December 11, 2020, 4:00 AM

Advent Reflections on Isaiah 29:13

This people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips,
while their hearts are far from me,
and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men.

A very subtle, sneaky human condition particular to those of us who say we know Jesus Christ.
It is called “practical atheism.” An atheist is someone who says there is no God. A practical atheist believes in God; but lives as if He doesn't exist. Many of us live out our Faith as practical atheists!

An atheist is someone who’s afraid there really is a God out there.
A practical atheist is someone who’s afraid God isn’t there. (Despite what they profess.)

We say we believe in God.
But we don’t believe He cares.
We don’t think He’ll provide for all our needs.
We don’t really believe all He reveals in his Word.

I want to share an insightful thought on practical atheism. This from Travis Peterson, a pastor from Columbia, Illinois. He says, when confronting the blind spot of practical atheism in our own lives, we should ask ask, “Does my heart show me as a true believer in God through action? Am I acting, with every second of my life, as one who believes that God, the true God, the God of the Bible, is with me? Or, am I saying I am a believer with my lips, but actually living as though I am the only one here.”

“Christians, [he continues] if we are honest, there are times when, if we are not careful, we will live like [practical atheists] even when we say with our lips that God is there. [For example] when we live for ourselves, when we act as though we must solve all our own problems, when we fail to trust God for the future, when we look for others to blame for our problems, when we act without prayer… Sure, we acknowledge Jesus with our lips; but, when the rubber meets the road, we deny Jesus by the way we try to handle everything on our own or refuse to try to do something that appears to be beyond our own human abilities.”

This season of Advent is the time when we need to confront the darkness, not only in the world, but the darkness within our own soul. We need to confront it with the coming Light in Jesus Christ.

An Advent Prayer:
“Most Holy; Most Sufficient God who we are invited to call our Father
Today, we repent of living as a practical atheists.
Help us to turn away from the temptation to make this life all about us,
our comforts, our strengths,and our weaknesses.
May we, by your grace live like one who believes,
truly believes and knows, and lives like you are real, that you are with us,
and you will never forsake us, for we are your children.
Though we would never declare philosophically that you do not exist,
We confess that we sometimes live as though that is what we believe.
We pray that you will fill us with your Spirit, and remind us regularly of your presence.
Let us live what we truly believe, that you are our God, our Creator, our Lord,
our Refuge, our King, and everything we need.
We will trust you to work in us that we might live out that trust in every aspect of our life.
We pray these things to you, our God, because of your provision of Christ Jesus,
who in turn, gives the Holy Spirit generously.   Amen.”

(Adapted from Practical Atheism by Travis Peterson, Associate Pastor of Discipleship and Evangelism, First Baptist Church of Columbia, IL.  The Gospel Project, 5/17/2013).

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