In the previous blog, I tried to drive home the point that the remnant of Israel went to Zechariah with a question regarding continuing a ritual of fasting that they had grown accustomed to doing for over 69 years. Now they wanted to know if they should continue because the Temple of Jerusalem had been rebuilt. The Lord wanted them to know through the prophet Zechariah, that He did not require them to go on this fast. But rather, He commanded them to obey Him in taking care of the widows, orphans, foreigners, and the poor. He told them to treat one another fairly and not to scheme against each other.
This is a warning for us today, because we in the church go through performing many rituals, practices, traditions, ordinances, etc, that God Almighty has not sanction nor authorized. In keeping these practices we can be seen as being righteous and holy, having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof. God warned them against imposing manmade laws that He did not direct them to employ. These rituals are merely and outward show, but do not lead to a closer more intimate relationship with God or one another
The second warning is that of:.
B. Going through the Motions: We go through meaningless activity in the name of spirituality.
Note 7:3: “Shall I weep in the fifth month and abstain, as I have done these many years?”
There is more than a hint of weariness in those last three words. They were tired of going through the motions of what formerly may have been a meaningful activity for others. But for them it had become an empty form.We need to be careful not to confuse what is biblical and thus must never be set aside; with what is manmade and may be set aside. We may grow weary of Bible reading, prayer, or the Lord’s Supper, but we are not free to stop doing these things, because God commands us to do them. If they have become stale, we need to examine our hearts to determine why this is so. We need to seek God so that these things become what He intended, the means to a close, vital fellowship with Him. But we shouldn’t stop doing them.
I may need to vary the method without discarding the activity. For example, the Bible does command me to seek God through His Word and prayer, but it does not prescribe exactly how I am to do this. Reading through the Bible in a year is a fine thing to do, and we should do it many times. But at other times, perhaps we should spend a year studying Romans in depth, or reading through the New Testament four times. The main thing is to grow in your understanding of God’s Word and to stay fresh in your relationship with God through His Word and prayer.
So, two danger signals of falling into outward religion are, following manmade rules and rituals; and, going through the motions without meaning.
C. Motive: We need to ask why we do what we do spiritually.
In 7:5-6, the Lord asks, “When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months these seventy years, was it actually for Me that you fasted? When you eat and drink, do you not eat for yourselves and do you not drink for yourselves?” God who sees the hearts saw that they weren’t doing their fasts or their feasts for the Lord. They were doing them for themselves.
Outward religion is always done for the person doing it, not to glorify or please the Lord. Jesus confronted the Pharisees, who practiced their religion before men to be noticed by them (Matt. 6:1). When they fasted, they let everyone know about it so they would be impressed with how spiritual they were. When they prayed, they stood in public and made loud prayers that everyone could hear. When they gave money, they wanted everyone to hear the many coins jingle in the metal collection box.
But Jesus wasn’t impressed! He told them to camouflage their fasting, so that no one would know what they were doing. When they prayed, they should do it in secret. When they gave, they shouldn’t let their left hand know what their right hand was doing.
We need to examine our motives in whatever we do for the Lord. Am I doing it from pride or self-righteousness? Am I seeking status or the applause of others? Am I trying to work off or cover up guilt for some sin, as if my activities can balance out or hide my sin? Am I trying to impress God with my activity, so that He will give me something that I want from Him? The only proper motive is to please and glorify God.
So take a spiritual health checkup. If you’re following manmade rules and rituals that have become meaningless motions, and if you’re doing these things for some selfish motive, you’re drifting into outward religion. It’s a danger for all of us all the time!
Outward religion leads to spiritual sclerosis.
Outward religion without inward reality with God leads to spiritual hardening of the heart. This had happened to the ancestors of the remnant in Zechariah’s day, as he points out in 7:7-14. Here’s how this works: You get the religious system down pretty well. You’ve got a routine for living the Christian life. You’re going through all the motions. Your motives aren’t right, but you’re oblivious to that. The outward appearance is that you’ve got it together as a Christian. But it’s mechanical and outward, not real personal fellowship with God.
As you go on like this, you begin to resist God’s Word when it confronts your life. Maybe it’s a sermon that steps on your toes. You keep your Christian smile in place, but inwardly you’re resisting God. Perhaps a brother in Christ attempts to help you grow in your walk with God. But he’s getting threatening, so you dodge him with excuses, all the while keeping up the good Christian front. Your spiritual arteries are hardening gradually without your knowing it! Zechariah outlines the signs and the results of the disease.
As we enter this new year, let us be mindful of the reason why we devote the first part of the year to fasting, consecration, and seeking the Word of the Lord for our own personal lives and or the lives of out congregation or ministry. Be ware of spiritual hardening of the arteries. Do not neglect to obey the Word of the Lord. Love God, Love People, Do Justice, Show Mercy, Take Care of Those Who Cannot Take of Themselves. These Things We Ought To Do.
OOPS, One More Thing:
DON'T FORGET TO SAY YOUR PRAYERS!!!!