One of the things that we must always be on guard against is our falling too much in love with the things of God. On the surface, you might be thinking that doesn't seem possible - but read carefully what I said. The things of God. Not God Himself.
This happens to more of us than we like to admit. We come into the church, and we fall in love with the church. As we should. That's what God wants us to do - love one another. But there's this really fine line between loving the church as an expression of God's holiness and loving the church just because we love the church.
When we love the church, we go on Sunday mornings to see our friends. We invite others because we like our programming. We brag about our stage sets or our screens or our pastor or our children's ministry...but we don't brag about our God. We proudly say that we are members of such-and-such congregation, but somehow, it's a little quieter when we confess that we are Christians at all.
We start to love one another more than we love God, and that's where too many of us get in trouble with our faith. That's where our faith starts to fail us.
Because what we know from living on this earth is that any human institution is a moving target. Members of churches come and go. Programs come and go. Ministries rise and die. And I can't tell you (and I probably don't have to) the number of persons who have fallen away from God because their church lost whatever was considered an essential piece for them - the pastor left, a friend moved away, a kid grew up, whatever.
The strange thing is...when this happens, the person falling away almost always blames God for the offense when the truth is, that person hasn't loved God in a long time.
When we fall too much in love with the things of God, that's what happens - we start falling out of love with Him. We still love the idea of Him and we know that He's the thing that brought us to whatever we're in love with now, but we stop doing the things that would connect us deeply to His heart.
If you're going to church for the socialization, you don't read your Bible much on your own. That's not what you and friends are talking about in the fellowship hall. And if music is part of what you get by going there, then you don't need to worship on your own any more, right? And even our prayer life starts to fall away because we get into this pattern where we can't wait until Sunday so we can share our latest trouble with that church friend, who we think is going to pray for us, and too many of us have stopped praying for ourselves.
But here's a question for you: what if that friend you're so sure is going to pray for you is also more in love with the things of God than God Himself and is coming to church just to see you and maybe have you pray for her? What if her heart, too, is overflowing with the things that she no longer shares with God because she can't wait to share them with you?
This is how faith breaks. It breaks because we turn away from it and replace it with the good things that come from it. We want to eat the fruits without being burdened by the tree, and when it comes right down to it...fruit not connected to the vine rots. Plain and simple. Then we look at our rotting fruit, blame the vine, and go out in search of something else.
Do you see this problem? There are so many layers to this problem. We'll look at a couple of more as this week continues.
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