"Jesus vs. Religion"

Somehow, it feels like this year is flying past at a much faster pace than most years do.  Everyone seems to be running around, just trying to keep up with life.  So let me encourage all of us to take a moment to stop, take a deep breath, hold it, then slowly let it out -- and let’s remind ourselves that God’s pace is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.  So instead of always trying to keep up with the world, let’s just try to consciously keep pace with God.

For instance, in our Sunday School this week, I didn’t get as far in my notes about the Holy Spirit as I’d wanted to get, because someone asked a question that she suddenly felt led to ask... which led me to go off on an extended tangent that I’d never intended to pursue... which ended up being a perfect example to keep bringing up for the rest of the hour.  Afterwards, one of the other people in class laughingly told me that the topic that we kept hammering on in class (which none of us had ever even thought of before) was an area that he’d felt the Holy Spirit burdening him about all week. 

My point is that God knows what He’s doing, and that His timing, pacing, and leading make a lot more sense in the long run than do our own.  We just get used to listening to ourselves first instead of listening to God first and going from there.

We talked about that from a different angle in our message this week.  As we make our way toward Resurrection Sunday (in two weeks!), we’ve been looking at things that Jesus was specifically against in His ministry.  Last week, we looked at “Jesus vs. Culture,” and this week, we looked at “Jesus vs. Religion.” 

Now, when I say that title, a lot of people assume that they know what I mean -- just like a lot of people over the centuries have assumed that they’ve known what God wants in our religion.  Some people bristle because they assume that I’d be slamming religious doctrine or tradition or ritualism, while other people cheer because they assume the same thing.  But the truth is, God instituted the very concepts of doctrines and traditions and rituals, so we know that Jesus wouldn’t have stood against those (at least, not in and of themselves).  And yet, Jesus clearly stood against religion that found its purpose and meaning in those things instead of in the God to whom those things were supposed to be directing them.  Godly religion is so much more about the “who” and the “why” than it is about the “what” and the “how” most of the time.

Whether we’re talking about the Prophets or the Gospels or the Epistles or the Revelation, the truth is that the Bible repeatedly chastises us when we make an outward, empty show of religion, instead of letting God work primarily on our inward parts, changing and cleansing our hearts in ways that then sincerely and consistently change our outward actions.  Isaiah, Amos, Jesus, James -- they’re all pretty consistent in saying that God despises a worthless religion that only jumps through its own man-made hoops, but that He joyfully accepts a religion that naturally but consciously overflows the love, mercy, joy, justice, health, and truth that God has supernaturally filled us with as its act of worship.

So what kind of religion are you and I actively living out this week?