1 Corinthians 13:11 – When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. (NIV)
When I was five and my brother was four, we'd play church. We dressed up just like the grownups. My brother was the minister, and I was the organist. He'd stand on the kitchen table with a book in his hands (often upside-down) and preach his heart out. He delivered his sermons with passion and conviction. Then, he would baptize my dolls at the bathroom sink using the precise wording that he had heard in church. I "improvised" on the family pump organ, with my feet barely reaching the pedals. My brother and I did a superb job of playing church. Truly, it does not take a Master of Divinity to administer such clerical duties as pronouncing a benediction. My four-year-old brother did it perfectly — even with the correct inflections.
Learning to do church is easy. It's easy to become a Presbyterian, Baptist, Pentecostal, Catholic, or a house-churcher. It might even be easy to succeed in seminary. Comparatively, it is infinitely harder to be what God calls us to be. It's hard to take the Scriptures seriously for our own lives. It's hard to love and forgive our debtors as we've been forgiven. It's hard to admit our sinfulness and centre our lives on grace. Our pride simply won't let us become "a fool for Jesus" (2 Corinthians 12:11). Consistently living by faith in our sovereign God is hard to do. Why? Because that's unnatural to human nature. It's far more natural to keep on "playing church" — just as folk were doing in Jesus's day. Jesus said:
Mark 7:6b – These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. (NIV)
Likewise, we will cling to our church-playing tendencies until we learn to "put childish ways behind" and take responsibility for our relationship with Christ.
God often uses church disappointments to accomplish the transition. The process is never easy. The loss of what matters to us can make us feel angry or discouraged. When we resist, we find ourselves fighting against God's program for us. Our church-playing tendencies must lose their grip before we can fully embrace God's immeasurable promises in Christ.
Paul learned how to "play church" well, with an impressive religious heritage which he deeply valued — until he found Christ. That's when, comparatively, his heritage depreciated in value, and he could declare:
Philippians 3:7-8 – Whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. (NIV)
Perhaps you yourself grew up in a wonderful Christian heritage which you still value. The question is: Has Christ become of greater value for you?
Prayer: Lord, help us to accept our losses, religious or otherwise, that we may experience the full measure of our gains in Christ. Amen.
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