Tag Archives: Christ Jesus

A Closer Walk

It was the religious people who gave Jesus fits.  Jesus showed great compassion to those who were stuck in sin.  Jesus loved the unlovable, not by overlooking their bad stuff but by showing them the path to forgiveness, restoration and freedom.  But the religious people, the self-righteous, legalistic, judgmental people?  Jesus blasted them with harsh criticism.  Because He loved them, too, and they were traveling a far more dangerous road.  When you are in trouble, it is far more dangerous if you either don’t realize it, or pretend that you are not.

After being challenged one day because His disciples were not strictly following the religious ritual of hand washing before eating, Jesus turned on His accusers.  He pointed out how they used religious tradition to thwart the real purposes of God.  (See Matthew 15:1-20).  He said:

“You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: “ ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’”” (Matthew 15:7-9)

When people try to make themselves righteous, they do so by following religious rules.  The problem with that approach is that, inevitably, they begin to keep score, becoming proud and looking down on others.  When people try to make themselves righteous, they become self-righteous.

Much of the time, religious rules are designed and followed to make a person look good to others.  Instead of expressing genuine love for God, rule-followers say, “Look at me, people; I’m religious, I’m better than you…”  Sometimes when people say things in a way that sounds religious, they do it for the same motive.  But God says, when people “honor Me with their lips, but not their hearts” they are “far from Me.”   Their worship does not cause them to draw close.  No matter how religious it sounds, their worship has no real effect.  It is “in vain,”  which means it is empty.

God’s Word is given to us with the purpose of drawing us into a living and loving relationship with Him.  You don’t form that kind of relationship with anyone by following rules and keeping score.  That, in a nutshell, is the problem with most religion.  It’s why religion doesn’t work.

But relationship does.  You want to draw close to God?  Stop being religious, and get close to Jesus.

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

 

Keep the Faith – Part 4

Let’s make a million bucks together; we’ll split it.  I’ll provide the idea; you do the graphics.  Let’s make a T-shirt with a picture of the screen of a GPS across it.  However, instead of the street arrow pointing to the next intersection, it points to the sandaled feet of Jesus, as He walks up the road ahead of us, leading us forward.  Then, below that picture, one word: “Recalculating!”  Nice, huh?

Hebrews 12:2, continuing with coaching tips for those who are struggling to hold on to their faith (this topic starts here), says this:

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  (Heb 12:2)

This tip builds on the previous one, continuing the idea of living life as a marathon race.  When you are running a race, you keep the finish line in mind to motivate you in the tough moments.  There is a real sense in which Jesus is our finish line!  Think about it…

But this verse also says He is the “author and perfecter of our faith.”  What does that mean?

The word, Author, means He invented faith, He brought it into being.  Ever ride a Segway? – those two wheeled “balancy” things?  Imagine getting on the prototype, the day it was invented, by Dean Kamen.  You get on it and It feels like it is  going to fall over.  What do you do?  You look over at Dean and say, “Am I doing this right?”  Same thing with the “Author” or inventor of our faith.  You keep your eyes on Him.  “Am I doing this right?”

The word, Perfecter, means the One Who brings faith all the way to its complete, intended conclusion.  Again, that’s Jesus.  These challenges we face in this life are used by Jesus to prepare us for a life in which faith, perfect faith, is the norm!  Keep your eye on Him, because He won’t quit working on you until you get there, until your faith is perfect, lacking nothing, complete.

… He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6b)

There’s a reason that people have teams as they participate individually in sports of endurance .  You can run farther, faster and better when you are running with a teammate.  If you are alone in a race, it helps to fix your eyes on a better runner, letting his example “lead you on” and motivate you.  In the marathon of following Jesus, as we struggle to hang on to our faith, it makes all the difference to

“fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith.”

There’s more to this – too much for today.  Stay tuned.