Summary: 4th in 5 part series on overcoming the obstacles and difficulties of life using five different Psalms. We used a "journey" or "road" metaphor in terms of the bumps of success, fear, guilt, the religious rut and grief, etc.
RIGHTING THE RELIGIOUS RUT
Navigating the Bumps of Life - Week 5
INTRODUCTION: (Faith Story - Beth Rampleberg)
Thank-you Beth. Did you catch the words and phrases in Beth’s faith story? “Obligation,” “knowledge in my head but not my heart,” “something was missing,” “emptiness,” “routine.” Those words and phrases depict unfortunately what many people fall into: a “religious rut.” A place where there is little life, no passion, and often results in a dead faith. Fortunately for Beth, she was able to climb out of her rut. How about you? Maybe you’re wondering if this whole Christianity thing is a boring rut - or- Maybe you’ve walked with God for a while and yet you find yourself in a dry place.
How do we climb out of a religious rut? -Or- How do we stay out of one? Well, Psalm 63, written by King David, is a song that can help us see how to leave the treadmill of ritualistic religion and walk hand in hand in a vital, fresh day-to-day relationship with the Creator of the Universe. So, let’s dig in.
I. SEEKNG HIS PRESENCE:
The way to navigate around this “bump” begins by actively seeking the presence of God. I believe the most important thing for us to understand is that God desires a deep, intimate, personal relationship with us. He does not want, in fact, he despises religion. Why? Because religion inspires no one, it changes no one. In the American Collegiate Dictionary, Religion is defined as “the practice of sacred rites, rules, or a set of beliefs generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects.” Now, look at that for a moment. Doesn’t that just make you want to stand up and cheer? Does that make you want to shout: “I want to give my life to that?” Of course not! What a dull, boring definition. What if your spouse asked you, “Honey how do you see our marriage?” And you replied, “Darling: Our marriage is the practice of rules and beliefs that are generally agreed upon by other couples or marriage gurus.” First, your spouse would say, “What?” and they’d probably want to smack you! They certainly wouldn’t feel any passion from your answer and your marriage would become a PG-13 marriage: strong language and violence, but no sexual content. Everyone knows that doing things just out of obligation or routine does not make a healthy relationship. The same thing is true of religion. Religion is dry, it’s simply “going through the motions,” living out obligations.
And that’s why, God, throughout scripture, has said he hates “religion” that it is useless. The people that Jesus Christ got the most upset with? The religious leaders. Why? Because they were interested more in their precious rules than in a personal relationship with God. Gal. 2:21- "Is it not clear to you that to go back to that old rule-keeping, peer-pleasing religion would be an abandonment of everything personal and free in your relationship with God? If a living relationship with God could come by rule keeping then Jesus wouldn’t of had to die.”(MSG) God doesn’t want your religion He wants a living, daily, intimate relationship - with you.
David, the writer of this song understood that. As in many of the Psalms, the first verse sets the tone and its theme. "God, You are my God. I search for you. I thirst for you like someone in a dry, empty land where there is no water." David, at this time in his life is in the wilderness.. tired, hiding, hungry, thirsty. But even with that discomfort, it’s not the physical things that he needs the most. It’s not literal food, water, or rest that he seeks. He wants the Lord. Look at the intensity of his words: "search," "thirst." And this "dry and empty land" is a vivid picture of those who don’t know God or who only practice religion. So many in this life are captivated with their temporary existence, having no thought for the eternal. As a result, the inner barrenness of the soul is beyond belief. The land is indeed "dry and empty." And I see so many who try to parch their thirst by doing all the right things. As if to think that attending church, having a Bible on their coffee table or spiritual bumper stickers on their cars, will get them enough brownie points to quench their thirst for God. But notice David doesn’t say, “I search for more church services. I thirst for more rules or rituals to accomplish.” No, he says, “I search for you... talking about God... “I thirst for you.”
So here is our first clue in finding or having a vital & fresh walk with God: Focus on the person not a process. Now, something important here. You are not going to search for someone, you are not going to thirst for an intimate relationship if you don’t realize you need one. I want to say this as lovingly but truthfully as I can. Unless you have never sinned, (which I’m guessing doesn’t apply to anyone here) than no matter how good you are or have it here, when you die (and that does apply to everyone here) you will not go to heaven. (Repeat) Your sin, even one sin, has disqualified you from living with a perfect God. Rom. 3:20- “Now do you see it? No one can ever be right in God’s sight on their own. For the more we know of God’s rules, the clearer it becomes that we aren’t obeying them; his laws serve only to make us see that we are sinners.”(SEV) If you think that because you are “a pretty good person,” or because you keep certain rituals that you’ll make it to heaven, then you have been misguided. The only thing that gets you to heaven is placing your trust in Jesus because He was the only One who was ever perfect and He died for your and my sins. God wants so badly for you to be with Him forever that he created in you a spiritual vacuum that nothing else will fill.