So then, the word of the LORD to them will become: Do and do, do and do, rule on rule, rule on rule; a little here, a little there–so that they will go and fall backward, be injured and snared and captured. Isaiah 28:13
Be careful not to do your acts of righteousness before men, to be seen by them. Matthew 6:1
It’s abundantly clear in scripture that God is concerned with the condition of a person’s heart. Action divorced from motive is hypocrisy. We lack integrity when what we do isn’t a true reflection of our heart. God is looking for pure hearts, not fake and falsified rituals. We cannot simply look good (according to others), we must also be good (according to God). God’s rules are a roadmap for worship and a pathway to life. They are not a set of instructions for winning approval from Christians.
One of the great tragedies in our world: when it comes to shooting our wounded, Christians are expert sharpshooters. Criticism that covers up guilt creates a fake environment that’s not safe to share spiritual weakness. When weakness can’t be shared, we descend into going through the motions so we don’t get picked off.
Don’t do spiritual exercises when you don’t feel like doing them. Ignore that advice and you’ll ritualize your faith. Your devotion to God will become nothing more than a series of meaningless and empty actions. They will keep you from being attacked by other believers, but you’ll be dying on the inside. “Going through the motions” isn’t a trajectory that’ll keep you growing spiritually. You may impress others, but you won’t impress God.
Here’ is how this principle looks in my life. I hesitate to share this because your expression of faith can’t be carbon copied after mine. If I don’t feel like going to church, I don’t. Maybe I’m in a super bad mood and shouldn’t be around others. This principle can be taken too far (which is where the “Obedience Principle” comes into play). I won’t skip a spiritual discipline more than two or three times. After that, if I don’t feel like doing something, there’s a good chance my feelings need to be changed by my actions.