of our religion. “Oh I’m on fire for God!” we might say. “I’m at the Church every time the doors are opened, I lead prayer, I teach a class, I’m working for God!” That may be so, and there isn’t anything wrong with that, but are you being obedient to God as you interact with people outside the walls of the church? How do you treat the average Joe on the street, or the person who begs for change, or the one who has been hurt by the church and resents you because you represent an institution that has cast them aside or done them harm?
I’m not telling you not to go to church, and I’m not saying that church is not a good thing, but when we start thinking that we are being obedient because of our activity in the church we miss the point.
Imagine a man standing outside trying to get you to see a particular star in the sky, he points his finger toward the star and says “Can you see it?” You may look at the man, and the angle of his arm, you may look at his finger to see where he’s directing you, but you know that the man is not the star, you understand that his finger is not the star, the objective is to get you to see something else, something brighter, something higher.
The church is there to point you to God, the church itself is not God. The Bible is there to point to God, the Bible is not God. The pastor is pointing you to God, he is not God. Your denomination, your religion, you church activities, even your prayers are all instruments that are used to point you to God. Don’t get so enraptured by the finger which points the way, that you miss the objective.
Prayer: Lord Almighty,
Help me to keep you in my heart at all times. Keep me focused on the true object of my worship which should never be an institution, a book, a ritual, a tradition, a place, or a person, but YOU OH GOD! Help me to be obedient to you by loving and serving others, and to always remember that its not about what I do, or where I am, but it’s about Your love and Your Spirit within me.
Yield: I give up letting myself off the hook because of my work in the church. My obedience must go beyond the walls of a building and into the world.