17 January 2009

Spiritual Barometers

A while ago someone asked me how my "spiritual life" was doing. This question caught me off guard. Even more so, the first things that came to mind caught me off guard. Usually I think about my spiritual life in terms of the things I do during my "quiet time." If I've been reading the Bible consistently over the past week, it's going great. If not, I feel guilty and as if I've failed. I've realized that this thing comprises my spiritual barometer. It is a definite way I can "accurately" tell whether God and I are doing great. This past month I've been realizing that I have another spiritual barometer that's even more compelling than the other:I judge myself spiritually by all the good things I am involved in.

This semester I've been involved in various ministries that have taken up a considerable amount of my time. To be honest, instead of spiritually enriching me, they have worn me out. Some of them I flat out did not even enjoy anymore. All of the energy I poured into them was draining. All of the effort I put into them was unfulfilling. But I kept pressing myself to continue. I told myself that I had to keep doing all of them because they were what made me a good, "spiritual" person. If I discontinued, I would be failing as a good Christian.

This passage in Matthew 7 was recently brought to my attention:
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'

So often I buy into the same lie that the people in this passage believed. If I cast out demons and perform miracles, then I must be doing great spiritually, right? No matter how significant the things you do for Christ, they do not ultimately take the place of knowing Him. It's really quite ironic, actually. Sometimes we can get so caught up following God's commandment to love other people that we do not love God. There's a reason why loving God is the first commandment.

Sometimes, loving other people is not loving God.

In the first chapter of Mark, Jesus went off by himself to spend some time with His Father. He had just healed many people and had cast out lots of demons, and everyone was flocking to His location, looking for Him. As if He didn't know He was being hunted down, His disciples came and informed Him. They told Him that He should go and help those people who needed Him. Jesus did something very profound in this passage: He said no. That's right. Jesus chose not to to meet the needs of those who really needed Him.

Decieving ourselves with these kinds of barometers is a dangerous practice. Cramming our schedules with good ministry opportunities does not necessarily make us "spiritual." Reading our Bible regularly does not necessarily show how devoted we are to God. Neither does journaling or community service, or fasting, or "Spiritual Life Credits."

Now, let me ask you this same question: "How are you and God doing?"Quick- what's the first thing that comes to your mind?

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