There's this group of religious people. They are highly influential in their culture. Admired by some, despised by others, but utterly convinced that they are God's appointed agents to keep their nation close to Him. They are courageously patriotic, socially conservative, and absolutely committed to the authority of God's Word...of which they possess encyclopedic knowledge. They are conspicuously moral and devoutly religious: Every time the temple doors are open, they are there. They tithe over and above their ten percent and pay close attention to all the thou-shalts and thou-shalt-nots. And they are quick to impose their views on the key controversies in their society--both political and cultural--citing God's Word as their backing.
Am I speaking of we 21st Century evangelicals? Nope...1st Century Pharisees. That's right, the very people Jesus spent much of His ministry opposing, who later conspired to put Him to the death. It strikes me that for all the good things about Bible-believing Christians like us today, we have more in common with the Pharisees than with the apostles of our Lord. In the way we view God and His Word, the way we view ourselves, and the way we look at the unredeemed world, I see more points of contact with the enemies of Jesus than with His original followers. I don't mean to say that I think most professing, practicing Christians are really lost...that's not my call to make, and I don't think that's true anyway. But I do think that most of us American evangelicals are missing the best thing about Christianity. We're settling for the religious part, the rules and rituals, but forgoing the relationship, the adventure, the joy and freedom and world-changing power of really following Him.
That's what I'll be preaching on in 2008 at Westbury: How we can renounce our religiosity and start following Jesus like we're supposed to. What does that really mean? What difference would it make in us--and more importantly, in the world--if we did it? Starting this Sunday, January 7, we'll do a quick overview of how following Jesus differs from merely being religious. I hope to see you there.
In the meantime, and afterwards as well, I would love to read your thoughts on the subject. What is the difference between being religious and following Jesus?