Unfortunately, some of our beliefs and practices can become “fossilized” over time. We think that we are relevant and full of truth - which we can be.......... WHEN the outer form flows from the inner substance.
We can so easily drift into celebrating the form but forgetting the reality behind it. How we love our worship and our Christian music (nothing wrong with that) but how easily our lives or our character contradict that which we celebrate and enjoy.
How often do we hear people, maybe even ourselves, when we have acted or spoken in ways that blatantly fly in the face of the bible, make excuses: "That's just the way I am..." , "If God hadn't wanted me to be like this He would have made me different" , "Yes, but that was written 2000 years ago .." These are all real examples I have heard recently......
Statements like these ( and there are many similar) are a signpost that we have stepped, or are about to step, over the line where the outer form is no longer linked to, or flows from, the inner substance.
In this scripture from Zechariah it has happened.
“‘Ask all the people of the land and the priests, “When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months for the past seventy years, was it really for me that you fasted? And when you were eating and drinking, were you not just feasting for yourselves?”
Zechariah 7:5-6 NIV
Their fasting appeared meaningful but had no inner substance. When this or something similar happens, a worship activity or Christian witness becomes an empty ritual or, even worse, a ritual with the wrong meaning attached to it. Often this can occur as a slow erosion of values, or a spirit of pride that, when the crunch comes favours self over substance.
As is often the case, Jesus put it in such a way that it could not fail to have impact:
“‘ “These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”
Matthew 15:8 NIV
I'd love to say I have never been there, but it would be a lie..... Lord help us to see the warning signs and step back from crossing that line.
Jesus wants us to have substance AND form - working together to His glory.