What Christians Do That is Worse Than Rejecting God

lady backI recently read a quote last week that messed me up.

“The darkness of the evil one encloses those who neglect to pray.”
– Ellen White in “Steps to Christ.”

“Yep. Heard that before. Nothing new there. Obviously when I refuse to pray then…”

And that’s when it hit me.

She doesn’t say refuse to pray; She says neglect to pray.

Major difference.

One implies obstinance. The other indicates abeyance.
One is willful, the other is mindless.
One refers to a dismissal, while the other refers to a disinterest.

The author then goes on to make some piercing points regarding the sad reality of many Christians who don’t tap into the riches of God’s grace because they are not intentional about their spirituality.

Joshua seemed to get this towards the end of his life:

“Choose you this day whom you will serve” he said. “But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)

The more I thought about this, the more I’m led to believe the following:

A major reason why many Christians don’t experience growth isn’t so much because of a refusal of growth as much as a lack of intention towards it. 

And this is worse than an outright rejection of God. How? Bear with me as I work up to a hopefully compelling answer.

The Bible has a recurring theme of God honoring the intentionality of his children. God has always been a Divine Gentleman – one who is decidedly anti-coercive yet hyper-sensitive to the choices of his people. God is an intentional God who functions within the parameters of our choices.
That’s why I like to think that the most powerful force in the universe isn’t God, but choice; Even God doesn’t mess with it.

So when I choose to act in favor of God, when I choose to be intentional about my spiritual growth, and when I choose to be aware of His presence, God honors my choice and I grow.

Conversely, when I choose to desecrate the Sabbath, when I choose to abuse the helpless and downtrodden, and when I choose to lust, God honors that choice, and I backslide.

But we tend to think there’s another choice – a “non-choice” –  that comes from a place where all choices that are not chosen sadly congregate like last picks in a pickup ball game waiting to be chosen. They are usually remembered after the game is played, usually accompanied by a feeling of sharp regret. They look like this:

“man, I forgot to pray today..”

“shoot, I didn’t give tithe last month.”

“ wow, how did I not…”

“I didn’t even realize…”

In case you are sarcasm-challenged, let me be plain:

There is no such thing as a “non-choice.” We always choose. Even if it’s mindlessness.

In the final estimate, heaven is for those who chose to be there. The citizens of the heavenly kingdom are not going to be there by accident or mere happenstance. On the flipside, even heaven will be hell for those who don’t choose to be there.

“But bro, are you talking about working your way into spiritual maturity? What about grace? Isn’t God’s grace going to grow us?

Good question. Here’s what I’ll tell you:

God’s grace is not conditional upon my growth in Christ, but my growth in Christ is conditional upon my intentional choice to receive and act upon his grace.

If this weren’t true, then everyone who calls themselves a “Born again Christian” would be walking, talking replicas of our Lord Jesus. But we know that’s far from the truth.

Moreover, there also seems to be a confusion between desiring growth and deciding to grow. Many well-intentioned Christians have confused wanting to grow with choosing to grow and it is significantly, yet subtly, stunting their spirituality.

I love how Karl Haffner puts it:

“We don’t grow by trying; we grow by eating.”

The Bible says that it is God who works in us to give us both the desire and the provision to act according to His good pleasure. However, if we are not intentional about choosing to respond to this work by inviting Him in and making some decided changes in our life, we are not going to grow.

You can’t work it out unless He works it in. But He can’t work it in unless you choose to let Him in.

Let’s also not forget that we have an enemy who is literally hell-bent on making sure that we are unaware of the choices we need to make. It’s been said that if the devil can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy. He’d rather keep you occupied in temporal matters and forget God than force you to reject God. The great deceiver usually comes in the form of things that we already love and cherish to distract us from the things that are timeless and eternal.

But here is the good news:

Your choice can be the difference between being deceived by Satan and being enlightened by God.
Your choice can be the difference between failure and victory.
Your choice can be the difference between spiritual decline and spiritual growth.

Passive spirituality is worse than active rebellion. In other words, neglecting God is worse than rejecting God, for even God cannot work in a person who won’t pick a side.

So choose. Choose to be intentional about your growth. Choose where you need to place the scalpel. Choose whom you will serve.

For when you don’t choose, you’ve already chosen.

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Why I Stopped Doing My Devotions.

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I am tired of doing my devotions.

I used to be so good at it too. Getting up every morning, opening up my devotional book, reading a chapter, praying to God, Amen-ing. I got it down.

I would do it in record time. Psh, you couldn’t beat me even if you tried.

But I’m not going to do it. Not anymore.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not giving up on God. In fact, since I’ve stopped doing my devotions, I have actually grown in my relationship with Him. Bet you will too!

Let me explain myself before I get stoned.

If you grew up in a good Christian household with good Christian parents, chances are that your parents would have educated you on the importance of doing your devotions. You also may have heard it from the pulpit of your pastor, the lectern of your religion teacher, or the felt-board of your Sabbath/Sunday school teacher.

“Do your devotions, Kevin” they said. “you need to do it” they said.

As a boy growing up in Sri Lanka, my view of God was influenced by the religiosity of Buddhists and Hindus that permeated my society. This religiosity was underpinned by their ardent devotion to their respective deities. Both Hindus and Buddhists had to do their devotions in order to receive blessings. One’s capacity to receive blessings was directly related to one’s devotional life.

So when I was encouraged to “do my devotions”, I understood it as a necessary prerequisite to receiving blessings. Driven by a need to prove God that I was indeed worthy of his blessings, methodically and systematically I went through the step-by-step process of getting up, opening the book, reading from it, and praying the prayer. It was the same process every day with the same amount of reading, the same amount of time, and the same prayer.

