A vacation is a great time to reconnect with family. Especially when only my wife and I live in Jamaica. But it’s also a great time to spend with the Lord. Listening!
So, far from the ‘maddening crowd’, where the headlines scream ‘murder’, day after day, where a nation grapples with unattached youths who value the gun more than a job, where a hard core dancehall female artiste stoked, probably deliberately, controversy by taking liberty with a cultural icon, and in a land where there is speculation that President Trump may turn the Christian doctrine of Redemption on its head, and forgive himself, I spent some time, listening to the Lord this week. And ‘heard’ this message entitled, ” The End of Religion”.
An except from New York Times best selling author Rev. Timothy Keller’s Jesus The King: Understanding The Life and Death of the Son of God. But before you read these verses of Scripture come to mind:
“Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again. Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of any of you. For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears. Acts 20:25-31 NIV http://bible.com/111/act.20.25-31.NIV
Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” John 20:11-13 NIV http://bible.com/111/jhn.20.11-13.NIV
” At the end of this Sabbath encounter with the religious leaders Mark records a remarkable sentence that suns up one of the main themes of the New Testament,
” Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.” The Herodians were the supporters of King Herod, the nastiest of the corrupt kings who ruled Israel, representing the Roman occupying power and its political system. Oen any country that the Romans conquered, they set up rulers. And wherever the Romans went, they brought with along with them the culture of Greece – Greek philosophy, the Greek approach yo sex and the body, the Greek approach to truth.
Conquered societies like Israel felt assaulted by these immoral, cosmopolitan, pagan values. Inntgese countries there were cultural resistance movements ; and in Israel that was the Pharisees.
They put all their emphasis on living by the teachings of the Hebrew Scriptures and putting up big hedges around themselves to prevent contamination by the pagans. So what was going on? The Herodians were moving with the times, while the Pharisees upheld traditional virtues.
The Pharisees believed their society was being overwhelmed with pluralism and paganism, and they were calling for a return to traditional moral values.
These two groups had been longtime enemies of each other – but now they agree. ” They have to get rid of Jesus.” These two groups were not used to cooperating, but now they do. In fact, the Pharisees, the religious people, take the lead in doing so. That’s why I said this sentence hints at one the main themes of the New Testament.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is an offense to both religion and irreligion. It cannot be co-opted by either moralism or relativism. The ” traditional values ” approach to life is moral conformity – the approach taken by the Pharisees. It is that you must lead a very, very good life. The progressive approach, embodied in the Herodians, is self-discovery – you have to decide what is right or wrong for you. And according to the Bible, both of these are ways of being your own savior and lord. Both are hostile to message of Jesus.
And not only that, both lead to self- righteousness. The moralist says, ‘ The good people are in and the bad people are out – and of course we’re the good ones.’
The self- discovery person says, ‘ Oh no, the progressive open minded people are in and the judgmental bigots are out – and of course we’re the open-minded ones’.
In western cosmopolitan culture there’s an enormous amount of self-righteousness about self-righteousness …..we disdain those religious, moralistic types who look down on others.
Do you see the irony, how the way of self-discovery leads to as much superiority as religion does. The Gospel does not say, ” the good are in and the bad are out,” nor ” the open-minded are in and the judgmental are out”. The gospel says the humble are in and the proud are out.
The gospel says the people who know they’re not better, not more open-minded, not more moral than anyone else, are in, and the people who think they are on right side of the divide are most in danger. Jesus himself said this to the Pharisees…..” It’s not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.…. Jesus is teaching that he has come to call sinners: those who know that they are morally and spiritually unable to save themselves.
Because the Lord of the Sabbath said, ‘ It is finished ‘, we can rest from religion – forever.
Comment: That’s why the early Christians were converted to Christ, convicted of Sin, by the Doctrine of Redemption and the Miracle of the Resurrection. Viz, the need for forgiveness of Sin wrought by the Crucifixion of Christ on Calvary. They were humble enough to understand that they needed Jesus.
And the assurance that in the same way that Christ was raised from the dead to a new life, in Him, we too may live a holy and eternal life.
That’s why there will always be a song in the heart of a child of God. A wretch saved by Amazing Grace.
So what does all of this have to do with Crime and Violence, Ishawna and Miss Lou, in Jamaica and President Trump in America?
A final ‘Word’ to which I have led repeatedly in recent times says it all:
Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain. Unless the Lord Lord guards the city, the guard keeps watch in vain…. Psalm 127.
God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. 1 Peter 5:5.
And the humble are those who know that they cannot manage with God. That we all need the Redemption that the Crucified Christ offers. Amen.