I love going to the gym as much as my schedule permits. The gym is my happy place. I put on some music and spend an hour trying to push my body. One thing that bothers me at the gym is when people sit at machines and do not exercise. The last time I was at the gym, I was exercising on the elliptical machine and peered out to see a handful of people sitting on the weight machines with cell phones in hand. The people sat at the machines the entire time I was on the elliptical machine. I became curious as to why the people would even come to the gym if they were not going to work out.
The people who sat at the machines could tell people that they went to the gym. Perhaps some of the group checked in at the gym on Facebook. Perhaps some of the group will tell friends or family that they were at the gym. They will even tell themselves they were at the gym. But to be at the gym and to actually work out at the gym are two different things. Anyone can go to the gym, but not everyone uses the gym equipment. People can see the check in on Facebook and believe their friend is getting buff, and in the end, their friend was scrolling their Facebook newsfeed. To the blind eye, it appears the person is getting fit; reality says something different.
This same façade is true in the life of a “Christian.” There are many people who claim to be Christians but when outsiders observe their lives, they are not seeing Jesus. There are people who attend church on a regular basis and people who do good deeds, who unfortunately do not know Jesus. These people may know of Jesus, but they never had the blessing of enjoying the presence of God in their lives because they were too busy trying to show everyone they had everything in order, too proud to lean into God, or too blinded by their own façade that they missed the grace so freely poured out. It is sad how many people still today think that they must try to earn their place in heaven.
We are each on a journey. We all need Jesus. Let us not sit at the machines pretending to be Christians. Instead, may our eyes be fixed on Jesus. May our words and our deeds point to Him. May we stop trying to cling to the title of Christian, and instead invest our time in following Jesus by responding to the great commands to love God and love others. Love is not a façade. It’s honest. It’s real. It’s vulnerable. It’s messy. It’s certainly not easy. Love God. Love others.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” – Mark 12:30-31 [NIV]
We often get absorbed in things. Before you know it you were online for an hour. Before it was realized, you played the video game half the night. When you had planned to get work done, something else grabbed your attention. While at work, you became so focused on a task, that you stayed late at the office and did not take note until long after. We all get absorbed.
Today’s passage talks about being absorbed with God projects. The people were so absorbed with the God projects “that they didn’t notice God right in front of them.” He was right there but they were so busy taking over their lives, focusing on what they were doing. What happened? “They stumbled into Him and went sprawling.”
Are you taking on a lot of God projects disregarding what James said about works, trying to earn your way into the Kingdom? Remember there’s a stumbling block—God is right in front of you. If you are missing Him, if you are not trusting Him and thinking you can earn your way, you’ve missed it all—and you too will go sprawling. There was a time in my life that I thought the more good I did, the better chance I had. But there’s only one way to Heaven, through Jesus Christ, through the blood of Jesus. There is no other way. If you are focused on God projects, you’re missing the boat.
“How can we sum this up? All those people who didn’t seem interested in what God was doing actually embraced what God was doing as he straightened out their lives. And Israel, who seemed so interested in reading and talking about what God was doing, missed it. How could they miss it? Because instead of trusting God, they 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, like a huge rock in the middle of the road. And so they stumbled into him and went sprawling.” – Romans 9:30-32 [MSG]
It is so easy to get caught up in a routine. Even with our relationship with God, we can get into a routine. In time we might even start to consider the fulfillment of this weekly routine as what matters. Well I attended the elder meeting and I made it to the prayer meeting. Well I tithe every Sunday. Well I made it to choir practice and I even have the solo. Well I have perfect attendance for this quarter. Well I have done my daily devotion each day this week.
Your relationship with Christ is not about meetings and checking off a list. Your relationship with Christ is not about works. Your relationship with Christ is not about offerings and sacrifices alone. We should want “a love that lasts.” Hosea 6 says, “I want you to KNOW GOD.” To know God.
God wants you to know Him and to show love. Yes we should aim to read our Bible daily, to attend church, to tithe, and to serve the Lord however He leads. There are works; however, there is something else that is more important. Relationship. Knowing God. Loving God. Never take your focus off of those things. When this is your focus, everything else comes with it. When you are focused on the meetings, on the offerings, then it becomes less about God and more about something else.
“I’m after a love that lasts, not more religion. I want you to know GOD, not go to more prayer meetings.” – Hosea 6:6 [MSG]
“I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know me more than I want burnt offerings.” – Hosea 6:6 [NLT]