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The Trojan Horse of Spirituality

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The Trojan Horse of Spirituality

The idol of religion stands on the legs of my own spirituality. (I am made good by practicing my spiritual disciplines.)

In Christianity, as in most other religions, there are spiritual disciplines.

  • Prayer – both public and private
  • The study of holy scripture
  • Fasting
  • Generosity
  • Simplicity

Prayer is one of the core spiritual disciplines of all religions.

The act of prayer itself is a very religious practice. A good Muslim stops and prays 5 times a day facing Mecca. Jews pray 3 times a day facing Jerusalem (my airport experience). Hindus and Buddhists build an idol in their home and pray daily to it.

Prayer is a universal religious discipline.

It is critical that followers of Christ consistently spend time in prayer. It’s how we stay connected to God, how we find direction and peace.

But Jesus said the act of prayer itself can become an idol.

He said be careful not to pray to be seen by men. The act of prayer does not earn us points with God. That’s not how it works!

When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get. But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get. But when you fast, comb your hair and wash your face. Then no one will notice that you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in private. And your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.”[1]

Another big spiritual discipline is giving. Giving to God’s work and giving to people in need is an opportunity for spiritual growth. But even here we must guard our hearts against giving that becomes to us a religious idol.

Jesus said in Matthew 6, “Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get. But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.”[2]

Your father who sees everything will reward you! That is the key to toppling the idol of religion in our lives!

 

[1] Matthew 6:1-15-18 (NLT)

[2] Matthew 6:1-4 (NLT)

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About Ron Bontrager

Lead Pastor of Lakeview Church in Indianapolis.

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