We Christians have a significant focus on information. Worship services are heavy on information. This sermon is all information. We are studying the words of a biblical text. Then we might attend classes or small groups in which we receive yet more information. The information is usually very good. It is designed to help us know God’s word, his heart, and his ways. In fact, the information is vital to formation. If we did not have the information, we would not know what God wants from us. Even Jesus communicated information. But if information is the focus of religion, then I say that religion is worthless. How so?
As we continue our study of Ezekiel chapter 33, God explains how information-focused religion is worthless. Starting in verse 23, God gave Ezekiel a new prophecy. Now God gives Ezekiel some secret intel: the people in Ezekiel’s village seem to be talking behind Ezekiel’s back. What are they saying? Read Ezekiel chapter 33, verses 30-33 to find out.
It sounds like verse 30 starts out fairly positive. The people say, “Come hear the message from God.” That’s good, right? People who want to hear God’s word? That’s important! This positive note continues into verse 31, as the people visit Ezekiel to hear the word of the Lord, and God even says, “as they usually do.” So they must have had some kind of habit, a regular sitting before Ezekiel to hear from God. But just that quickly, God gets to the main point, and the positive tone is done.
Midway through verse 31, God says the people do not put the words into practice!!! So the people talk a good game about hearing God’s message. Further, the people go to Ezekiel’s house and hear God’s words, but then they do not do what God’s words tell them to do. That is the epitome of worthless religion: learning information, but not allowing that information to lead to formation. Let me say that again. Worthless religion is focus on learning information that does not lead to formation.
There is a problem, God says through Ezekiel, when our information does not lead to formation. Formation is when we actually follow through and do what the information says to do, in our regular daily lives, hour by hour, minute by minute. Formation is when we become the people that God wants us to be in what is called the “Other 167.” Do you know what the other 167 is? It is every other hour in the week, after the one hour Christians spend in weekly worship. During weekly worship, whether in a church service, class or small group, we learn information for about one hour, and that information should shape and influence the other 167 hours of the week. And how so? What formation are we talking about?
Formation, as Paul would later write, is to be formed in the image of Jesus. When we learn the information about who Jesus was, what he taught, and how he lived, then we take that information and we allow it to shape our lives. That means we make decisions, choices, and changes so that our lives resemble Jesus’ life. That is what a disciple is. A disciple is a learner from their master, who then does what their master does. It is very similar to an apprentice. An apprentice is getting information about how to do a job, and little by little the master gives the apprentice the responsibility to do the job. Over time, the apprentice learns how to do everything for that job, and the apprentice can take over for the master.
But while the people in Ezekiel’s village were soaking up the information, and they looked spiritual doing so, they didn’t do anything with the information. They were like apprentices who never actually do any work. Look at the second half of verse 31. The people talk a good game, expressing devotion to God, but their life choices show a very different story. They did not allow God’s information to lead to their formation. They did not allow God’s words to penetrate their hearts and minds to the point that they actually did what God said. God has evidence. He points out their hearts are greedy for unjust gain.
How do you ingest information from God? Do you attend worship services, do Bible studies, or listen to podcasts? What do you do with that information? Check back to the final post in this five-post series for some practical ideas.