Summary: Religion gets people in a lot of trouble but it is the Spirit of Christ, we need in our lives, and living out faith is having Him, not just religion, directing us.

The Trouble with Religion

John 3:1-15

By Andrew Chan, Senior Pastor, PBC, Vancouver, BC

One criminal broke into the basement of a bank through a street-level window. In the process, however, he suffered from several lacerations. After he realized that he could neither get the money nor climb back through the window from whence he came, the robber panicked. Realizing he was going to bleed to death if he did not get help, he located a phone and dialed 911. The rest, as they say, is history.

This story came out of Long Beach CA. During their lunch hour, several employees of a large aerospace company decide to rob a bank. The group figured the police would never look for them at the plant. Of course, being dumb criminals, they forgot to removed their ID badges during the robbery.

In England a gang hired a man to drive their getaway car for a series of bank robberies. As the gang came fleeing out of the first bank with several bags of money, the man panicked, causing the car to stall. Police arrived in minutes as the man desperately tried to get the car to start. In court, it was revealed that not only did the man not have a driver’s license, he had never operated a vehicle before.

Recently in France, two criminals decided it would be genius to break into a bank from a neighboring building. They decided to drill through the wall so they could reach the banks vault. After hours of exhausting labor, they finally broke through. Upon entering the room, however, they discovered that had miscalculated the location of the vault and were instead standing in the middle of the restroom.

What I find in common with all the above stories, are the ingenious ways people think they can find easy money. But why do they go through all that trouble? I think it’s because they believe, with money, they can buy some measure of happiness in life. That’s the lure and the lie of sin, it promises easy street, the good life, paradise, a bit of heaven… Could it be that we are all built to find heaven and it seems we long for it like thirsty dogs on a hot summer’s day. We see that longing squirting out in the ways we do everything, from A to Z ,our arts - , flower arranging, gardening, cars, pursue the opposite sex, to pets, to zoos. Looking for some order, some perfection, some contentment, looking for the elusive thing called happiness. How can we find a bit of happiness here on this decaying polluted planet? Is it money that can get us this happiness? But for some smart people not like those dumb criminals, they have figured, it is the pursuit of spiritual truth, not mere material goods, that will cause the hunger in the human heart to be satisfied.

That’s the trouble with religion. Throughout the world there are religious shrines, temples, and other types of places of worship where people throng to. Looking longing for spiritual bliss and truth to fill the hole that’s felt in the heart. They gather each day and week looking for happiness. It was the same bad case of looking for happiness, I believe that drew Nicodemus to Jesus one night. Nicodemus, whom I refer to as Nic, from now on, was just like those guys, who thought of ways to improve their lives. He too, was seeking for that something more in life. But for Nic, his view of the good life was his religion. He must be good at it for Nic, was a Pharisee, a religious man. Probably well versed in the Torah (Jewish Scripture) and tradition of the elders, highly esteemed in society and the Bible also noted he was a “member of the Jewish ruling council” (v.1). Because of that, I am sure he is a meticulous man, a man whose whole life was a religious exercise. He was probably an Einstein of his day. Having figured out many things about religion and all the steps you need to take to be religious, ethical and good. Actually, I shouldn’t equate him with Einstein cos I know for a fact that the genius Einstein flunked kindergarten. And Nic, probably aced his Kindergarten class, he could probably razzle dazzle his way in religion. Jesus even recognized that he was Israel’s teacher (v.10). I believe that is why he came out at night not in broad daylight to check out what Jesus was all about. Having done his day of work, at being religious and all, and perhaps not to be exposed as a seeker when he’s an expert in religion. Perhaps, see a miraculous sign which he heard about from others. Perhaps he has even heard of the clearing of temple (just before this story in John 2). It seems, Jesus had something he did not have, something he knows must be of God (v.2).

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