One of the mistakes, I believe, that people make about me sizing me up is that I'm a religious person. I've been called that before, "Oh, you're a religious person." And I'm very quick whenever I'm called that because I don't like being called that, is to let that person know courteously but definitely, you got me wrong. And here's why. Religion typically has to do with a system rather than a person. It's more about doing certain things or believing a conformed set of ideals rather than having a personal relationship with God through his son. One dictionary defines religion as a set of beliefs and practices usually involving devotional and ritual observances.
Now, following Jesus is way different from that. It might involve those things, but it certainly isn't the core of those things. Jesus Christ is God's refreshing solution to man's failed religious attempts. He's very different. It was Eli Jones whom we usually refer to as E. Stanley Jones, the missionary to India who said, "Christianity has its creeds, but it is not a creed. It has its rites, R-I-T-E-S, but it is not a right. It has its institutions but it is not an institution." Said E. Stanley Jones, "Christianity is Christ," and our response to him. So the name of this message this morning is, follow Jesus but don't be religious.
Despite the concerted effort by some to secularize society, there is a huge push in some circles to make everything secular and nonreligious and more Darwinian in its system. Those people are fighting a losing battle because it is estimated conservatively that at least 86% of the 7 billion people on earth, 86% and upward are religious people. That is they hold some idea of a higher being, a God, something that transcends themselves, 86%. One author says, religious people build cathedrals and they build pyramids and even today, people slaughter goats and chickens on altars. Religious people sometimes forgo certain foods and some are even willing to die for their religious beliefs.
I'll put it to you plainly. I don't think there's anything that God hates more than religion. Is that plain enough? I think religion is responsible for sending people to hell. Let me sum it up for you in a little nutshell. Here's a simple definition of religion. It's my coming to God on my own terms. My coming to God, my own terms, my agenda, my ideas about who God is, my ideas about how God should be approached. That's religion, me coming to God on my terms. Jesus is not about that. It's about coming to God on his terms. In fact, God coming to man and presenting Christ who is far different. Karl Marx said, "Religion is the opiate of the masses." I happen to agree with Karl Marx on that one, religion is the opiate of the masses. Jesus, however, is the savior of the world and there's a marked difference and great distance between religion and Jesus Christ in following Him.
There was really only one religion that God ever gave to man and that's Judaism. It's easy to discern that if you look in your bibles and you get to Exodus and Leviticus and Numbers and Deuteronomy, there's that religious system that God gave to man, a set of laws and ceremonies and rituals and creeds and rights and things that they must conform to. That was the only religion God ever gave to man. But then God gave His son to complete all that and to fulfill all of that. That's what Jesus said he said, "Don't think that I've come to destroy the law of the prophets. I didn't come to destroy but to fulfill," complete, bring it to its completed end.
And we come to John Chapter 7 and we were there last week. In John Chapter 7, in this paragraph we're about to read, there's a clash that happens. And the clash is between Jesus Christ and the religious elite and the clash is over the nature of truth itself. That's where the fireworks happen. Let me give you the background and the setting. It's the Feast of Tabernacles, we saw that last week. Now, the Feast of Tabernacles you should know is one of the three huge convocation feasts where people from all over had to come to Jerusalem. In fact, if you were a Jewish male and you lived within 20 miles of Jerusalem, you had to be there three times a year, and this is one of those times.
What was it about? Well, the Jews were celebrating how God took care of their forefathers when they were in the desert, wondering around under the stars in the wilderness God provided for them for 40 years. Tabernacles reminded them of that. Do you know how they celebrated it? They built tabernacles or shacks, booths, little lean-to's made out of leafy branches and they were temporary but the family lived not in their homes but in those little tabernacles for one week a year. They would go about their business and do their thing but then every night they would sleep out under the stars. So if you were to come to Jerusalem at this time, get the picture in your mind, there were these little booths everywhere along the roads, down the alleys, on rooftops. People were camping out. I guess if it was happening today, it would be called the Jerusalem camping and recreational vehicle convention. Everybody was there camping, and Jesus comes to this feast.
