by Mike Ratliff
11 See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand. 12 Those who desire to make a good showing in the flesh try to compel you to be circumcised, simply so that they will not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13 For those who are circumcised do not even keep the Law themselves, but they desire to have you circumcised so that they may boast in your flesh. 14 But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. 16 And those who will walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God. Galatians 6:11-16 (NASB)
We cannot walk by faith, abide in Christ, take up the Yoke of Christ, run the race God has set before us, and be living sacrifices if we have a worldly focus. If we are enamored with the world and its ways then we are not doing any of these things. Instead, our service at church is nothing more than extensions of our pursuit of self-gratification. We are self-absorbed religious people who are not walking this walk as one who has died with Christ. In fact, when we are doing this we will find that our “service” is really no different than the ancient Jews reliance on circumcision as their “way to God.”
16 Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day— 17 things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. 18 Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind, 19 and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God.
20 If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, 21 “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” 22 (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)—in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? 23 These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence. Colossians 2:16-23 (NASB)
Are the Jewish regulations that Paul was writing against that were infiltrating the Galatian churches the same thing that happens in our churches when “works” become the focus? Yes they are. When we find ourselves in bondage to works for work’s sake then we are in bondage to what we do rather than on Christ working through us for His glory alone. The subtle aspect of this is that we usually start out right. We do have the right focus and are serving our Lord as extensions of His grace, but over time people put phony yokes on us that are counterfeit. Christ’s Yoke is easy and His burden is light. These counterfeit yokes always end up with us being overworked and on the way to “burnout.” They also are not bound to the cross of Christ and our death in Him. Instead they are bound to the service to the local church and the powers that be there. Now, I am not saying all churches are like this. I know many which are not, but all are susceptible to the temptations to become pragmatic religion that puts God’s grace in a mausoleum.
So what is the right approach to “doing church.” It must be done for God’s glory alone. It must be bound to what God’s Word says. It must be Gospel focused with the God’s Law as it’s backdrop. Service must be Spirit-led not guilt driven. God must be the focus, not the people in the church. Obedience to His will in all things will cause churches to be unworldly. They will be supernatural in their approach to all things. Property, church buildings, money in the bank, numbers for their own sake, cultural relevance diluting the Gospel, etc. are all things that are symptomatic of churches that are leading their flocks into the bondage of works righteousness. They become worldly rather than unworldly. Their sheep become religious rather than Spirit-led.
Unworldliness is the state of being dead in Christ. It is the same approach to this life that Paul had. It is completely God-focused. I encourage each of you reading this to forsake works as a way to please God. Instead, simply get as close to Him in worship and prayer as you can as you walk through your life and service as the Lord leads. Pray continually and put God first in all things. Don’t listen to any “Christians” who attempt to place a yoke on you that is bound to works righteousness. Instead, take up Christ’s Yoke and obey Him in all things. Then you will be Spirit-led and unworldly rather than simply religious.
Soli Deo Gloria!