For those of you who don’t know me–or at least not well–I am all about practical jokes. In fact, on a weekly basis one or two of my roommates in Bible College were the victim of some kind of funny prank on my part, and usually with my third roommate’s collaboration when we all lived together during my second year.
We did it all:
- We put pennies on my roommate Arian’s ceiling fan so that when he turned on his light they shot everywhere like bullets.
- We put all of our alarm clocks in my other roommate Jeff’s room and set them 20 minutes apart. Beginning at 3:30 am.
- In another living arrangement with different roommates, I sprayed my friend Chad’s pillow-case with nasty grandma perfume while he wasn’t home so that when he got home late and climbed into bed it smelled raunchy and he’d either have to turn the light on and change his pillow cases (and wake up his roommate) or tolerate it and sleep with that fragrance.
- I woke up one morning to find I couldn’t open my bedroom door because all the living room furniture had been pushed against it, leaving me to climb out the window of our second-floor apartment.
You name it we did it. Or something close it.
I regret very little of the pranks I played since they usually went over well and to the best of my knowledge I never crossed any lines or hurt anyone’s feelings. At least amongst those of us who played them. In one living arrangement in Charlotte, N.C. we left the other roommates alone who weren’t as in to the idea of constantly living on their toes.
When I used to live in Pensacola, two of my roommates and me once went away with another classmate named Greg to his hometown of Atlanta for the weekend. While there Greg took us to a practical joke store. I bought gum that gives the victim gas; gum that turns a person’s mouth blue; and this white powder — which was my favorite. It was some kind of polymer that if you put it into someone’s drink — coffee, water, juice, soda — you name it, these would solidify it in a matter of seconds.
But here’s the catch: you had to make sure the prank victim didn’t try to drink it after that which would be hard because it was solidified. With the added ingredient, this powdered plastic had made the liquid undrinkable. The warning in the instructions actually used the word poisonous.
One time I put it in my roommate’s water and he went to drink it and this solid almost jello-like blob fell out of his mug. I put some in a guy’s sweet tea at our cell group one night, and after a long time he finally announced out loud when he discovered it that “there’s something wrong with this sweet tea!”
This went over great every time.
As simple of an illustration as this is, it is profound.
You see, this plastic added an ingredient that preserved the drink in its original form and would make it unable to be contaminated or go bad, but rendered it undrinkable. At the expense of preserving it permanently was the inability to do with the liquid what it was intended for — to drink.
It was no longer fresh.
Yet in the Church, we add all sorts of ingredients to our spiritual lives that render the true refreshing of the Holy Spirit undrinkable for others and even ourselves.
“Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:3b)
Like so many movements in church history, God was once doing something, but when something was added to it by men, the river of the Holy Spirit no longer flowed nor was it drinkable. We’ve been content with our unnatural preservatives. Sometimes moves of God naturally waned and reached their usefulness, but men whose livelihoods or jobs depended on the move of God sought to preserve them out of their own selfish gain or survival. Or sometimes both.
To make this more applicable, take some groceries I’ve bought while overseas in other countries, especially The Netherlands and now Peru. I noticed that the expiration date on many products, particularly dairy, is sooner than the expiration date on products I’d buy in North America.
The lack of preservatives.
They may cause the product to last longer, but it lowers its quality and is in fact less healthy. Such is what I’m talking about on a spiritual level.
For example, somewhere along the line we added the ingredient to the Church that it’s OK not to have faith for big things, therefore we don’t see them and then find ways of explaining away the Bible passages that do talk about them–”the age of miracles are past” many say. “Sound doctrine” became more important than actually doing something with our doctrine. Even though the ‘proper faith’ that is commonly taught doesn’t actually heal any sick or produce any tangible results.We don’t want to admit that many of our doctrines are the fruit of our failuresClick To Tweet
I once talked on MSN with someone who described to me a discussion that happened in one of his classes in Bible school that week and it prompted him to observe the real reason Christians spend so much time arguing with others about why NOT to believe for miraculous or explaining away the gifts of the Spirit, is that we don’t want to admit it is doubt and unbelief that causes us to form these doctrines.
We don’t want to admit that many of our doctrines are the fruit of our failures.
Somewhere along the way, we became happy with institutional religion where we’re more preoccupied with the programs, the institutionalisms and the denominationalisms, which are a form of self-preservation contrary to the death to self that comes in the cross of Christ.
We’ve neglected the organism of what a Body of believers is supposed to be. Somewhere along the way, the poison of self-righteous religiosity was added, and sucked the life out of what is supposed to be organic Christianity.If the dying world around you needed your water, would they be able to drink it?Click To Tweet
Not all are bound by this poisonous religion, but it has more pull in the Church as a whole than we’re willing to admit.
There are a lot of undrinkable elements to the body of Christ these days, and you can think of your own if you’d like to meditate on this further.
If the dying world around you needed your water, would they be able to drink it?