Don’t suppose for a moment, though, that God’s Word has malfunctioned in some way or other. The problem goes back a long way. From the outset, not all Israelites of the flesh were Israelites of the spirit. It wasn’t Abraham’s sperm that gave identity here, but God’s promise (Romans 9:6-7)
Did you catch that? Let’s put it in our situation: You can go to church every time the doors open; you can sing all the hymns and attend all the potlucks; you can tithe a tenth of everything you own . . . but if you have not allowed the life and nature of God to infiltrate your being—you are just playing church!
Recently I was re-reading a book from A. W. Tozer entitled, Renewed Day by Day. Here is an excerpt that might inspire (or convict, I ‘m not sure which it was for me . . .):
“Millions of men and women refuse to face up to the fact that religion, in and of itself, is not enough for the sinner’s need. It is amazing how many things religious people want to do to you. They can start with infant baptism and end up with the last rites when you are 108 years old-and all of that time they will manipulate you, maul you and sweet-message your soul. When it is all done you are just what you were. You are just a decorated and massaged sinner—a sinner who did not eat meat, or on the other hand, a sinner who did eat fish! When religion has done all it can, you are still a sinner who either went to church or did not go to church. Religion can put us on the roll and educate us and train us and instruct us. But after all that, there is still something within our beings that cries, ‘Eternity is in my heart and I have not found anything to satisfy it!’ Only our Lord Jesus Christ is enough to satisfy the eternal longing in our souls.”
After reading this passage, I was reminded of that fact that when religion has done all it can, we are still a sinner who either went to church or did not go to church. Without a real-authentic-life giving-adventurous-sustaining relationship with the person of Jesus, we are just following our religious habits and traditions. We need to seek a “face-to-face” knowledge of Jesus.
In the 28th chapter of Genesis, there is a story about Jacob’s first memorable encounter with God in the wilderness. Afterward he called the place Beth-el, which means “the house of God.” Many years later, after he had suffered and sinned and repented, and discovered the worthlessness of all earthly things, he renamed the place, El-beth-el; which literally means, “The God of the house of God.” In other words, Jacob had shifted his emphasis from the sacred place to the God he had met there. God Himself became the center of his interest. We need to consider that many Christians never get beyond Beth-el. God is in their thoughts, but He is not in the “first place,” He is not their primary focus.
Faithfulness to the local church or our religious upbringing is a good thing; but when it hides Yehoveh from our eyes, it may become a “good thing wrongly used.” Yehoveh must always be first-and we should never forget that nothing can substitute for Him!—and he is only found through a relationship with the person he chose as our Redeemer—Yeshua, Himself. Right now, where you sit, what is your primary interest? Is it Beth-el or El-beth-el? Is it your religious traditions or your Lord? Is it your creed or your Christ?
If interested, you can download the entire study of The Letter to Christians at Rome