Everything in the Bible is in there to help us live a victorious Christian life in today’s fallen world (2 Timothy 3:16). There are some important themes that unfortunately, we don’t hear much about in today’s church teachings. One such theme is the role of religion in the Body of Christ.
When you think about it, any group could have been used by God as the foremost enemy of the cross; it did not have to be the Jewish religious leaders. For instance, why not some group of gentiles; wouldn’t that have made even more sense? Whatever way we choose to interpret God’s choice, the fact remains that God gave special attention to the dangers of religious to the Body of Christ; and so should we.
Please understand, this is not to vilify anyone, even those with religious tendencies. As a matter of fact, it seems that we like to put the Pharisees in a special category of evil because they crucified our Lord. Well, get off your high horse; we all nailed Jesus to that cross. It was our sin problem too.
The point is, nobody talks about the religion today, as if it no longer exists; which of course, it does. And there are two problems with anything that is not talked about. First, when things are unchallenged, they grow. Abortion is the law of the land today, with millions of babies being slaughtered each year because nobody spoke up. The second problem with ignoring sin, is that the more we ignore it, the more we fail to recognize it for what it is because sin is progressive.
Jesus told Peter that He would build his church. Now Jesus is in Heaven and his Body is here on earth; so how would he build his church? He would do so through born-again leaders, who are called apart as gifts to the Body of Christ, and anointed to equip his Body for the work of the ministry. Problems arise when religious men and women are at the helm, and the church is run more by the tradition of men than by the will of God.
Having said that, we need to know what religion looks like.
First and foremost, religion is proud, and has a sense of entitlement; not because of what Jesus has done, but because of a history of religious service, often in one’s family background. This is why John the Baptist called the religious leaders as a generation of vipers, when they approached him as he baptized people in the Jordan (Matthew 3:7). He was referring directly to the source of their intense human pride, as well as their false feeling of security for a place in heaven. They had power, money, and a good religious resume. John was telling them that all they had was not enough; they would still have to repent just like every other sinner. “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, ‘Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God’ (John 3:3).
Religious people feel called to control others, primarily because they often have money. They have money not because they are more special than others, as they often want us to believe; but more so because they grew up learning biblical principles about money, principles that will work for anyone, including those in Hollywood. They use their financial savvy to take control, and like the Pharisees did, dictate who gets promoted.
The Pharisees and Sadducees were controllers who used power and money to control others. By controlling the purse strings, others had to obey and follow them. They exploited the weaknesses of others. We know this because there were many other leaders who believed Jesus, but were afraid that if they admitted to believing Jesus, they would lose everything they had worked for by being put out of the synagogue (John 12:42).
A third way to recognize religion is by its passion for appearance. Religion is always more concerned with how things look, than how things really are because it has its own agenda. The Pharisees knew the Scriptures but could not recognize Jesus when they saw him because they were blinded by their own selfish ambition. Even after Jesus raised Lazarus from the grave, it was their ambition that was foremost in their minds. “If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation” (John 11:48).
The good news is that God also loves religious people, and gives them the same opportunity as any other sinner, to humble themselves and repent. He shows his mercy and his good intent by saving the Pharisee, Nicodemus.
January 25, 2019