Yesterday I preached on Luke 7:36-50, the story in which a woman comes to Jesus and starts wetting His feet with her tears and wiping them off with her feet. I’m not going to type out the message because you can download an MP3 of the message or you can stream it and all of my other messages right off of our app. Hope you’ll find a chance to take a listen and happy Monday!
So perhaps you’ve seen that Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus video rolling around YouTube and Facebook. If not, at least nearly 19 million others have. Check it out really quick:
Those are some powerful words right there. In my opinion what the dude has to say is valid and quite real. Unfortunately, however, I’m not sure “religion” was the right word to use.
Over the past few years, religion has become an incredibly vague word. It’s definition by the current generation seems to be: everything about Christianity that I don’t like or have had a bad experience with. With such a definition, it seems that the entire world has a different idea as to why religion is bad.
- One person had a bad encounter with theology and doctrine so they accuse it of being “religious” rather than freeing, as it is intended to grow you with God and show you more of who He is.
- Another person had a bad encounter with spiritual disciplines. Someone got so involved in fasting or prayer, or reading their Bible that they ignored the rest of the world. They accuse them of being “religious” rather than authentic.
- Someone else attended a church with so much tradition that they stopped paying attention to the point of it all and started to accuse everyone associated with that church as “religious.”
It’s weird, because everyone agrees to accuse religion of being evil while no one ever opens up their mouth to explain what exactly religion is. Now that being said, check out this Catholic priest’s rebuttal to the video you just watched:
What’d you think of what he had to say? Is he right? Wrong?
My personal opinion: both of these guys are saying the exact same thing. Actually, I was waiting for someone to make his exact same comeback, because when “religion” is targeted, typically what people have in mind are the things I mentioned above: theology, spiritual disciplines, and tradition. And who better to make a comeback on all of these things than a Catholic priest as the Catholics do a better job at practicing all of these things today than most of our Protestant churches do.
But if you really pay attention to these videos, I think what you’ll actually find is that they are both mad at hypocrites—not religion. This is because they both have a different understanding as to what religion is.
See, Jesus understood the difference between simply being religious and actually pursuing God. Check out Matthew 6:16-18.
“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
The hypocrites in Jesus words are the religious ones. They have the right action with the wrong heart. They’re fasting looks as though it’s for God, but in actuality it’s for them. They are looking to gain attention from the people around them so that they’ll be seen as spiritual. You can’t look at these people and not see how physically hungry they are. That’s religious fasting. True fasting—according to Jesus—would be to put some makeup on, take a shower, and walk around with a smile on your face.
I would define actual religion as “a pursuit of God with the wrong heart.” From the outside it looks right, but from the inside it’s not. In fact, it’s not even a pursuit. It’s a false pursuit. And because of my definition nearly anything can become religious.
- You study so much doctrine and theology for the sake of education and debate that you miss God amidst it all.
- You fast to get others attention, not God’s.
- You raise your hands in worship because it makes you look spiritual.
- You pray because you’re good at putting words together and others can see and hear you.
- You speak in tongues so others will be in awe of your gift.
- You practice tradition because you’re going through the motions and not because you’re remembering or learning anything.
But don’t you dare think for a second that these are religious activities in and of themselves. Consider them more as neutral activities. If you pursue God through theology, fasting, worship, prayer, tongues, or tradition, they become avenues of growth and authentic Christianity. But if you do not pursue God through theology, fasting, worship, prayer, tongues, or tradition, they have a pretty good potential of becoming religious.
Jesus offers freedom. Religion offers bondage. This is true, but we need to learn do discern what is religious and what is not. Because there are plenty of religion-hating Christians out there today who wouldn’t realize they could easily accuse Jesus of being religious. Check out Luke 2:41-51.
Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, but supposing him to be in the group they went a day’s journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold,your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.
Now of course Jesus is not being religious here, but He did do some things in this passage that people today would accuse anyone who wasn’t Jesus of being religious for:
- His family was observing the traditional, religious holiday of Passover and following the customs they were supposed to follow as good Jews. On top of that, Mary didn’t necessarily have to attend this feast but she did anyway. Some would accuse her of being a religious overachiever.
- This passage mentions Jesus is 12 years old. At this age, Jewish boys would gain the title “son of the law” and undergo a course of instruction, learn to fast, and attend public worship.
- Jesus probably had amazing theological insight. The fact that the teachers were amazed by His questions means He had some pretty amazing answers for these well-educated men.
- Jesus got so involved in being at church and carrying on intelligent conversation about God that He just set his family aside for three days while they panicked looking for Him. And when they finally found Him, Jesus replied as though He hadn’t even considered how they felt.
Some would call these things religious, but because it’s Jesus they would never do that.
I actually think this conversation is important. If we don’t learn to clarify what religion is, we will create an environment in which tradition, theology and spiritual disciplines fade all the much more (as though they haven’t done so already in Christianity today).
