When one reviews the pages of the Bible focusing on relationships, it seems the people who God had the greatest animosity against are “religious people.” From the Old Testament patriarchs to the New Testament saints, people who seemed to get God’s emotions to tilt are religious people preventing others from having an authentic, meaningful relationship with Him.
Jesus’ encounter with the Pharisees is a prime example. “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.” [Matt. 23:13 ESV] Jesus explodes with a verbal assault aimed directly at the Pharisees. They had become so self-righteous that they maintained a form of religion, but lack the power and love of God with it. They blinded themselves with a humanistic show of piety but the heart didn’t know God. They acted the part in form, but lacked the internal substance of genuine love. Whereas King David was a man after God’s own heart [Acts 13:22], the Pharisees were men after their idol’s heart.
The apostle Paul wrote in Romans 16:18 “For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.” Throughout Paul’s ministry the struggle was with people who were deceived into believing an idol rather than the true God. For whatever one set’s their heart after that is not our Triune God is pursuing what the Bible defines as an idol; and idols have their followers and supporters.
Religiosity is simply the idol of mystical performance that looks sacred from the outside-in, but lacks the Spirit-filled heart that knows God and walks with God from the inside-out. Religiosity is the friend of humanism. It is designed to make man feel good, look good, and for a moment experience good. But the end result is another deceptive lie.
Jesus spoke about having a deep, meaningful relationship with Him. He didn’t act religious because God’s way involves being adopted into a family, a community, and a government built from the center of God’s heart, It is about everyday life; not a one-hour religious experience. It is expressing the love of God with your family members, work associates, and neighbors. The unity is not found in a bunch of do’s and don’ts [Col. 2:20], but in the Spirit of God within each person.
At the end of the day, one finds having a relationship with Jesus Christ is an adventurous journey through life with all the excitement of a Hollywood blockbuster movie. The difference though is you are not a spectator but a active participant in the plot and storyline. He assigns you a role that you were specifically designed to live and equips you for its fulfillment. It’s about everyday life: eating, sleeping, working, playing, dancing, singing, writing, loving and yes leading and serving others. When one discovers and experiences it, one quickly understands why Jesus became angry with the religious people of His day. You may want to take a hard look at oneself and ask in prayer: what religious games can I stop playing so we may draw closer to the living God?
Our Holy Father – Holy Lord – Holy Spirit: thank you for your honest feedback and merciful grace that strips us from our prideful acts of religious superiority. Thank you for making your home in us and patiently opening our eyes to see and ears to hear your wonderful life. Thank you for sharing your creation and your purpose and your plans with us.
Help us always to be authentic, honest, and generous to the people we meet. Help us to desist and you to exhibit your great power and love in us and through us. Let us not become a stumbling block for anyone but help us to lead and serve others in love with you. If they don’t know you, help us to gently and persuasively point them to you. Let your Spirit glow in the lives of your church.
Let everything we say, think, and do be done so in the love of Christ for the glory of Christ by the power of Christ.
Yours In Christ,
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