Summary: Who are you trying to please? Are you into a religion or are you into a relationship?
Some of you know the pastor of First Baptist Church of Orlando, Florida, Dr. Jim Henry, is a good friend of mine. Not long after they had been in their new building, they had an unusual thing happen on a Sunday morning. They were through most of the worship service and the choir was singing and in the middle of the special music while Jim was sitting on the platform, a man came walking down the center aisle. He was dressed in an informal, casual golf shirt and was tanned and had bushy brown hair. He was just walking and looking around, taking it all in; just strolling down the center aisle. Jim said he just knew one of their reliable ushers would hop up and say, ‘Hey, can I help you find a seat?’, but nobody said a word until he walked all the way to the front. He was just standing down front looking around. Jim slipped out of his seat and went down there, and was talking to this guy while the choir is singing. He says, “I’m Jim Henry. I’m the pastor of this church. We are glad to have you here today. The man said, “Well, I’m glad to meet you. My name is Jesus Christ.” Jim is a funny kind of guy and he said, “Well, Jesus, we’re glad to have you here. We enjoy having you here in church. What are you doing here?” He said, “Well, I’m just checking things out.” Jim said, “Well what do you think?” The guy said, “Not bad, not bad.” Jim says, “Well, we’d sure love to have you sit and worship with us so come on and have a seat over here.” The man said, “No, I can’t do that. As you can imagine I’ve got a lot of things I have to check on so I’ll see you. I need to run on.” As the guy is walking away, he turns back and he said to Jim Henry, “By the way, it’s going to be a cold winter this year.” and he turned around and walked off. Jim said it blew his mind. Nobody knew what was going on until he told the story to them later, but he said “You know, it was the strangest thing. That was the coldest winter they had ever had.”
Of course, he was not Jesus Christ, but have you ever wondered if the Lord Jesus could come in the flesh he’s already here? He said, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am right there in the middle of you” but if he could come in here in the flesh and speak to us in an audible voice, what to you think he would say to us? Well, if you know what Jesus said in the Bible, you know he reserved the strongest words ever recorded for religious hypocrites, people who were very religious, but who did not have a relationship with God. I think that is probably the message he would bring to us today, and that is exactly the topic the apostle, Paul, is addressing here in Romans, chapter 2.
Romans, 2:17-24. Now you, if you call yourself a Jew; if you rely on the law and brag about your relationship to God; if you know his will and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the law; if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of infants, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth–you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who brag about the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? As it is written: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”
Then in verse 25 he starts talking about circumcision.
“Circumcision has value if you observe the law, but if you break the law, you have become as though you had not been circumcised. If those who are not circumcised keep the law’s requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised? The one who is not circumcised physically and yet obeys the law will condemn you who, even though you have the written code and circumcision, are a lawbreaker.”
He takes that first section to describe “empty religion.” But then in verses 28 and 29 he tells us what the real thing is.
“A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly, and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God.”