On another note, I’ve been tagging my posts under the topics of Christianity and Religion because I knew that plenty of authentic Christians would search for what I had to say under the topic of religion. Again, we define and consider this word differently.
Join the conversation and leave a comment. Do you agree with one of the videos above more than the other? Do you think they’re saying the same thing? Do you think they’re totally opposed to each other? I’m interested in your opinion.
Quite a few years back, my old band played a concert with a rapper by the name of Othello. To that day, he had been the only rapper I had ever heard who was also an incredible singer. Then along came Mat Kearney. And now I can add another to the list.
His name is B.Reith and he by far as the smoothest voice in rap music I have ever heard. And because of that, he’s not constrained to just rap. I’ve been playing his latest album on repeat all day as I drove 94 back and forth, each time paying more and more attention to his lyrics. This verse caught my attention:
To the billions of people who are mad at God
Because most churches haven’t done their job
And hurt you badly
Yes it’s a tragedy—you lookin’ at a casualty
See I’ve judged instead of loved
You have every right to be mad at me
But please forgive us as we try to fix this
But this time not because of selfish ambition
This time because of Jesus who lives within us
See we are not religious, we are just redeemed sinners
And He offers peace in the midst of affliction
And He is deliverance from the deepest addiction
Though He may be hidden from your plain sight vision
Just look beneath the surface and you cannot miss Him
As far as all our problems go I know I can’t fix ’em
Just by singing a song, so much has gone wrong
Don’t change don’t come easy, together we can be strong
I was hoping that we could all start by singing along
As a long time Christian this verse really resonated with me. I’ve been hurt by the church. I’ve also judged instead of loved and been the one who hurt others. I’ve seen truth behind the statement Tony Campolo made in the documentary, Lord, Save Us From Your Followers:
It’s a quote from Saint Augustine—it’s a good quote. He said “the church is a whore, and she’s my mother.” What a great balance. Are you talking about unfaithfulness? You’re talking about the church. Unfaithful bride of Christ. Failing to live up to it’s marriage vows to the Lord. It’s a whore. But she’s also my mother. I wouldn’t be a Christian today and I wouldn’t know about Jesus and I wouldn’t have the Bible if it wasn’t for this thing called the Church. It has carried this thing called the truth for all of it’s flaws; for all of it’s shortcomings; for all of it’s weaknesses; for all of it’s whoring—it has still been that which has kept alive the gospel story down through the ages.
Yes, I’ve seen the “whoring” of the church. I’ve even been a part of that “whoring.” But I’ve also seen the beauty of the church and have longed to show others how gorgeous it is. It’s part of the reason I’m a pastor. And I believe the people at our church are determined to show you what the church can be. And if we succeed, you’ll hear about the way we love.
As a new fan, I want to push you to go buy B.Reith’s new album on iTunes or Amazon. It’s some of the freshest stuff I’ve heard in quite awhile. And as a musician myself, I’m fully aware of the struggle of artists who are dying to create something different for a world that listens to mainstream radio. B.Reith, if you’re somehow reading this: you rock.
Today we narrow in on healing within Jesus’ ministry. How did he do it? What stood out in his healing escapades. How can we learn from it?
This week comes in video form as the lesson is a bit more visual than usual. That being said, the video is below. And if you didn’t download it last week, here’s the handout we are looking over during this video. You can also catch up with healing session 1 here.
If you’d rather listen to the MP3 despite the video above, you can also download the MP3 via the Apollos podcast on iTunes. HOWEVER, my podcast bandwidth may be over this month. Therefore, you will probably have to wait until next month to download it so it really would be best to watch the video above.
NOTE: If you visit the podcast on iTunes and the latest MP3 is not on there yet, do the following:
- Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes
- Go to the podcast section in your library
- Right click on the Apollos podcast
- Click on “update podcast” on the pop-up menu
- The latest MP3 should begin to download
If for some reason this doesn’t work, the latest MP3 will show up on iTunes fairly soon when it has refreshed the RSS feed. if you want it immediately, just download it here.
So I made a post a few days ago called “The Island” and basically talked about how this little piece of land Jodi and I were on was out of control with plants and bugs. I then related some things to being green while balancing it with subduing the earth and every living thing on it as God commanded humanity at the beginning of time (check out the post for more details if you’d like, because this is related).
And perhaps you know the story: Adam and Eve have a perfect life in the Garden of Eden until they eat from a tree, which was like the only thing they weren’t supposed to do. When they ate from that tree, it seems as though a new creature was unleashed on the world.
The creature of sin.
Because if you fast-forward to the next story in the Bible, you come across the story of Cain and Abel. Perhaps you know the story: one of the two brothers worships better than the other and the one who’s worse at it gets jealous and kills the other.
