Just a thought for this auspicious occasion, in my recent moments spent reading, reflecting, meditation and praying, I have stumbled across a thought found in Rueben Job's book, "Three Simple Rules, A Wesleyan Way of Living." It is an excerpt from John Wesley's journal (JW was the original blogger!), which speaks to our need for spiritual guidance and growth. Job explained,
He (Wesley) feared that new converts to Christ would fail to practice their faith and would, in his words, become more a "child of the devil" than before their conversion. ["Journal from August 12, 1738, to November 1, 1939," in Works, Vol. 1; page 239]. (Job, 16)It seems as if he is saying, if we do not practice faith, it is worse than if we never came to have faith. Not only are we not living the changed life to which we are called, but we know about it and still don't do it, and know all the things to say to rationalize it. We shirk our accountability.
I am noticing (might have something to do with a pastoral perspective) that there are more and more Christians who seem to be more calloused than I have ever noticed before. It isn't that they do not go about doing the work of the church, but the commitment to church is low. They say they believe in God, but their practices and actions speak more along the lines of, "I believe in the concept of God, but that is only when I choose to think about God in my life." They are not living a life changed or transformed, but it seems as if they have managed to squeeze God into their schedule on occasion, and that God should be grateful because they are there and are a committee member or a Sunday school teacher! It seems their faith lacks spark or fire!
I don't think that this is entirely based on my perspective as a pastor dealing with church members. I would not have understood this before I went into ministry. There were times that I was "out of church," and I would not even begin to say I have a good reason. However, I did not pretend that the "personal" relationship I had with God was all I needed, I knew that wasn't true, or that I was doing God or the church any favors when I might drag myself to church on Easter Sunday. Removing myself from a practicing community of faith and forsaking practicing my faith in personal devotion was not what God had planned for me and it certainly wasn't pleasing to God, and I knew it.
I know that as much as anyone else, I have a problem keeping to a routine of study, prayer, and devotional time, or any other way of 'practicing my faith.' But the end result is I continue, in my own fashion, to be faithful to the spiritual disciplines, to seeking God's guidance, and to participating in a community of faith, including celebrating sacraments (okay, this last part is kind of required.) I keep practicing something, even if they change periodically.
I would encourage you to examine your life and are you responding to God out of love or duty. Are you pretending that what you do in the church or coming to the church is a favor to God, or simply one you do because so-and-so needs you to be there to help with the potluck today? Do stay away from a community of faith because you think that 'those people' are hypocrites, or because you have something better to do on Sunday morning, like sports or just catching up on sleep? Or do you come to church because you crave to worship God, to return the love God has given you? Do you forget to include God in your life anytime other than the regular hour or so on Sunday morning, if then? Or do you live in the presence of God continually, living with an attitude of prayer?
Just a few questions to think about.