Now, we're going to read Verse 14 down to Verse 24 and we want to see what the difference is between following Jesus and following a religion or being religious. Verse 14, now about the middle of the feast, Jesus went up into the temple and he thought. And the Jews marveled saying, "How does this man know letters, having never studied?" Jesus answered them and said, "My doctrine is not mine, but His who sent me. If anyone wants to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on my own authority. He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory, but he who seeks the glory of the one who sent him is true and no unrighteousness is in him. Did not Moses give you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why do you seek to kill me?" The people answered and said, "You have a demon." Can you imagine saying that to Jesus Christ? "You have a demon who is seeking to kill you." Jesus answered and said to them, "I did one work and you all marvel. Moses therefore gave you circumcision, not that it's from Moses but from the Father's and you circumcised a man on the Sabbath. If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath so that the Law of Moses should not be broken, are you angry with me because I made a man completely well on the Sabbath? Do not judge according to appearance but judge with righteous judgment."
Now, in looking at the difference between Christ personally and religion generally, there are three things I want you to note about this importance. Number one, doctrine is essential. Now, what's the first thing Jesus did when He goes up to the feast? What's the first thing He did? It says He taught. He went into the template and He taught. This grabbed my attention. First thing He did not do was heal people. The first thing He did not do was present himself as the political king that they wanted him to be in Chapter 6. The first thing He did not do is feed another multitude. The first thing He does in the temple midway of this week is He goes to the temple and He teaches. And what is it that He teaches? Thrice, twice He mentions the word, 'my doctrine'. So just get this picture in your mind, here's Jesus, our Savior, our Lord teaching doctrine.
Let's go a little deeper. Look at Verse 14, notice the word 'taught'. Let me give you a quick little language lesson. The word taught is the Greek word 'didasko'. Didasko means to instruct or to give a didactic discourse. It's what teachers do, they pass on information. That's what Jesus was doing. And then look at the Verse 16 and the word doctrine. It's the word 'didache'. Those words are similar sounding because they come from the same root word. A teacher is one who disseminates doctrine. Healthy sound words of truth. I discovered that in the four Gospels, Jesus is said to teach this very word didasko 36 times. There He is, He's teaching, there He is, He's teaching, there He is... 36 times, He's teaching.
Another 47 times Jesus in the four Gospels is called the teacher, the 'didaskalos', same word, same root. Another 33 times in the New Testament, the word doctrine is used, 'didache', same word they used here. So when you put all of those things together, 36, 47, 33, Jesus is doing a lot of teaching and the New Testament puts a lot of emphasize on doctrine and teaching. So here's my question. Do you think from a New Testament perspective the doctrine is important? I guess that affirmative, right? I sort of closed that case, absolutely. So why is it that some people, including some well meaning Christians talk about doctrine like it was some dirty word? "Well, I'm not really in the doctrine." "You're not?" Because Jesus sure was but we make it sound like it's some bad thing. Well, doctrine is so technical. I'm not into doctrine. It sounds more spiritual like, "Well, I'm not into doctrine, man, I'm into Jesus." " Well, you got to know, man, that Jesus was in the doctrine."
You know, sort of like when you buy a gadget, I don't know if you're like me but I like gadgets. I don't always buy them but I am always interested in them. And when I finally get the gadget I've been interested in, if I open up the gadget box, I find usually three things: The gadget, peripherals like little plug in things for it and a manual that nobody ever reads. Am I right about that? Nobody reads a manual until the gadget breaks then you read the manual. Because the manual is like four times bigger than the gadget. Okay, so that's how many people who have their lives, we're the gadget, here's the manual and nobody reads the manual until the gadget breaks and it's like, "Oh my goodness I've got to find something about why the gadget broke."
What I'm saying is don't live your life that way. Consult the manual frequently. The manual of truth can never be disregarded. God said to Hosea, the Prophet; my people are destroyed from lack of what? Knowledge, you know that. "My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge." In the New Testament church, you know, these two, they devoted themselves steadfastly to the Apostle's doctrine. That was number on their list. Paul wrote to Timothy and he said, "Until I come, give attention to reading, exhortation and doctrine." Truth has a way of breaking through the haze of religion and letting us see Jesus plainly and that takes doctrine. However, whenever the truth gets sidelined and doctrine gets marginalized, it's often replaced by religion, religion and in some form. I've even heard people on a few occasions in talking about their church say things like, "Well, ours isn't a Bible teaching church. We're not about teaching the bible, it's more about providing an experience."
