Welcome and thanks for participating in day 10 of the ARISE fast and devotional blog. If you haven’t read the previous days, please go back and read them before reading todays, as these thoughts will build off of one another. 

 

Day 10: What Counts?

“Love and say it with your life.” ― St. Augustine of Hippo

 

 Congrats on making it to day 10 of the Join the Movement devotions! That’s quite the accomplishment – probably just below hitting a home run in the World Series, and just above running a 5k barefoot. In 5k’s you usually get a t-shirt at the start… we gave those out the 1st Sunday of the year at the start of this devotional…

 

 Halfway – nicely done. Keep it up. We’re going somewhere.

 

 A few days ago I took Elijah to the park where he quickly met a few friends. After a quick game of tag, they started playing football. Now football is a relatively complicated game for these 4 young ninos. Did I mention there were 2 girls and 2 boys… all 8 years old and younger…no yard markers… no touchdowns markers… and almost no idea of the rules of the game. Just an empty field, a football and a lot of energy.

 

 As I watched them play I couldn’t help but laugh. The phrases “You can’t do that!”, “That’s not fair!”, and “That doesn’t count!” were yelled on almost every “play.” 

 

 It reminded me of the way some Christian sects have spoken to each other over the years. Because of their differing views on baptism, one group says “That doesn’t count!”. Because of their view on grace, they yell “That’s not fair!” One group says “This is a miracle!” and the other shouts back “That doesn’t count!”

 

 Institutionalized religious people tend to act like children… it’s pretty silly.

 

 The kids’ argument of “That doesn’t count” could be a valid one. To play any sport there has to be an agreement of what counts and what doesn’t. That’s why all sports have referees or judges of some sort. They are the ultimate authority on what counts. Was that a catch or not? Was he in bounds? Was it a fumble? These are all decisions the referee makes to determine what counts…

 

 “After further review, the call on the field (all the fans hold their breath) is… overturned.” One teams celebrates and one team is aggravated. Like it or not… they hold the power to determine what counts. 

 

 Here’s a good question: What counts in your relationship with God? In other words, what really matters? What is valuable?

 

 Does prayer count? Jesus prayed! What if the prayers are long or especially articulate? What if you speak in tongues… does that get you a bonus?

 Fasting counts right? I sure hope so! Does the length or the sacrifice matter? What if the fast includes bacon? That’s got to impress God, right!

 Does reading and meditating on the Bible count? Even memorizing some Scripture?

 Certainly church attendance and giving must count? Right? And what if you even go to church while on vacation? Now that’s super spiritual and shows you really must be serious!

 What about helping old ladies cross the street? Or giving the homeless person your leftovers? Or…

 

 The list could go on and on… but here’s the question: What really counts??? Because if you don’t know what counts, it’s hard to know if you’re doing good. And if you add up your good deeds… do you also have to subtract your bad ones? If you’re bad outnumbers your good, are you losing? And who’s keeping score?  

 

 Yikes!

 

 What counts!?

 

 I’m glad you asked. 

 

 In Galatians 5:6 Paul answers our question. Let’s look at it slowly and deliberately…

 

 For in Christ Jesus  

 This is Paul’s way of saying “Under the new covenant – not the old covenant”

 

 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value.  

 This is super important! Under the Old Covenant, circumcision was the symbol of keeping the law of God (Sanai Covenant). It represented doing all the right things. Keeping the law was everything to the Jews… and Paul, in an incredible act of audacity says it doesn’t have any value!? Keeping the law doesn’t count!? Religious practices don’t count!?… Well then, what does!?

 

 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

 

 Here it is! This is what counts! That’s how we win! Faith expressing itself through love! 

 

 Uhhh… awesome… what does that mean?

 

 Paul is saying that all the good religious practices in the world don’t really count IF they are not performed through a motivation of love. And notice, it was not “faith” that counts… But faith in action – faith that expresses itself through love. 

 

 Maybe 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 will paint a better picture of what counts.

 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

 

 Translation: Only faith expressing itself through love counts… not good religious practices. 

 

 Remember, the Great Commandment is to love God and love people. Every good deed, religious practice or spiritual discipline we do, is only valuable when it is done out of love for God and our fellow man. A good thing done for the wrong reason is unworthy of Jesus Christ. Motivation matters. 

 

 Maybe you’ve heard the rumor? Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart. (1 Sam 16:7)

 

 If we are motivated by pride, guilt, religious practice or vanity even our greatest deeds hold no eternal value.It’s all about the heart. It’s all about the motivation. It’s all about faith expressing itself through love.

 

 The early church movement was motivated by love and they rocked their world.

 

 The later church institution was often motivated by greed and selfish ambition, and they gave the church a bad name. 

 

 Both prayed, preached, worshipped, assisted the poor and shared communion. But one built an institution that bound people to rules, and the other built a kingdom that moved people by love.

 

 Spiritual disciplines are important and central to our movement. So pray, fast, study your Bible, take communion, give, serve, share your faith, etc. BUT, if you want these things to matter and have eternal significance, do them all out of love for God and love for our fellow man.

 

 JOIN THE MOVEMENT today by recalibrating your heart to allow your faith to express itself through love.

 

 Esse Quam Videri,

 Pastor Brent

 

 Meditate and reflect on this verse and questions: 

 

 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth– 1 John 3:18

 

 1. How does your faith express itself through love?

 

 2. What are the consequences of religious practices without love?

 

 3. How have you been tempted to “love with words or speech”, but not “with action and in truth?” 

 

 Pray: 

 – Pray that you can love others the way that God loves them.  

 

 – Pray that all your spiritual disciplines will be motivated by love. 

 

 – Pray that you would not just have faith, but that your faith would become love in action.