In the little Baptist church where I got saved, you usually were baptized right after your salvation, but I resisted it. I knew that for the first time in my life, I had something genuine. My faith was internal and real, and I didn’t want to taint it with some religious “show.”
Thankfully, those who were discipling me were patient and careful to explain Biblical baptism, and over time, I agreed. Yet, that was my first experience of discerning the difference between a real heart change and an external religious practice.
Religious practices are all around us. Some seem innocent and are appropriate. Others are just strange. Wearing special underwear, grabbing chickens so you can transfer your sin to a bird, walking on coals of fire, grasping an electrical meter so you can identify your spiritual distresses, and doing self-flagellation are just a few of the weird ones.
But as we heard on Sunday, all of us are faced with a choice. We can either be children of promise or children of performance. We either choose to walk in His grace and enjoy His promises, or we choose to be a religious Pharisee constantly worried about our standing with God.
I don’t know about you, but it was tough to think about that “seven clues of a legalist” list. I have certainly been guilty of a few of them. OUCH!
On the other hand, it was so refreshing to do what Jason suggested and look up scripture on the promises of God. I am sure I missed some, but it was so encouraging to know that the Lord will never leave us (Deuteronomy 31:8), He will keep us in peace (Isaiah 26:3), He will strengthen us (Isaiah 41:10), He will teach us truth (Psalm 32:8), He will help us run and not grow weary (Isaiah 40:31), He will guard our hearts and minds (Philippians 4:6-9), and He will fight for us (Exodus 14:14).
It is easy to default to religious practices. That “if I do this, God is happy with me” kind of transaction seems to satisfy our need to be in control. But the believer only finds his/her happiness when God is in control, and then we get to bathe in His promises.
So, this week let’s internalize His promises. Let’s focus on living in them and ignore the temptation to be religious. Let’s focus instead on a real and right relationship with God and others!