You know that in some churches, if you were to teach the bible, it would be like a shock to the system. It would be like... overload. I kid you not, I'm not kidding about this. I got a phone call from a pastor in Chicago, he is a beautiful brother in the Lord and he had been listening to our radio broadcast in the Chicago area. So he got me on the phone and said, "Skip, I saw as a pastor want to teach my congregation, the Bible. I was stunned, I went--I'm thinking like, "So why don't you do that?" And so I said, "So why don't you do that?" Because that's what I was thinking. And so he said, "Because I don't think you understand the setting that I'm in. I just can't just go in and teach the Bible, I would love to teach them through the bible, but I am given--I am given by my elders 15 minutes to talk. I'm thinking I don't even clear my throat in 15 minutes. Because I'm given 15 minutes to talk, because if I were to teach the Bible all the way through like you do," he goes, "I would split my church."
Well, Paul was right. He said the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine. They won't put up with it, sound doctrine. As a pastor, it is my aim to make you the best fed and best loved congregation possible. That is why we make it our practice to go deep, to discuss background and language and context because that's the goal, to make you well fed and well loved and understand the truth. That's why Wednesday night is through the Bible, every chapter of every book in the Bible is for the sake of the truth.
Teaching, here's Jesus teaching them. I do also want to make a further distinction between teaching and preaching. And I know that preaching, the idea of Caruso, declaring truth is something we all are called to do, even teachers. But in a lot of circles it's preaching not teaching that is voted for and emphasized. And with the preaching is often was he loud enough, did he pound the pulpit enough, did he run back and forth and put on a show for us. How emotional was it?
There was an old Native American-Indian who attended a church service one Sunday where, in making up for the lack of biblical content and teaching, the preacher just ranted and raved then got loud and pounded the pulpit and put on quite a show. In fact, people said afterwards, "Boy, he preached up quite a storm." That's what they said, he preached up quite a storm. Well, they asked the old Native American-Indian about what he thought and he gave them six words and said, "High wind, big thunder, no rain." Yes, there was a lot of commotion, a lot of wind, a lot of movement, a lot of loudness, no rain. Jesus taught them.
Well, they listened to that, the Jews that were around him Verse 15 here's their response. The Jews marveled saying, "How does this man know letters having never studied?" Now, I know you might think that it sounds like a compliment, like they're going, "Wow, this guy is so smart." I submit to you that this is a derogatory statement, it's a derogatory statement. If I may take the liberty, I think this is how it was said. "How does this man know letters, having never studied?" Now, here is why I say that. Because the word for letters is the word grammata which actually means the rabbinical study of Old Testament writings, the rabbinical study of Old Testament writings. What they were saying is, this guy didn't go to one of our Rabbi schools, how does this--he's talking about Old Testament truth, he never went to one of our colleges, a recognized seminaries.
This makes me smile because they're hung up on letters and they're looking face-to-face with the word, the word of life, the word of God, the word made flesh and they're bumped out that he didn't go to Hebrew University. Doctrine is essential. Number two, discernment is crucial, discernment is crucial. Number seven, Jesus says to them, "If anyone wants to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine whether it is from God or whether I speak on my own authority." "You can tell the difference," Jesus said. You can discern and mark the difference.
Before I get to Verse 17 and 18, go down to Verse 24. There's something in this verse scripture that's often overlooked. He says, "Do not judge according to appearance but judge--" now that's a command "--but do judge with a righteous judgment. Yours shouldn't be a superficial kind of a judgment. On the surface, it should be a judgment that's honest and fair." So this is what I want you to notice. Here's Jesus giving an imperative, a command to judge, judge a righteous judgment that's a command.
Now, there's something else Jesus said and I know your minds are already going there because Christians a lot of times, we get hung up on this one little verse and it's in Matthew Chapter 7, Sermon on Mount where Jesus said, "Judge not lest you be judged." And so we kind of stop right there and we think what that means I can never voice any kind of a strong opinion because I don't want to be judgmental. So what does it mean when he said judge not? Just that, nobody has the right to censoriously pass judgment or harshly judge another person's motives. We can't do that, we don't see into their hearts.
Here, Jesus says, "Don't judge on appearance but make sure that your judgment is a righteous or a right judgment," fair. In other words, yes, we must evaluate what we hear in order to distinguish what is right and wrong, truth and error. It's called discernment, it's called discernment. It's explained in 1 Corinthians 2:15 where Paul says, "The spiritual man makes judgments about all things." Did you get that? Spiritual people judge everything. Spiritual man makes judgments about all things. You know that in some circles, if you hold a strong opinion about right and wrong, truth and error and you voice that you will be called judgmental.
