Last week we looked at how scandalous Jesus can seem to us. One of the things that seemed scandalous about Jesus was the fact he hated the religion of the Jewish leaders, even though he himself was Jewish. The thing that really blew the minds of the religious leaders of the day was the fact that Jesus hung around with “sinners.” Really the only difference between the religious leaders and the people they saw as sinners was the fact the sinners did not hide their sins. The religious leaders were just as messed up as the “sinners” were but they were blinded by their religion.
Here is how this gets scandalous for us. You may want to sit down because this part may be hard to swallow. Jesus does not like your religion either.
Why is religion not what God is looking for from us? Religion is about fulfilling or checking off a to do list of rules and regulations in order to achieve something. You may say, “Well, is not that what Christianity is just a bunch of things we can and cannot do?” Yes there are things God commands us to do and not to do; however, that question has more to do with religion than it does Christianity. You see you can be a religious person––going through the motions—and to the rest of the world you may look like a very holy person, but that is exactly what the Pharisees did.
Here in lies the difference between being religious and being a Christian or follow of Christ. You can be religious without Jesus Christ. As a matter of fact, Jesus did not have to die on the cross for you to be religious. However, you cannot be a Christian or follower of Christ without Jesus Christ. A person can be religious without a having a relationship with Jesus, but you cannot be a Christian without a relationship with Jesus.
Religion today is disguised in our pursuits and obligations to check off as many things off our “I’m a good person list.” Here are some examples of what religion can look like today. A person who prays to God but only when she needs something from Him. A person considers himself a good person despite the fact that he cusses at his kids, lies to not get caught, has problems controlling his anger, and struggles with a pornography addiction. Another person may attend church when it benefits him or her or may even attend church every week. Overall, they feel it is very boring and leave wondering why they came in the first place.
You see if you attend church every week, read your Bible regularly, and pray to God, but you do not have a relationship with Jesus Christ then there is a high possibility that you are merely religious.
Religion makes you believe you have to “clean yourself up” or “straighten out some things” before you can go to church or surrender your life to Jesus Christ. Religion tells you that you have to be a good person, do all the right things, and never mess up. Here is the most scandalous thing about Jesus. Jesus loves the mess. Surrendering your life to Jesus Christ is not about anything you can do, but it has everything to do with what Jesus has already done. Jesus died on the cross and paid the one time price for the forgiveness of sins of every person who has lived and will live on this earth. Going to heaven, having eternal life, salvation whatever you want to call it does not happen for you because you did all the right things. It can only become a reality when you surrender your life to Jesus Christ and have a heart felt relationship with Him. Everything else just falls short.
My question for you is do you have a relationship with Jesus Christ or are you just religious?