And I was faithful.

I was faithful to the process because I thought I had to do my devotions in order to feel validated about my spirituality.
I was faithful because I thought it was something I had to do to merit the attention of God.
I was so faithful because if I didn’t do it, I would not be accepted by God.

I was so faithful in doing my devotions because of my misplaced, misinformed view that I had to prove something to God in order to be qualified to receive His grace.

Doing my devotions was my bartering for the salvation of God.

I came to this realization last year after studying theology for four years and being a Christian for twenty three. So I stopped doing my devotions and chose to do something else instead.

I stopped doing my devotions…and started to spend time with Jesus.

The Lord progressively changed my mindset about doing devotions. I came to a realization that there is nothing I can do make God love me more or less. I understand now that God’s love for me is not dependent on my love for God. This revelation of His character frees me from pleasing God through my insipid devotions, while at the same time, freeing me to spend that time enjoying His presence.

I didn’t have to do devotions anymore. I just wanted to spend time with Jesus.

With the exception of reflective bible reading and prayer journaling, my routines have not changed much. But every time I wake up and open my devotional book and Bible, I have a different experience now than in years past.

Because the focus has been on the relationship rather than a ritual.

Maybe you are struggling with doing your devotions. If you are, may I suggest that you begin to think differently about it. Ask God to recalibrate your mind and retune your heart. As your thoughts begin to influence your words and your words begin to inform your actions, you will begin to enjoy your time with God.

Don’t do your devotions. Spend time with Jesus instead.

Besides, Jesus never asked you to do devotions for Him. He just asks you to be devoted to him.

What about you? What have you done or are doing currently to enjoy your time with God? Leave a comment below!

Does Prayer Really Make a Difference?

The Wilson household took prayer seriously.

Daily personal prayer as well as family prayer was encouraged. But growing up, I’ve often times wondered if prayer really made any difference.

Because what I’d known about prayer sometimes did not quite reflect the reality of my experiences.

For one, I couldn’t quite relate the unfathomable Bible stories with today’s context. Why can’t people call down fire from heaven, raise up people from the dead, or convert multitudes to faith in God, with a single prayer to God like those guys?
My experiences with prayer also made me question its veracity. Why doesn’t God answer certain prayers especially when they are so important to me?

I eventually realized that these questions stemmed from a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of prayer:

Prayer is not about bringing God to me. Prayer is about bringing me to God.

This realization led me to understand prayer as communication with a living God and not a calling bell for a cosmic butler. Just because some prayers are not answered the way I expect them to doesn’t mean they are not heard or answered. Nor does it mean that prayer is unreliable. Sometimes, the answer happened to be a “no” and I had to learn to trust the heart of God when I didn’t see his hand.

Prayer is communication. But does prayer really make a difference? I believe it does and here are just two reasons why.

1) It’s the direct 24/7 hotline to God.

We live in an age of accessibility. From recipes to reality shows, from DIY’s to daily news, everything is a mere click or a touch away. Communication, more than ever before in earth’s history, has inarguably become faster and easier. Social media has reduced the distance between colleagues and continents to a single Facebook message. But while my friend may be a tweet away, God is only a thought away.

We clamor for the latest gadgets with the fastest processing speeds, failing to realize that prayer has always had the fastest processing time. It has not only proved to be fast and convenient, but also significantly meaningful. In a world blighted by feel-good morals, and feeling-based theologies, God is a sure stronghold. And unlike friends who could possibly ditch a Skype call at a moment’s notice to meet some need, God is available 24/7, ever ready to meet mine.

2) There’s nothing else that helps me overcome my limitations

In the Bible, there’s a story about a man who was swallowed by a whale. The utter improbability of the story and its intended theology notwithstanding, this story, I suggest, may as well be a cautionary tale against man’s insatiable appetite for control and power. As long as we stay afloat, we pride ourselves for commandeering our ships across the chaotic sea of knowledge, navigating its waters with the trusty oars of technology and innovation. But occasionally, history repeats itself when the whales of worry, despair, or doubt devour us somewhere along the way. It doesn’t take too long after that to realize that the captain’s manual is of little use in the belly of the fish.

Life constantly reminds me of my limitations as a human being.

The Psalmist echoes this sentiment by likening man to a mere breath and his days to a “passing shadow.” All the accolades accrued and the security insured over the course of your life simply cannot compensate for the fragility of life, however much we may hate to admit it.

We live. We die.

But in God, we thrive. Strengthened by the grace of God, The apostle Paul exclaims that in Christ, when he’s weak, then he’s strong. This paradox can only be justified by Paul staying connected to God through prayer. Paul overcame his temporal weakness by relying upon the eternal strength of God through prayer.

Prayer is my life line. When I’m humbled and overcome by the storms of life, I pray. It’s almost instinctive.

The world has become smaller. As the lines between cultures and countries increasingly blur through the exploits of man, the boundaries between the Divine and us seem to expand. Consequently, we have become more adept at communicating with our fellow human beings while struggling to maintain a decent conversation with God.

I’ve come to realize that there is a strong correlation between my interactions with others and my interaction with God. When I pray more, I love more. When I pray more, I share more. When I pray more, I relate more. and the converse is also true. I challenge you to take a few minutes today to pray. Talk to God. Tell him about your day, your wishes, your likes, dislikes, anything. Yes, he does know everything. Yes, He is very much aware. Yes, it may seem like prayer is pointless.

But prayer is not about bringing God to you. It’s about bringing you to God.

And when you bring yourself to Him, your life changes.

So go ahead.

Close your eyes.

Pray.