Guys, I’ll be honest. I felt a little bit torn during Easter services yesterday. Don’t get me wrong – our Easter experience was fantastic – I sensed an incredible spiritual unrest among many folks in the room. But I’ve always struggled with the religious aspects of Christian holidays in general. It isn’t that I don’t recognize and appreciate Jesus’ role as Savior. Rather, it’s because I try my best recognize it. I try my best to always be in a state of awareness that recognizes Jesus’ living and active role in every corner of my life. So religion doesn’t really interest me. In fact, it really bothers me. For example: why is Easter the only day you hear some people talking freely about the risen Christ?
Why not every day?
I think the answer is clear – too many of us are caught up in the religion of Christianity, and have blinded ourselves to the saving grace of (and our need for) Jesus Christ. For many folks, Easter-ish behavior becomes a symptom that comes with being blinded to the need for God’s grace. We see it everywhere today: the hyper-focus on religious behavior to the detriment of true discipleship. “You should watch that show – they pray on that show.” “I don’t agree with your lifestyle because I’m a Christian.” “I don’t like how this movie/show doesn’t reflect my understanding of the Bible.” Is this the church that Christ died for? Is this the movement he intended to start when he rose from the grave? Or have too many of us been focusing on the place settings when we have completely neglected what’s on the plate? I’m afraid too many of our dinners have gotten cold.
My reading in Romans 2:17-29 this morning only confirmed these feelings.
In this section of Paul’s letter to the church in Rome, keep in mind this is a letter being written by a Jew to an audience of Jews. Until this point, the recipients of this letter had been feeling extremely arrogant about their religious status, and Paul takes this opportunity to call them out on their points of arrogance. Because the privileges enjoyed by the Hebrew nation at that time are now privileges enjoyed by all believers, we can all benefit from using these as opportunities to check our own arrogance:
- OUR TITLE: Like the recipients of this letter, many of us are followed by a cloud of smugness as we tell the world we are Christians. Believe me – the rest of the world has gotten the “I’m better than you” message from many of us. When we call ourselves “Christians,” who are we giving glory to: God or self?
- POSSESSION OF DIVINE TRUTH: Paul writes some very convicting things in verses 21-24. Read them. Do we behave as though God’s truth doesn’t apply to us even though we expect others to live by the same standard? Are we so privileged that we should feel free to gossip, lie, cheat, or steal?
- A UNIQUE RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD: As believers, we now have “peace with God” (v. 5:1) by grace through faith in Jesus. But what is it we find pride in – God’s grace or our own religious accomplishments?
- KNOWLEDGE OF GOD’S WILL & PURPOSE: Jesus made his purpose and plan very clear. He also left clear instructions: make disciples of all nations. It really couldn’t be any clearer. So why are so many Christians seemingly biding their time? Why aren’t more people actively participating in the action of God and proclaiming the good news to anyone with ears to hear and eyes to see? As we go to church and read scriptures, do we put the Word of God into practice in such a way that our faith is contagious to others?
Donald Grey Barnhouse wrote it well, so I’ll just wrap it up with this:
There are those who are attached to form, ceremony, liturgy, religious precepts and practices, and all the attitudes that go with such attachment, and who are yet alien to the grace of God. They have ritual without redemption, works without worship, form of service without the fear of God in its proper sense, and thus they come under the condemnation of God. It makes no difference what name they go by, the principle is the same. The profession of religion is not enough if the one who professes the religion is not in some sense transformed by it.