Jesus’ words will change your life. His words aren’t magic words. Those words of His printed in red are not mystical. Reading them is not like reading a magic potion. But when we humble ourselves, taking to heart what He says and follow His leading, which is when things happen. Words of Jesus are game changers. The very point that Jesus makes over and over again is the one that we seem to miss most often. The message is clear and succinct: God is present. God is with us. When we face heart pounding situations in life it can seem like entropy [things falling apart, chaos, and generally a downward spiraling of life]. The opposite is true. God is with us. Just because we cannot see something does not mean it does not exist.
I remember time when Kathe and I and got separated in a foreign and strange place. I was looking for her and when she came up behind me and laid her hand on my shoulder it was incredibly comforting to know that she was there beside me. I needed to experience her presence in a tangible way. And God being present makes all the difference in our daily lives. I have found through experience that only God can bring peace and comfort and wisdom confidence and even clarity in the midst of some very trying times.
The very last thing that Jesus tells us is that “He would be with us and walk with us through all the things we have to do.” It’s a game changer in that all we need is His presence in the midst of our trouble. No need to worry about rules, regulations and things to do in order to stay on God’s good side. In reality, without Jesus in our lives, living is just a list of rules to follow in order to survive. And what makes His statement of “being with us all the time” so profound is the qualifier for His claim. He said “all authority in heaven and earth has been given to Him.”
There been times when I have felt very distant from God. And usually those times are times when I’m being rebellious. And it’s that very rebellion that keeps me, blocks me from focusing on the presence of God. Because of that instilled rebellion that resides within me, I think that’s why it’s so much easier to ask God to do things or to answer prayer than it is to ask Him for His presence with me. James chapter 4 verse 8 says “draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” We can change the game if we so desire. Jesus wants to change our living from entropy to abundant life. Take the first step. He is waiting.
Excellent article that avoids name calling common to the “religious right!”
When you think of the church, have you ever ask yourself this question: “Are you in relationship with a person or with an organization?” As with any relationship, there is always the opportunity for misunderstanding, hurt, neglect and abuse. Sometimes it is intentional and sometime not. The thing that pushes people away from God is not isolated to just one thing. It is like trying to pull apart a hairball. [Thanks Jason for that illustration!] The problem with religion is that it was a good thing that went wrong a long time ago. It comes down to four basic issues.
With religion there is the issue of “us and them” or whether one is “in or out.” Jesus encountered this when the religious leaders of his day asked “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders?” In other words, how come you and your group do not do things as we do them. We are right and you are wrong. You are out while we are on the inside.
Religion can also create the problem of power. Power equals control and is too easily turned into manipulation. How often have you heard a TV evangelist tell their audience that they just send in money they will be blessed by God. I heard one man tell his audience that they would just send in handkerchief to him he would blessed it and return it to the sender; and God in turn would bless them in answer prayer all for a small donation.
The problem of righteousness scale is a problem of trying to keep certain commandment to please either a group of people or to please God. It becomes a thing of judgment if you fail to keep those certain requirements. Who is keeping track of the ‘righteous scale.’ Is it a church group? Jesus made a startling statement when he said to the religious leaders “Truly I say to you that tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the kingdom of God before you.” In Jesus day, tax collectors were the scum of the earth. They were Jewish people who worked for the enemy, the Roman oppressors. They were hated and seen by their own people as traitors of the worst sort. But here’s the point of what Jesus was saying. Tax collectors and prostitutes were generally not proud of their professions. They knew they were not living a life that would be pleasing to God. And when Jesus confronted them they were humble. The people that were not humble or those that thought they were living a righteous life. They were proud of their ability to keep the law and were not of the worse sort, tax collectors and prostitutes. And because of that pride their heart was closed to God when Jesus appeared on the scene. You might want to read the Gospel of Mark, chapter 7. It will give you insight into the difference between prideful righteousness and humility that God seeks.
And then there’s the problem of just simply missing the point. When we’re missing the point we are spending more time obeying and loving what men have set up as the right thing to do rather than loving God and our neighbors. Being legal is more important than loving others. And interestingly enough the world is not becoming less religious but more religious. Jesus told the religious leaders of his day they were setting aside the guidelines of God to follow the guidelines of men. They were setting aside what God wanted in order to keep their traditions.
One reason people adopt following a religion and not a relationship with Jesus has to do with humility. Following a religion and being part of ‘in crowd’ can give us a false sense of security, all in the name of worshipping God. Jesus said “whoever exalts himself will eventually be humble; and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” So if you turned your back on religion for whatever reason, that’s a good thing. Now start afresh and go seek out Jesus. Abandon fear, fighting, control, wall building and just simply trust Jesus. He is far superior to religion.