The end of religion
“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” NIV
It is ironic that Jesus is considered to be the founder of a new religion. The reality is that He came to put an end to all religion!
By the dawn of the first century, Judaism had become a religion of rules and traditions. Great emphasis was placed on observing the minutest details of the law. Endless hours were spent debating all sorts of arcane issues. Holiness and right standing with God were often measured by external things – the length of a man’s tassels, the marks on his forehead (from touching the ground in prayer), the pedigree of his teacher. And in the meantime, people drifted further and further away from God. Religion had become an obstacle to relationship with God. It had become so burdensome that it was impossible to live up to. Jesus pronounced judgment on religion when He said, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men” (Matthew 15:8-9).
Unsurprisingly, He reserved His harshest words for the proponents of religion – the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the priests. He called them “vipers” and “hypocrites.” They made a religion out of His Father’s desire to draw near to His people, and they profited from the people’s desire to draw near to God; and it angered Jesus.
Interestingly, He chose to announce to a woman of questionable morals in a land despised by most religious Jews that God was putting an end to all religion. From henceforth, Jesus said, true worshippers, the kind that the Father was looking for, would worship God in spirit and in truth. The place of worship would no longer be important; the heart of the worshipper would be everything. The outward face of faith would matter little if the inward heart of faith was not right with God.
And yet, 2000 years later, religion is back! Just go into some our churches today. Relationship with Jesus has been largely replaced with rituals, routine and rote.
How it must grieve Jesus to see so many calling themselves Christians but never really drawing close to Him, never really understanding His heart, never really knowing His touch or hearing His voice. How we need to remember that it’s all about Jesus – loving Him, pleasing Him, growing in the revelation of Him, serving Him.
This is what makes Jesus different from all the others who claimed to have been sent by God. Jesus did not come to show the way to God; He is the way. He did not come to open a door; He is the Door. He did not come to bring light; He is the Light. He did not come to bring bread; He is the Bread. He did not come to bring a word from God; He is the Word. If you have Christ, you have everything. Without Christ, you have nothing; all the good deeds and all the observance of religion count for nothing at all.
What about you? Is it religion or relationship that you have? Remember, religion will quench the heart’s desire for more of God; relationship with Jesus will spoil you for everything else. Religion creates anxiety and fear; relationship with Jesus fills you with peace that surpasses all understanding. Religion is burdensome; relationship with Jesus is joy. Religion puts God out of reach; relationship with Jesus brings you before the throne of grace. Religion requires nothing except membership, and it gives nothing except empty traditions.
Jesus invites you to put aside religion and enter into a heart to heart relationship with the Father through Him. Love Him. Seek Him. Pursue Him. Spend time with Him. Work with Him to deepen your relationship with God. It’s the reason why He came. It’s the reason why you are called “Christian.”