Well before Cain murders Abel, God confronts him rather kindly. Such kindness is interesting since you’d think if anyone would be offended it would be God. I mean, Cain’s brought Him an offering that He has “no regard for.” But God’s gentle response in Genesis 4:6-7 is:
“Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.”
See, God seems pretty calm about the poor offering He was just given. Almost like a, “Come on dude, you can do better than that. Don’t be mad.”
But in God’s statement you saw the analogy didn’t you? You saw how “sin is crouching at the door.” You see how it’s likened to a wild animal?
Sharks are attracted by blood. Alligators are attracted by splashing. Sin is attracted by a lifestyle of “not doing well.”
Or perhaps a better way to look at it is as though sin has been crouching and prowling around like a roaring lion after us the whole time, waiting for us to not do well so it can attack when we are weak.
Ah, but we are called to “master it” (NASB). Or as another literal translation says, we “must rule over it” (ESV). For sin is a creature, and God has charged us with the mission to rule over all living things:
God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:28)
From the beginning we were called to rule over it. And now, due to Jesus’ death on the cross, we have all the more power in the Holy Spirit and the sacred blood of Jesus to fight that creature with the armor of God.
Sometimes the fight is hard, but we were made strengthened by God for the battle.
We can subdue it.
And we will.
And we are.
So insert victory pose here:
I have spent much of my life wondering about this verse. Jesus was getting down to His last breath and for some reason He went out making this statement?
I really didn’t get it. Why didn’t He just go out silently. Why, instead, did he make it sound as though God had betrayed Him? Doesn’t that give off a weird image of Jesus?
A few moments ago I opened my Bible as I have been reading through the Psalms. My chapter today was Psalm 22, and it was perfect timing with tomorrow being Good Friday. And as I opened to this chapter, I was surprised to see Jesus’ last words.
My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?
I saw those words and immediately prayed “Lord, help me understand this.” And then when I was done reading the passage, I felt that I finally did.
Now it’s common knowledge that Jesus was of course quoting something when He said that, but I had never really checked out the source. I thought His statement was a stand alone statement. But now I see that not only was He quoting a Psalm on how He felt, but He was also making reference to the entire Psalm. Read it and see that the Psalm His reference makes is about the very thing going on in His life at this moment. You will come to see the rest of the statement He was making in that moment just by quoting Psalm 22:
1My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?
Far from my deliverance are the words of my groaning.
2O my God, I cry by day, but You do not answer;
And by night, but I have no rest.
3Yet You are holy,
O You who are enthroned upon the praises of Israel.
4In You our fathers trusted;
They trusted and You delivered them.
5To You they cried out and were delivered;
In You they trusted and were not disappointed.
6But I am a worm and not a man,
A reproach of men and despised by the people.
7All who see me sneer at me;
They separate with the lip, they wag the head, saying,
8“Commit yourself to the LORD; let Him deliver him;
Let Him rescue him, because He delights in him.”
9Yet You are He who brought me forth from the womb;
You made me trust when upon my mother’s breasts.
10Upon You I was cast from birth;
You have been my God from my mother’s womb.
11Be not far from me, for trouble is near;
For there is none to help.
12Many bulls have surrounded me;
Strong bulls of Bashan have encircled me.
13They open wide their mouth at me,
As a ravening and a roaring lion.
14I am poured out like water,
And all my bones are out of joint;
My heart is like wax;
It is melted within me.
15My strength is dried up like a potsherd,
And my tongue cleaves to my jaws;
And You lay me in the dust of death.
16For dogs have surrounded me;
A band of evildoers has encompassed me;
They pierced my hands and my feet.
17I can count all my bones.
They look, they stare at me;
18They divide my garments among them,
And for my clothing they cast lots.
19But You, O LORD, be not far off;
O You my help, hasten to my assistance.
20Deliver my soul from the sword,
My only life from the power of the dog.
21Save me from the lion’s mouth;
From the horns of the wild oxen You answer me.
22I will tell of Your name to my brethren;
In the midst of the assembly I will praise You.
23You who fear the LORD, praise Him;
All you descendants of Jacob, glorify Him,
And stand in awe of Him, all you descendants of Israel.
24For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted;
Nor has He hidden His face from him;
But when he cried to Him for help, He heard.
25From You comes my praise in the great assembly;
I shall pay my vows before those who fear Him.
26The afflicted will eat and be satisfied;
Those who seek Him will praise the LORD
Let your heart live forever!
27All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD,
And all the families of the nations will worship before You.
28For the kingdom is the LORD’S
And He rules over the nations.
29All the prosperous of the earth will eat and worship,
All those who go down to the dust will bow before Him,
Even he who cannot keep his soul alive.
30Posterity will serve Him;
It will be told of the Lord to the coming generation.
31They will come and will declare His righteousness
To a people who will be born, that He has performed it.