The Problem with a Spiritual Checklist

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James 1:26 If any man among you seem to be religious (does all the outer works right), and bridleth not his tongue (does not grow spiritually, doesn’t bear fruit), but deceiveth his own heart (thinks God cares more about works than the heart), this man’s religion is vain (he cannot honor God or grow spiritually, this faith cannot save him).  (emphasis added)

Last Sunday I preached from James 1:26-27 on God’s caring more about our heart (a true relationship with Him) than our religious works.

This of course doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do good works like go to Church, but if a person is doing those things for the wrong reason or their hearts filled with sin, God will not be Glorified.  In fact Christ said that at the Great White Throne there will be many people who did great works for Him but refused entrance to Heaven (Matthew 7:21-23).

I was thinking about this while talking to a Church member about his friend (someone who visited Church from time to time).  This friend is one of those Christians that you sadly see in many American Churches who come to Church every Sunday saying the right things but live the rest of the week like the world.

For a while we talked together about how I as the Churches pastor could help his friend grow spiritually

  1. Encourage to continue attending Church (which he hasn’t)
  2. Checking to see if he is keeping up with his devotions (something he promised to do in the past)
  3. And make sure he is continuing to memorize Scripture verses (something else he promised to do)
Now all of those are wonderful ways to make sure a struggling Christian keeps on track.  But was we came up with more ideas something started to bother me…each one of our ways to help him focused on outer works.
Again there’s absolutely nothing wrong with things like going to Church, having devotions, or memorizing Scripture (we are even commanded to do these things in Scripture!)  The dangerous thing is it’s incredibly easy to turn that into a spiritual checklist of things that you tick off each day (jobs to get done) instead of tools God uses to change the heart.
The thing is a person can quote 100 Bible verses and attend Church every day of the week.  But if that’s the extent of their relationship with God (no Salvation or Sanctification) then it does them no good spiritually.
Okay so what should we do with the struggling Christian?  I don’t have all the answers, but do know the Lord is leading me to start going through one on one Bible Studies with him in a few weeks.
These studies will allow me to change his focus from outer works (doing the right thing) to a heart relationship with God
  1. By using Discipleship Material that gives foundational truths of Scripture from the Old and New Testament (He can see major themes of Scripture)
  2. By using homework that makes him not only read, but THINK ABOUT Scripture and apply it to his life
  3. By revealing his heart issues (inner struggles) and helping him deal with those in a Biblical way
  4. By confronting his inner responses to God’s Will that don’t glorify Him

To be honest I’m not sure how this is going to turn out since it’s my first time going through discipleship with someone on the island.  It may be that he refuses to go through the study or doesn’t take it seriously, and more serious options will be visited.  However I believe the best thing that can be done for this man right now is not adding something else to the daily checklist that doesn’t affect his heart.

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