When someone with whom you have an agreement keeps to the letter of the agreement but not its spirit, you feel violated. Conversely, when someone adheres to the spirit of an agreement while incidentally violating its letter, you tend to be forgiving. These feelings are natural and owe to the greater importance of spirit over circumstantial details.
Similarly, God wants us to keep to the spirit of the Bible and not be myopically focused on its letter. Even so, there are over thirty thousand Christian denominations today, and countless nondenominational churches, which exist precisely because their adherents are trying to follow the letter of the New Testament instead of its spirit. That is, they see the word “church” in the New Testament and say, “Let’s make one of those!” Off they go, trying to reconstruct whatever aspect of the church stands out to them. Maybe they want elders, or maybe they want gifts of the Spirit, or maybe they want apostolic heritage, or maybe they want to meet in homes – the variations are endless. What these adherents all have in common is that they are divided from one another, which runs absolutely counter to the spirit of the church described in the New Testament (when the church at Corinth started going that direction Paul criticized them severely). If today’s churchgoers were to focus on the spirit of the New Testament church, they wouldn’t be trying to imitate 1st-century church life. Instead, they’d be trying to imitate the Lord. In this century, those are two entirely different processes with two entirely different outcomes.
The church in the New Testament was a temporary structure, built in anticipation of the coming kingdom of God. It was a womb in which God’s children were nurtured in embryonic form, waiting until the time when they would be birthed as sons of God in the kingdom. Jesus had said, “I go to prepare a place for you.” Jesus had lived as a son of God on earth. At His Second Coming, He re-assumed the throne of God and became the Father of all those who believe in Him, those who took that place He had made as sons of God. The kingdom God is now on earth in our midst – what need do we have to go back to a temporary structure to wait on it?
God, in Jesus of Nazareth, had come to earth to show us how to live. As a human, He continually praised and served God, His Father in heaven. Of course, He was the Father from heaven but He was temporarily living the life of a son. (He had plenty of angels to run the operation for Him and He had left more than ample instructions in heaven and on earth as to how things were to be handled.) Having given us the example of a son’s life, having left us the steps in which to follow, He then re-took His rightful place as Father in heaven after His resurrection from the dead.
We are His children, and little children at that. We hardly know how to go out or come in. Yet we are not for this reason disqualified from serving Him. On the contrary, He said that unless we humble ourselves like children we shall not enter the kingdom of God. We know also that the children shouted “Hosanna!” when Jesus entered Jerusalem. And Isaiah had prophesied that even a little child would lead in the days God was promising. We live in those days.
Does a loving parent care more about the spirit of a child’s obedience or the letter of his obedience? Therefore, don’t worry about making mistakes as you look to your Father for guidance. He is looking at your heart and He knows when you are doing your best for Him. He is looking to the spirit of your obedience, knowing that you barely even know your letters.
Live today, and every day, never letting your Father out of your sight.