Summary: What is religion? So many people when they talk about Christianity call it religion. They say I got religion, or I’m a religious person. Or I don’t want to hear about Jesus because I don’t like religion. Religion is the conscientious following of rules th
I am covering in a summary fashion 3 chapters in the book of Luke this morning so I won’t be reading a lot of Scripture and there is no outline, but I will be referring to several passages. I encourage you to read Luke chapters 19-23 on your own this week to prepare for Easter weekend. I want us to focus on experience today not so much knowledge.
What is religion? So many people when they talk about Christianity call it religion. They say I got religion, or I’m a religious person. Or I don’t want to hear about Jesus because I don’t like religion.
Religion is the conscientious following of rules that are primarily man-made or man’s interpretation of what a deity has said, and that is not really what Christianity is. Jesus hated the religion of his day and his ultimate goal is to destroy it and replace it with relationship, the willing following of a person. The great commandment he himself confirms is to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and to love others as he has loved us. Organized religion may be one of the biggest barriers to this as we focus on the rules and rituals, and structures.
Religion becomes an idol rather than our idol being God himself and desiring to do his will, so that his will can be done on earth as it is in heaven. And let me tell you, earth is nothing like heaven yet, and sometimes I wonder if we really want it to be. Loving God and loving other people is what Christianity is all about, nothing else, and if you have any misconceptions about that, I hope your time in Scripture can help you with that. Is that what we want, a world in which we sacrificially love each other?
Have you noticed how important it was for Jesus to fulfill prophecy, and the Law? Why did he ride into town on a donkey? To fulfill Zechariah 9:9. Why did he cleanse the temple and say those words about the temple being a house of prayer that has become a den of robbers? To use the exact words from Isaiah 56:7, and Jer 7:11. In all, Jesus fulfilled over 300 Old Testament prophecies and quoted many OT scriptures. This of course was not by chance, and it was done so that God’s people who knew the Scriptures very well, would recognize him as the Messiah.
Yet in spite of all that, the vast majority of God’s chosen people did not accept that he was who he said he was. They thought he was a fraud. Why is that? It’s because they were so immersed in their religion and rituals and expectations, and making money, that they were blinded to the truth of their own Scriptures and its prophecies. They had turned the living word of God into something that wasn’t really real anymore to them.
They were so concerned with doing their religion, their version of church, that they missed the person, the very God that they claimed to worship. Fortunately through his death and resurrection the people of God have been given a second chance to realize that their Messiah has come.
Now the point of this series is to experience ourselves in the grand story of the Bible because we are actually in it. 27% of the Bible is prophecy, and to this point it has been completely flawless. There is much prophecy yet to be fulfilled and it is in many ways very clear and relates to us. I believe God is showing me that we must take prophecy more seriously because we have become like the people in Jerusalem and Israel at the time of Jesus first coming.
Why was the Passover so important to the religious leaders? Because thousands of people came to Jerusalem and it was the biggest money making occasion in the temple. But Jesus at the last supper redeemed Passover and made it what it was supposed to be.
Has our focus become centered on our religion? Our church rules and habits? Do we believe we know the truth and so disregard any teaching from the Bible that might correct us? Our doing things the way the church and the people and leaders of our religion has told us to do it. Are we focussed on church more than we are focussed on Jesus and doing his will? Have we neglected the obvious teachings of the word of God and Jesus commands, in favour of our own desires and beliefs about how Christianity should be and church should be done?
Let me tell you why this is so important. Because prophecy clearly tells us that Jesus is coming again and this time there will be no second chance. If you miss him, you miss him, and you will never have another opportunity. As we look back most of us can’t believe that the religious people of God back then could have missed that this Jesus was indeed the Messiah, many still today don’t believe it. We think with their knowledge of the Scriptures and the great detail with which Jesus fulfilled the prophecies, there is no way they could have missed that this was their Messiah. Yet most did.