Summary: Many people who wish to follow Jesus are repelled by the multitude of denominations, diffenerences in beliefs, and conflicting doctrines and practices taught by those professing to be Christians. Such a strong distaste for denominational division is in
Jesus - The Way Out Of Religious Confusion
TEXT: John 14:1-7
INTRODUCTION: Many people who wish to follow Jesus are repelled by the multitude of denominations, diffenerences in beliefs, and conflicting doctrines and practices taught by those professing to be Christians. Such a strong distaste for denominational division is in keeping with the spirit of the New Testament...Jesus prayed fervently for unity in His High Priestly prayer recorded in Jn 17:21 - "I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you." Paul outright condemned religious division in 1 Co 1:10-13 - "I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, I follow Paul; another, I follow Apollos; another, I follow Cephas; still another, I follow Christ. Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?"
While some denominational leaders like to justify their existence, we know that religious confusion does not come from God...because "God is not a God of disorder but of peace." (I Co 14:33). God is the author of peace, not confusion - religious strife is indicative of carnality, and a it is a work of the flesh - 1 Co 3:3-4 - "You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? For when one says, I follow Paul, and another, I follow Apollos, are you not mere men?"; Ga 5:19-21 - "The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God."
So, is it possible for people today to simply be Christians, and refrain from collaborating and contributing to the denominational division that exists today? The answer is Yes! And Jesus is the great example that shows us The Way Out Of Religious Confusion! Let’s take notice of Jesus’ own example in the religious climate of His day...
I. THE EXAMPLE OF JESUS
A. NOTE THE RELIGIOUS CLIMATE OF HIS DAY...
1. When Jesus came to this earth, the Israelites were living under God’s law given by Moses
2. In that law, God had not made any provision for the division of His people into religious sects or parties
3. Yet, by the time of Jesus, the Jews had formed several distinct religious parties:
a. Pharisees (somewhat conservative)
b. Sadducees (very liberal, the "modernists" of their day)
c. Essenes (radical isolationists)
d. Herodians, Zealots (political religionists)
4. The assumption was that all who were serious about religion would be associated with one of these groups
B. JESUS MAINTAINED A NONSECTARIAN RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD...
1. To which of these groups did Jesus belong? NONE!
2. Instead, He maintained a "nonsectarian" relationship with God to the very end
a. As an Israelite, living at a time when the Law of Moses was still in effect, He was simply an "Israelite"
b. In addition, He encouraged all to live by the Law while it was still in effect - Jesus said in Mt 5:17-20 - "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven."
c. In other words, He encouraged all to simply be what the Law of Moses intended them to be - true "Israelites"
C. WHAT WOULD JESUS BE TODAY...?
1. Would He be a Baptist, a Catholic, a Presbyterian, a Methodist?
2. I firmly believe He would simply refer to Himself as a "Christian".
3. That was certainly what His disciples came to be called - Ac 11:26, 27 - "Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch."