Religion or Jesus?

I think about this a lot – Do I follow Religion or Jesus?

As a guy that’s grown up in the baptist church and attended seminary to get a religious degree, I still constantly ask this question.  Am I following religion or Jesus?  Sunday when I go to gather with my friends at church am I doing it because that’s what I do or because that’s the way Jesus would do? Is my faith, the actions I take throughout the day, a reflection of Jesus? Is what I do at work, home, with friends and so on based on the behavior modifications of my religion or has my heart truly been changed because of Jesus?

As I read through the Gospels, the books that describe Jesus’ life here on earth, I can’t help but notice that he seemed anti-religious.  Of course Jewish religion at the time was nothing more than a set of rules that the Pharisees and Sadducees had highjacked from God and turned into a substantial form of behavior modification. Then Jesus came and said things like “it is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick,” “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” and “the first will be last and the last will be first.” And that’s just three examples recorded in the first of the four gospels.

So if Jesus came and spoke against the religious leaders of his day, I can’t help but wonder if he would speak against the religious leaders of our day.  Just quickly and not to offend anybody, this is what comes to mind when I think about these Christian religions (denominations).

Assembly of God – Honestly I don’t know much about AOG except for the supernatural healing aspect. It seems to be all about the healing and some tongue speaking.

Baptist – Don’t drink, don’t dance, don’t smoke, don’t chew, and don’t dates girls that do. Sometimes we boycott Disney and nobody really knows why. The perception seems to be about what we don’t do instead of what we should be doing.

Catholic – go to mass, pray to Mary the mother of Jesus, and dump out the sin bucket in confession so it can be filled up again.

Pentecostal – Speaking in tongues is the sign that people have encountered Jesus. It can happen no other way.  Also, people jump up and down the aisles in praise all over the church.

Presbyterian – Knowledge is king above everything else. I’m pretty sure this is where much of the ‘reformed’ (god is a puppet master) theology comes from.

Televangelist – Health and Wealth. All these guys want is your money. At least some of the early ones did which is why I think even the good guys still get a bad rap.

Would Jesus say to the baptist, catholics, pentecostals and so on that they have it all wrong?  Based on this small listing, yes.  Now don’t get me wrong.  I do believe that good, and genuinely following Jesus can come from religion.  It just wasn’t the case for me.  It wasn’t until I got away from religion that I truly found and experienced Jesus.

Jesus came to love people. He came to show us a way to everlasting life.  To heal the sick and brokenhearted.  To care for the poor.  Jesus didn’t just come for the ‘church’ people, he came for everybody.  Me and you.

Jesus came to call us Sons and Daughters.  To adopt us into his family with God the Father and the Spirit. Following Jesus means to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength.  Then to love our neighbor as ourselves.

images-5So what is it for you? Religion or Jesus?


5 thoughts on “Religion or Jesus?

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  1. LOL. I like your tone. It’s funny. I grew up SDA but now attend a non-denominational Charismatic church. I have learned that works is not a matter of what you are doing but why you are doing it. Some can belong to a denomination of little rules and be in works and some can follow a lot of rules without works. Some people can be taught to live for Jesus but still stay in religion because of their strongholds. What you have pointed out is the works that individuals in those denominations of advocated. But there are others in the same denominations that have not made the things you have listed to become works. Those that aren’t in works have the fruit of the spirit since that’s ultimately the signature of truly believing (Gal 5, Matt 7).

    I will comment about Pentecostals because my church is Charismatic. The Holy Spirit gives gifts and is evident in fruit. There is also Isiah 11:2-3. The way I see it is the church is split between gifts vs fruit, continuationism v cessationism. I am a continuationist but I believe in gifts and fruit. I see the gifts as dynamic while the fruit is static (Where there be tongues they shall cease). Particularly love, the first list in Gal 5 is most important. Paul tied it to gifts (1 Cor 12) in 1 Cor 13 by saying “I will show you a more excellent a way”. He made it clear that the gifts with out the fruit of love meant nothing.

    So what you unfortunately see are charismatics that rely on the gifts outside of fruit. Pray for them to come into the fullness. Otherwise it presents Christianity as being undergired by a mystical experience. But we are undergirded in whom we believe not how we live, knowledge or an experience. This is the only thing that separates us from other religions and philosophies.

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