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Daily Boost

  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...


Daily Boost

May 18, 2012 - Ritual and Relationship

By Jerry D. Scott

There is comfort to be found in the habits of worship. I look forward to getting up on Sunday and going off to church, singing familiar songs, praying with people I love, and opening the Scriptures. It is a lifetime habit, and a good one. There is a danger in it, though. The ritual can replace the reality of relationship if I do not continue to renew my first love for the Lord Jesus Christ. The habits of religion can cover up the barrenness of one’s relationship with the Spirit.

In the opening chapters of 1 Samuel, we read about a time in Israel’s history when corruption had overtaken the priesthood. The leading priests were greedy and immoral, oppressing the people and exploiting the power of their holy office. The Bible says, “In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions” (1 Samuel 3:1, NIV). The rituals were ongoing, but the people’s sinfulness had made them spiritually deaf.

In the next chapter, we are told that a war with the Philistines broke out. In the initial battle, 4,000 soldiers of Israel died. The leaders of the nation were perplexed. “Why did the Lord bring defeat upon us today before the Philistines?” (1 Samuel 4:3). Then they made a fateful decision! They sent for the ark of the covenant, the symbolic center of God’s dwelling among them, and brought it down to lead them into battle. “Let us bring the ark of the Lord’s covenant from Shiloh, so that it may go with us and save us from the hand of our enemies” (1 Samuel 4:3).

What a misplaced trust! Unable to hear the voice of the Lord, they chose to trust in the ritual symbol, and the end of the story is tragic. They suffered a terrible defeat, the Philistines captured the ark, and despair gripped the nation as people concluded that “the glory [of the Lord] has departed from Israel” (1 Samuel 4:22).

Friend, never misplace your focus on ritual! Habits of Bible reading, prayer, church attendance, taking Communion … whatever your spiritual practices … are good. Those disciplines can and should provide channels through which the living water of the Spirit flows into our minds and souls. But doing the rituals is not what empowers us to overcome the tempter, to stand firm in faith, or to become the holy people the Lord desires us to be. We must cultivate intimacy with God, responding to the Spirit’s prompting whenever sin enters our lives, waiting before Him patiently, offering soul-deep worship both privately and with the congregation.

When relationship rather than ritual is our focus, we can avoid the tragedy of spiritual deafness. Hearing from God makes the difference between Christianity as a religion of disciplined morality and Christianity as an experience of joyful empowerment that satisfies the deepest needs of our hearts and minds.

We are foolish if we think we can enter into the battle with the world, our sinful flesh and the devil, and overcome because we have a certificate of perfect attendance at church, or because we have conscientiously paid our tithes, or because we completed a “through-the-Bible” reading program last year. Yes, we ought to do those kinds of things, but not because we trust in them to deliver us. They are simply means of worshipping and loving and growing in relationship to our Living Lord.

That relationship with Him brings the victory!

— Jerry D. Scott is senior pastor at Washington (N.J.) Assembly of God.



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