In our Not a Fan sermon series this week we talked about rules. In some ways, Christianity has lost its core, building a lifelong relationship with our Triune God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) and sharing this relationship with others. In trying to “disciple” people, we’ve created a system and a set of moral codes that we are to “obey” in order to merit entrance into the kingdom of heaven. Over the years we have valued knowledge opposed to a relationship. And this is a catastrophic error.
Christianity has never been about knowledge, or acquiring knowledge. It’s about grace. When we look at the scriptures, the religious elite who had the most knowledge, who spent the most time in the scriptures were the ones who understood God the least. They were the ones who tried to “outwit, outlast, and outplay.” Look at what Paul says to the church at Corinth. 1 Corinthians 3:18-19, “Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness.” We have struggled to know about God but we haven’t made the transition to knowing God. Yes, we can know that there are 66 books in the bible. We can know that there are 1189 chapters in the bible, that there are 773,692 words in the bible. But the most important part is the relationship and the growth which happens.
One part of seminary I wish I could go back and re-do is that I was not very good at maintaining my relationship with Christ. Things change in your mind and in your heart when you have to study God’s Holy Word as a textbook. Unfortunately, I think we still do this. We treat the Bible as a text book that we need to recall and have ready. We treat it as though we are cramming for an exam. And so our hearts (and our theology) reflect that. We seem to lose greater narratives of the bible by recalling the specific (and many times proof-texted) verse. We also pass misinformation. Have you ever tried to look up Hesitations 9:2? Have you ever quoted that we are to be “in the world but not of the world”? Neither one of those are in the Bible!
We need to counteract this by going back and forming a relationship with Jesus. We need to pray to him and talk with him. Then, out of love and out of grace, we begin to follow what he has for us and we look to help others follow alongside of us. Too often, in our desire to become more like Christ (i.e. sanctified/holy/pure) we cast out those very people who need Christ as well. We establish sets of extra rules and regulations for “true followers of Christ.” Such as you can’t wear jeans or hats in church, you can’t drink coffee in the sanctuary or you can’t move in the service. Extra rules…extra regulations. More tape.
Maybe you form rules and boundaries in other ways. We form “holy huddles” of brothers and sisters who support each other, but refuse to let outsiders in. We may say, Pastor Mike, I don’t do this…oh yes we do. I remember a story about how someone didn’t want their family member to come to their church because they wanted to keep family and church life separate. I know of small groups who refuse to break up because they have such a close knit group that they don’t want to leave each other and have to start over again. More tape…we are telling people you cannot come in.
As you consider these ideas, I’d ask you to consider a few questions alongside of them (and the sermon yesterday). If you haven’t already, I’d recommend you listen to this week’s sermon here
1. What unofficial rules have I adopted? What rules has Otley Church adopted?
2. What rule am I going to try to break?
3. What can I do THIS WEEK to separate from being a ruler keeper to a relationship maker?
4. Am I cramming for an exam (seeking knowledge) or am I falling in love and developing a relationship with Christ? If so, how? If not, why not?