The Special of the Day… From the Orange Moon Cafe…
How do we keep spiritual habits and disciplines from becoming mere ritual? The temptation ever lurks that would lead us to allow even the most sacred ways whereby we experience our relationship with God to descend into mere doing for the doing's sake.
"Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord" (Colossians 3:23).
As with every aspect of truth and our relationship with God, the answer lies in our Lord Jesus Christ, "the author and finisher of our faith" (Hebrews 12:2). He alone, through the Holy Spirit's working in our hearts, can administer "fresh oil" as we seek to keep the fire burning upon the hearth of our spirits (Psalm 92:10). By this, we mean that we must realize the completely Christ-centered and Christ-exalting intention of God's purpose in all things, or, "the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Ephesians 3:11). This is reality, as defined by God (the only definition that matters). We must establish within our hearts and minds that in every moment of time, and throughout eternity, everything our Heavenly Father does flows with the current of Christ. As both a matter of doctrine and personal devotion, we must flow with His stream in order to experience a consistent and growing fellowship that flows rather than ebbs.
"Consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds" (Hebrews 12:3).
When pondering this truth, I often consider the Apostle Paul and Silas in their Philippian imprisonment. With their freedom stolen, their feet bound fast in stocks, and the flesh removed from their backs, "Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises unto God" (Acts 16:25). Luke does not record the reason or motivation not only for prayer, but for song (reminicient of the question of the Old Testament: "How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?" - Psalm 137:4). How shall we? How did Paul and Silas in their strange place? Did they merely realize it was the right thing to do? Did they grit their teeth and praise God as a mere matter of obedience? Hardly. Too much happened after their praying and singing to believe that ritual resulted in the rescue not only of Paul, Silas, and the other prisoners, but far more, the eternal redemption of the Philippian jailor and his family (Acts 16:30-35). No, reality met our brothers in their painful prison. The Lord Jesus met them there as "the very present help in trouble" promised by the Psalmist (Psalm 46:1). Two men who realized the centrality of Christ in all things found Him in the center of their painful difficulty, as will all who realize and affirm our Heavenly Father's complete devotion to His purpose in His Son.
The Bible opens with Christ the Creator - "In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth… All things were made by Him (Christ), and without Him was not anything made that was made" (Genesis 1:1; John 1:3). The Bible also closes with Christ - "Even so, come Lord Jesus" (Revelation 22:20). Moreover, all pages in between shine with the Lord Jesus - "The Scriptures… testify of Me" (John 5:39). This tells us something. It tells us that the reality that guards us from ritual always somehow leads to the Person and work of Christ. Always. He forever abides as the "fresh oil" dispensed by the Holy Spirit to those who realize and bow to the truth of God's eternal purpose, focused on His eternal Son. Christ only, Christ always, Christ forever - our rescue from ritual, and our redemption into reality.
"God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
Weekly Memory Verse
The meek will He guide in judgment: and the meek will He teach His way.