<<formalized religious ceremony or practice, habit>>
The various OT practises God instructed the Jews to perform brought order into society and were the means by which He wanted the people’s
be focused on Him – a God who was to be loved and worshipped. However, these regularly undertaken activities deteriorated into cold, meaningless activity without any life. God said, “They worship with their lips but their heart is far from me” (Isa 29:13). Jesus said the Pharisees were by their outward appearance like beautifully presented tombs, yet inside full of corruption and without any life. They too had a religious veneer, a form of godliness yet denied the power (Mt 23:27; 2 Tim 3:5). God doesn’t want us to perform lifeless religious rituals, but rather have a living relationship with Him resulting in a personal transformation and acceptable spiritual worship (Rom 12:2).
Rituals can be either life-enhancing or life-depleting reminders
because they are reminders of the basic beliefs of our faith – such as the taking of Communion.
Used rightly, ceremonies and rituals can help to focus our hearts on God so long as they do not become ends in themselves; being too busy with ‘the doing’ that we fail to connect with the Person who it is all about. When things get into a boring rut, it may not be necessary to change the overall concept rather have a renewed awareness and appreciation of the original significance.
A cold lifeless outward focused ritual-based religion stands in contrast to the personal interaction and inner devotion that affects the whole personality should be the hallmark of Christianity, yet if our mind is not open to the Spirit of God we can substitute our ways for His ways and bring in humanistic controls that revert to mankind losing the vital connection (Isa 55:8).
Our devotion is to the person of Lord Jesus in gratitude for the gift of salvation, not to various rituals or liturgies with the only two rituals or ordinances the church is commanded to observe are water baptism and communion (Mt 28:19; 1 Cor 11:25). All churches have a format or procedure that is typically followed so "things are done in a fitting and orderly way" but this should not be so rigid that the Holy Spirit is not free to operate because He would be over-riding human structure (1 Cor 14:40; 1 Thes 5:19). Repetitious prayers, creeds or songs can, over time, lead to dullness in worship rather than the free expression of one’s heart, mind, and soul before God (Mt 22:34-40). God who sees the true conditon of our heart, seeks those who worship Him “in the Spirit and in truth” (Jn 4:24).