"Okay, class, our dumb idea for this session is this: If you memorize Scripture, pray a lot and do religious stuff, you will sin less, be more obedient and have a powerful witness for Christ in the world. The principle is: Garbage in, garbage out.
While I have taught that and believed it, I'm a lot older and somewhat wiser. I now know that the idea suffers from two fatal errors...maybe more. (I just haven't written the book yet.)
First, we are a lot worse than we think we are and it takes a lot more than we think it does to make us better.
Do you know what bothers me? Systems for godliness! I want to please God more than you can imagine and I read more books than you can imagine in the fond hope that someone will tell me how to please God. What they say simply doesn't work and, if I meet the people who wrote the books (and I often do), it hasn't worked for them either.
Every time someone tells me the ten ways to have a closer walk with God, I go off on another tangent of praying more, memorizing Scripture more and doing more stuff that I think will be pleasing to God. And, when I find that "Jesus has left the building," I keep kidding myself that He is still there and that I'm quite godly. After a while, I'm so phony I can't even stand myself.
Religious stuff doesn't make us better...it makes us more religious.
That's what Jesus meant in John 5:39-40 when He criticized the religious people for thinking that the Scriptures would give them eternal life when, in fact, all they did was point to Him in Whom was Life.
I think it was the late Vernon McGee who said that the danger with most Christians is that we say what we are going to do, talk about what we're going to do and think that we have done it when, in fact, we haven't done it at all. That is, of course, true of religion. We think that the more we "do" religion, the more godly we are. Sometimes just the opposite is true.
The other fatal error is this: The belief that being more godly, spiritual and religious is even the point.
What is the point then? The point is Jesus.
Jesus said that if we were really tired, we should come to Him. If our lives were empty that we could come to Him and He would give us abundant life. He said that if we were sick, sinful and very needy, He would be there for us.
He said that He came to love the people who couldn't pull off the religious thing. He said that He was a shepherd and not a butcher. He said that He loved the sheep and gave His life for them. He said that He was light for darkness, bread for the hungry, water for the thirsty and that, if we came to Him, He would never kick us out.
In fact, His harshest criticism was reserved for the religious, the sanctified and the pure.
The spurious idea of "garbage in, garbage out" is just that...spurious.
I don't know about you but I'm quite good at multi-tasking; to wit, I can memorize Scripture, pray and sit in church and, at the same time, hate, lust, covet and be really ticked off and unforgiving toward the person who is sitting next to me in church. Not only that. I found that the garbage doesn't come from the outside but is a lot closer to home...me (Mathew 15:10-20).
Am I saying that one shouldn't read and memorize Scripture, that prayer and going to church are bad things? Are you crazy? I'm a Bible teacher, I couldn't survive without prayer, and I make my living working for the Church.
To play on the words of C.S. Lewis, those who run to Jesus get Him and His love with forgiveness, eternal life and sometimes even godliness thrown in. Those who focus on godliness get neither Jesus nor anything else.
He asked me to remind you.
(Not Lewis, dummy. Jesus. :-) )"
Saturday, August 27, 2005
Garbage In, Garbage Out
I read this quote this morning from this letter and thought it said many things I can agree with. I read it originally through the Boars Head Tavern, which is a site well worth following - you can access it through my blogroll.