Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Playing School and Playing Christian

This morning after breakfast Lily began to herd her brother and sister into the next room. She had decided that they were going to play school. Now that sounds innocent enough but let me explain something about Lily. When she decides that they're going to play school, they play school. She makes her brother and sister sit still, assigns them work, etc. In fact, this morning she even had a copy of the roll from her classroom and was going down it deciding who was going to charge their lunch, who brought their lunch, and who was eating the school lunch. She gets very serious about playing school-and playing most other games as well. So as she began to bark out orders I reminded her not to lose her cool if Emma and Owen didn't follow every rule. "It's just a game", I said. "Remember that the point is to have fun."

Remembering the reason for what we do is pretty important. If I fail to remember the reason why I'm doing something then I'm liable to do it for the wrong reason; or worse yet, I'm liable to do it the wrong way. And one thing God's word makes plain is that the right thing done the wrong way becomes the wrong thing.

Want proof? Psalm 51:16, "For You do not delight in sacrifice or I would give it; You will not be pleased with a burnt offering." Consider what David is saying. The sacrificial system which was given by God, which was at the very heart of Israel's identity as God's nation is essentially said to be worthless. Why? vs17: "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise." David's point? The outward action of sacrifices is worthless without the inward reality of remorse over sin and brokenness at having rebelled against the Great King. When the purpose of the action is forgotten, the action becomes worthless.

Here's another example. Remember the Pharisees? If anyone could please God by rule-keeping it was these guys, right? They had scrutinized the law to the point that they could tell you everything you should (or shouldn't) do in every situation. They were fastidious about their rule-keeping. Surely they would earn God's favor, right? Matt. 23:27-28, "“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness." What a shot against their self-righteousness! Jesus just blasts them. Why? They forgot the purpose of the law. The purpose wasn't to give one a sense of self-righteousness but to utterly remove all traces of it. Rather than puff you up, the law tears you down. But somehow, they had missed that. When the purpose of the action is forgotten, the action becomes worthless.

What difference does all this make? Simply this: in my daily walk with Christ my eyes must not be on my actions; rather my eyes must be fixed on Jesus, the author and finisher of my faith. The purpose of the rules He gives isn't so I can feel self-righteous; it's so I can glorify Him in this world. How tragic that we take things that God has given us--things like reading His word and praying, things that can bring us closer to Him, make us more like Him, help us to glorify Him--and cheapen them putting them on a daily check list of self-righteousness. There's great danger in that. The moment I do that I'm simply playing at being a Christian rather than walking in the righteousness that Jesus has given me and resting in His finished work of redemption. I'm not reflecting the glory of my King, I'm trying to demonstrate my own goodness. And worst of all, I'm no longer enjoying the all-encompassing greatness of God. May we never play Christians-rather, may we be Christians.

Father, thank You for Your love. Thank You for Your patience. Help me to remember the reason why You call me to serve You. Not so that I can glory in my own righteousness, but so that I can glory in the imputed righteousness of Jesus, that Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world. Thank You for Your salvation and help me to rest in it rather than try to add to it. Amen.

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