Why Spiritual Disciplines Aren’t Enough

Every read something in the Bible and think, “Wow, that is some SERIOUS weird! What am I supposed to do with this, God?”

I had one of those moments last week when this passage came up in my quiet time:

Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, “In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. One day the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?” Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding. – Acts 19:13-26 (NIV)

Weird, right? It’s not quiet on the same level of weird as when Steve Urkel build the Urkel-bot on that one episode of Family Matters, or as weird as me brining up that bit of 90s TV trivia. But it’s a little weird.

So what’s this passage all about? What does it have to do with spiritual disciplines? I think it highlights an important principle:

Ritual without Relationship is Ridiculous.

When you stop and think about it these guys did all the right “stuff.” They used the right words. They went to the right places. They had the right background. But all of that “stuff” amounted to a serious beating they never forgot.

I think if we’re not careful something like this can happen to our walk with God. We can go through the motions of reading the Bible, praying, going to church, and being involved in ministry. We can do all the right stuff but get nowhere with God because we think all the ritual adds up to a relationship and that’s ridiculous. Doing all of this stuff, as good as it may be, is meaningless without the relationship.

Why? Because God doesn’t want your “stuff.” He aches for a personal connection with you.

We don’t get that connection with God through ritual or routine. We nurture it by desiring more of Him. And not so we can get what we want, but so all we want is to know Him better and to love Him more. We all know people who only stop by our office or call or email when they want something. Do you yearn for a deeper friendship with them? Probably not. You crave the scenes in the story of your life when you get to spend quality time with someone who really loves you and who you love deeply.

And so does God.

Take a step back from all the stuff and dive into an experience with your maker where you show love and friendship for no other reason but because you mean it. And not just because He deserves it (even though He does) but because He’s your friend and you care enough to speak the unspoken words of your relationship. You’ll be glad you did. And so will He.

When was the last time you felt like you were just going through the motions with God? What did you do to change things?

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2 comments

  1. Jeff: Wonderful thoughts. So many people think that I have to do is show up once in awhile. My presence is present enough. However the words of our Savior Jesus, are very clear.
    “These people honor me with their lips but their heart if far from me” (Mt 15) and Micah reminds us that humility is better than sacrifice. (Micah 6:7-8)

    While our spiritual disciplines can help remind us what to do and keep God in our minds, without a conscientious effort to DO his will from our hearts and out of love, of what value is it? (Without love…..I am nothing I cor 13)

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