“Because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction” (Thessalonians 1:5).
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
“You have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead” (Revelation 3:1).
To one who is a student merely, these verses might be interesting, but to a serious man intent upon gaining eternal, life they might well prove more than a little disturbing. For they evidently teach that the message of the gospel may be received in either of two ways: in word only, without power, or in word with power. Yet it is the same message whether it comes in word or in power. And these verses teach also that when the message is received in power it effects a change so radical as to be called a new creation. But the message may be received without power, and apparently some have so received it, for they have a name to live, and are dead. All this is present in these texts.
By observing the ways of men at play I have been able to understand better the ways of men at prayer. Most men, indeed, play at religion as they play at games, religion itself being of all games the one most universally played. The various sports have their rules and their balls and their players; the game excites interest, gives pleasure and consumes time, and when it is over the competing teams laugh and leave the field. It is common to see a player leave one team and join another and a few days later play against his old mates with as great zest as he formerly displayed when playing for them. The whole thing is arbitrary. It consists in solving artificial problems and attacking difficulties that have been deliberately created for the sake of the game. It has no moral roots and is not supposed to have. No one is the better for his self-imposed toil. It is all but a pleasant activity that changes nothing and settles nothing at last.
“These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation for being alive, but you are dead.” Revelation 3:1
Most men, indeed, play at religion as they play at games, religion itself being of all games the one most universally played.
Father, forgive us for playing at religion and for failing to take seriously Your Word.