We do not see first, second, and third-graders in elementary schools out in large numbers picketing their schools on the weekends…with signs reading: “Down With Division”…or: “No More Multiplication”…or: “Forget Reading…Play Video Games”…while shouting chants of “Unfair” and “Heck No…We Won’t Go!”
Children at that young age have no idea of the importance of reading, writing, and mathematics for their upcoming adult lives. Grown-ups set the agenda for our early childhood education…and as children we go along with this through childlike faith placed in our parents…our teachers…and in grown-ups in general.
There exist no other practical options in childhood education. Adults are by default simply in the position to know more than children…to have the knowledge and the facts…in this critical area of what we need to learn as children…to get from where we are as children to where we need to get to…as we grow up into adults.
How is it that we would then assume to know anything about godliness? Godliness belongs exclusively to God. It is not found anywhere within conventional human living and thinking.
Godliness must come from top-down…not from bottom-up.
Godliness is defined and actualized through the biblical narrative stories of faith…coming from the singular perspective of God.
Biblical Narrative Stories of Faith are not “Religious”
An amazing thing about the biblical narrative stories of faith…for the most part…is that they are not religious in nature. This should also get our attention.
The Old Testament lists 613 laws…including the Ten Commandments…and has religious observances and celebrations like the Passover. Male circumcision begins with Abraham and Isaac. The Old Testament has the animal sacrifices in the temple conducted by the priests.
The New Testament has the Lord’s Supper communion for believers.
But the biblical narrative stories of faith themselves are not built around anything like pilgrimages to “holy sites,” or the veneration of relics, or the sale and possession of paper documents like indulgences insuring salvation, or elaborate religious rituals like a universal practice of praying toward a geographical location every day (Dan. 6:10).
The biblical narrative stories of faith provide no opportunity for salvation through the self-effort of “good-works” and the “self-realization” of religious practices and rituals.
Through God-composed journey of faith life-scripts…God goes boldly into the realm of human life…cutting across the grain of the conventionality of our standard dreams, goals, and aspirations…according to His higher ways and thoughts (Isa. 55:8-9).
In the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness it is recorded in Luke 4:6-8:
6 And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it.
7 If thou therefore will worship me, all shall be thine.
8 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.
“Worshipping only God”…tells us that the world still belongs to God. Worshipping only God is the correct optional choice for human beings…and it is an option we can willingly choose.
God can craft life-scripts having events and circumstances that cross-over into human life in any way that He chooses in order to set up the context for biblical faith to actualize.
Judging from the narrative stories of faith in the Bible…this novel and innovative approach goes much deeper than the religious rituals designed for worship.
Becoming the “father of faith”, the governor of Egypt during a great famine, the deliverer of the Israelites from bondage as slaves in Egypt, becoming a godly (yet imperfect) king of Israel like David…being a prophet like Samuel, Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, or one of the “minor” prophets, restoring the walls around Jerusalem and rebuilding the temple…like Ezra and Nehemiah…becoming the leader of the early Christian church in Jerusalem like Peter…or being called-out to be the premier evangelical missionary to the first-century Greco-Roman world like Paul…all of these things fall right in the very heart of human living…yet transcend above and outside of “religion” in a way that is entirely unique to the Bible.
These journeys of faith inexplicably have little connection to religious practices and rituals…an odd and elevated feature which looking back in hindsight we might expect to find in life-scripts leading toward “spiritual adulthood”…composed by a “grown-up” God for us…who obviously knows more about godliness than we do…and has set-out a course for life and for study for each of us…taking us through the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ…through the narrow gate of Matthew 7:13-14…described in The Sermon on the Mount.