Thursday, March 29, 2007


Romans 11:1-10

The Israelites of the 1st century were definitely religious people. They offered sacrifices at the temple, prayed often, and did all they could to keep to the law set out in the Torah, among other rules. Members of one particular sect were notorious for their strict observance of everything “holy” – the Pharisees.

The beginning of Romans 11 shows Paul continuing to write about the subject of Israel. Paul tackles the issue of whether God has rejected Israel outright. The answer he gives is “No”, declaring that there is a “remnant” that are faithful to God and accept the Good News of Jesus Christ.

How sad it seems indeed that there is only a small group of Israelites walking in God’s path. It doesn’t make sense. How can it be that such a religious and devout people have gone off track? Romans 9:32 in The Message paraphrase states that “instead of trusting God, [the Israelites] took over. They were absorbed in what they themselves were doing. They were so absorbed in their “God projects” that they didn’t notice God right in front of them.”

God projects. How many of us today have lost our focus and placed our emphasis on doing what we consider Great Things for God? How can we tell whether we have fallen into the trap of self-centred spirituality? Well, one form of a selfish faith is one that is based on a reward scheme. We do good deeds in order that our “account” in heaven keeps accumulating points which we presume will lead to good health, material comforts, and other perks. For others, like the Pharisees, an outward show of religiousness is important in order that others will commend our piety and holiness. Still others practise a therapeutic form of Christianity. God must take away all my cares and worries. Worship is about feeling good and getting spiritual goose bumps – in order words, a “Prozac Jesus” religion. All these can either be done on purpose, or at a subconscious level where we do not realise our true motives.

We must not read Paul’s comments as just a criticism of his own people, but bear in mind that we too can be equally lured by the attractiveness of a phoney, or at least compartmentalized, unholistic spirituality. Are we in a state of stupor, with eyes that cannot see and ears that cannot hear (vs 8)?

The practice of the presence of our selves, instead of God, will lead us to burn out eventually. We must attempt to grasp for God’s “unforced rhythms of grace” (Matt 11:29, The Msg). No simple task, of course. I have found that it is so much easier to occupy oneself with church-related activities and neglect our relationship with our Creator. For many years I was so busy that unconsciously God got pushed out of the spotlight and into the shadows. Nowadays I have fewer opportunities to fill my time with such busyness; hence, I’m struggling with personal devotions and other simple spiritual disciplines.

Nevertheless, honesty is the only policy for knowing and serving God. He understands our battles and struggles with Him, ourselves, and others. No matter what the circumstances, let’s keep that in mind.

Lord, I’m sorry that I’ve been so busy with my various God projects that I’ve lost sight of your plan for me. If I can’t trust you and bare myself entirely to you, then who can I turn to? Please show me your path and guide me on the Way. Have mercy on me, a sinner-saint. Amen.

No comments: