So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. – Colossians 2:6-7
Spiritual formation and discipleship programs are often rooted in doing things that will help you grown in your faith. It can be confusing sometimes because we can mistake the things that we do (worship, small groups, Sunday school) in our programming or in our daily lives (devotions, prayer, giving) as the thing that we want to achieve. They can become the things that we pursue instead of the way we pursue Jesus
We strive to read the Bible more, pray more, give more, love more, serve more, and worship more. When we have done those things we feel a sense of accomplishment. We can have the distinct impression that we have lived the Christian life the way it is meant to be lived. These are all things we should do, but we need to understand what motivates us to do it. Do we believe that if we do these things that we can earn our salvation, derve grace, or demand mercy? Or, do we see them as a vehicle that will usher us into a deeper relationship with Jesus?
The problem we run into at times is that we tend to think that if we do those things we become more deserving of God’s love and favor. God’s love doesn’t work that way. His favor doesn’t work that way. Grace and mercy don’t work that way.
Those things I listed are means by which we know and love Jesus more. They are not a substitute for Jesus. We can do those things all day long and still be far away from faithfulness if they are not rooted in building us up in Jesus. Our spiritual disciplines and church programming are good things meant to help us grow in our faith. They cannot be the destination for us. They are a means to the destination, namely a deeper faith rooted in Jesus.
At the end of the day, we must decide what our goal is. Is the goal to read the Bible every day, or is the goal to know and love Jesus through our Bible reading? Is the goal to pray every day or is the goal to interact with and be in the presence of Jesus? Is the goal to be at worship every week or is it to worship the one who brings salvation and set us free from sin and death? Our motivations are key here. The differences may seem minute, but those differences are significant. The one path has good works as a means to salvation. The other has a salvation that leads us to good works. The one leads us to legalism and judgmentalism while the other builds faith and sets us free.
Questions for Reflection:
- How do you view the spiritual disciplines?
- Are church programming and the spiritual disciplines an end in themselves or a means to a faith rooted and built up in Jesus?
- Is your faith rooted in Jesus or something else?
- Do your good works stem from a desire to earn your salvation or God’s favor or do they stem from a desire to please God born out a salvation that has been freely given?