Summary: Part 3 of our "Being the Church" series, this one focusing on the need for an authentic, personal relationship with Jesus Christ and how "religion" does not meet that need.
Stephen N. Collins
Millville – 06/22/08
Being the Church
Part 3: Why Religion Stinks
Icebreaker: The kindergarten teacher asked the students in her class to bring something related to their families’ religions to class the next day.
She asked for volunteers to show what they had brought to the rest of the class. One boy came forward and said, "I am Muslim, and this is my prayer rug."
Another child came forward and said, "I am Jewish, and this is my Star of David."
Another came forward and said, "I am Catholic, and this is my Rosary."
The last little boy came forward and said, "I am Southern Baptist, and this is my Covered Dish."
Intro: A lot of people in our culture today are confused as to what the Christian faith is really all about. Many people regard following Jesus as a religion. The problem with thinking about it in those terms is that religion is something you do that makes you right with God. But allowing Jesus to be the ruler of your life is all about what He has done for you.
-You see, religion stinks. That’s right, I said it. Religion stinks. I really believe that my purpose in life is to lead people into a real, authentic relationship with Jesus.
-What that means to me is that if you’re here and you’re not a believer, my role as your friend is to help you come to the place in your life where you repent of your sin and turn to Jesus. And what that means if you are a religious person is that my role as your friend is to help you come to the place in your life where you repent of your religion and turn to Jesus.
-Maybe you’re here this morning and you are not a follower of Jesus. I’m really honored that you’re here today and I hope that during our time together today you’ll see what the Christian faith is not. I hope that some of the pre-conceived notions of what it means to be a believer will be corrected.
-Maybe you’re here this morning and you’re a very moral, religious person. Most people in our culture are. And maybe you’ve constructed a very efficient system of religion for yourself that makes you feel a little better about yourself and makes you look a little better to other people. If that’s you, I hope that you’ll hear me out for the next few minutes and that today you’ll realize what true faith is all about.
-But first off, let’s define what “religion” is.
From dictionary.com : “a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.”
-Notice a key phrase here. “Ritual observances.” Rituals that one goes through to get closer to God. Ritual is probably the prime characteristic of all world religions. Ritual places all the emphasis on me. “If I do this…then God will notice.” “If I do this…then I’ll be at peace with God and my fellow man.” The problem with religion is that it is rigid and self-centered with no room for God. And that’s why religion stinks.
-All religions reach up toward God. But Christianity is about god reaching down to people.
-Religion is all about self-help and self-improvement. A follower of Christ knows that in our own power, we can make no fundamental changes to ourselves. Because it’s not an outward change that can really transform us. It’s an inward change. And only God’s Holy Spirit can do that.
-Religion cannot save you. Religion cannot change you. And religion hates being confronted with this fact. When religion is exposed for what it is – a sham that can’t fundamentally change anyone – religions gets angry. (Read 4:5-7)
-When religion is threatened, it exercises intimidation, it emphasized tradition and it employs interrogation.
-This is the reaction religious people have every time something tries to buck their little religious system they’ve set up. Intimidate, fall back on tradition, and interrogate those who disagree.
-Now, let’s bring this down to our level. I’ve see this patter happen in churches before and you probably have too. New things start happening, a church starts moving in a new direction, a fresh breath of God starts blowing, and the religious crowd can’t stand it. Instead of celebrating the new things God is doing, they want to cling to the old things He did 40 years ago.
-And you’ll start seeing this pattern emerge of intimidation, tradition and interrogation. The religious people will start throwing their weight around. They’ll sit there with their arms folded and a scowl on their face the whole service. They’ll grumble and start talking about things they don’t like behind people’s backs.