Mike Novotny - When Being 'Spiritual but Not Religious' Failed
Did you that in the Bible, there is a time when God's people tried to be spiritual but not religious? It's called the book of Judges. And it was kind of like a 300-year experiment where people believed in God and they still prayed to God but there was no king, no authority, no structure, no real organized religion. Do you want to guess what happened?
It wasn't very good. The people drifted. Not just a little bit, but way, way far from God. And they didn't even know it. If you read the tragic, chilling, sinful final chapters of the book of Judges, you will find people who are surprised. "Why is God letting this happen to us"? They thought that they were doing everything right, and yet everything was obviously so wrong. It's kind of like when you're swimming out in the ocean if you're on vacation at a hotel. You don't have to try to swim away from your original spot. The water and the currents will just take you to a place that you never intended to go. And I tell that you because this week we've been wrestling with being "spiritual but not religious".
And I know some of you have been disconnected for a long time. And I want to tell you this: if you do that, you're not going to intentionally rebel against God. You're not going to one day say, "You know what, God? I'm going to do whatever I want to do". Just slowly, the world will shape you and mold you and make you drift from the beautiful spot where God wants you to be. And maybe some of you know that's already happened. Maybe you came across these videos and it's really been a long for you since you were connected to any kind of community, any kind of organized religion. And you kind of sense that your life isn't where God wants it to be. And maybe you wonder if that's you: is it even possible to come back? With all that baggage, with all that history, with all that sin, could you come back to God? Could you come back to a community that worships God?
Now, I know the answer to that question because I've read the end of the book of Judges. The other day, I was preaching on the book of Judges, and it ends so horribly. And I was trying to figure out the good news. And then I realized that the good news looked like this. That there's another page. That despite all these spiritual but not religious people who had drifted so far from God, God was not done with them. I love how the book of Lamentations says that God's mercy is new every morning. Every single morning. This morning. And tomorrow morning. There will be the mercy of God.
And so no matter how far you've drifted, no matter how long it's been, I want to tell you that God's mercy is for you. And he wants you to be connected to a community, to a great Christian church that rallies around Jesus, led by a qualified pastoral team who's going to remind you of God's mercy. They will call you to repentance. They will address your sin. And they will keep you right in that beautiful spot that you know despite everything that happened, you are loved and adored by God. So let's pray:
Dear God, it feels like the days of the Judges, when we all think that we can follow you independently without a great community of faith. And so I thank you for challenging us this week. I pray that we can use these messages and share them with the people we love. So instead of drifting, we will be drawn closer to you. I pray for good churches. I pray for courage. And I pray that we will trust you. That when you say we should not give up the habit, get into the habit of not meeting together, that you meant it. And you meant it for our good. Thank you, Jesus, for loving us. Thank you for seeking us when we were wandering sheep. Thank you for bringing us back into the flock. We pray this all in your beautiful name. Amen.