Well, I wonder if Elijah, the prophet would have felt that way, if he ever would have approached King Ahab and Queen Jezebel about their lifestyle. Do you think he would have? No, it probably would be something like this. He probably kind of creep in and like a little milk toast and go, "Pardon me, Mr. King, but I sort of feel in my heart that this and such... but you know, whatever because look, I don't want to say anything bad." He never would have done that. So if Paul, the Apostle felt that you should make a righteous judgment, would he ever have written the way he wrote in the Bible about the legalistic group known as the Judaizers dividing his church? Or would John or Jude have ever written the kind of stuff they wrote about the Gnostics that were invading those churches? Not at all.
I just want to make plea for discernment, just a little discernment. It's so lacking in the church at large, it's so necessary and here's why Jesus said, "Beware of false prophets, they will come to you." Did you get that? You don't have to look for them, they'll find you. They'll come to you in sheep's clothing. You don't have to wake up and then go, "Find me a false prophet." You don't have to do that, just stay where you're at, they'll come knocking on your door, they'll appear on your television set. And they'll come, Jesus said not as wolves but in sheep's clothing. They won't won't go... they'll go... and you'll go, "That's a sheep." Okay, maybe, but just look a little closer, that's all, just look a little closer. Dare to use discernment and look a little closer.
Remember the Wizard of Oz? Show up hands, put your hand up. Do you remember Wizard of Oz? Okay, that's like so--you're like not an American if you don't know the Wizard of Oz. So in the Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy and her friends were so scared because the Oz was speaking and then suddenly Dorothy turns and sees behind the curtain, it's just this little old man pulling levers making the face say that. And so what I'm telling you is the Bible repeatedly says, look behind the curtain, look behind the curtain, don't just go by the voice or the terror, look behind the curtain. Discernment is crucial, though it's commanded.
Now, look back at Verse 17 and 18, it's explained. If anyone wants to do his will, he shall know. He will be able to tell, he'll be able to understand the discerning difference. "Concerning the doctrine whether it is from God or whether I speak on my own authority. He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory, but he who seeks the glory of the one who sent him is true and no unrighteousness is in him." This is so crucial. How do get discernment? How do you tell the difference? Two things are required. Number one, a willing mind, that's Verse 17. Anybody wills to do his will. I really want to do his will. Number two, a worshipful heart. A willing mind, Verse 17, a worshipful heart, Verse 18. It's all about him and his glory. Not about me, it's about him. Those two things are required. This is how it works.
When somebody genuinely humbles himself or herself and says, I really want to discover what God wants from my life no matter what it is. That will be discerning person. We get a lot of people and have for years in the counseling offices of Calvary. We provide free counseling. We feel we owe it to the body of Christ to give them biblical discipleship whenever we can to go through what the Bible says about their situations. But there's a question we often begin our counseling sessions with and it will determine how long that session will last. It usually goes like this. Are you willing to do God's will whatever it is once you discover what it is? Are you willing to do what God wants you to do once you discover what God's will is? Now, if they go, "Absolutely, that's why I'm here. I want to find out what God wants from my life." "Great, let's spend time together. Let's do this." But if the response is, maybe or it depends on what it is. Okay, that was like the world's shortest counseling session, we're done.
Because some people will come to a counseling session with no will at all to do his will. They've come with the few Bible verses and they hope to get a few more and the pat on the counselor's back of saying just do whatever you want to do man. It was Donald Grey Barnhouse who said, "I can say from experience that 95% of knowing the will of God consists in being prepared to do it before you know what it is." So a willing mind, Verse 17, a worshipful heart, Verse 18. Those are the elements of discernment.
Now, this truth is repeated by the way throughout the Bible, a couple of notable places. One is in Deuteronomy Chapter 4, "If you seek the lord your God you will find Him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your mind." Same truth. Another one is when David commissions his young son Solomon, 1 Chronicles Chapter 28, "Worship and serve him with your whole heart and with a willing mind--" worshipful heart, willing mind "--for the lord sees every heart and understands and knows every plan and thought. If you seek him you will find him but if you forsake him he will reject you forever." So here's how it works? A wiling mind and a worshipful heart makes a discerning person. If on the other hand, I'll flip the coin. One seeking to have his or her own way and own will, will be open to anything. That will give them whatever they want to hear.
Third and finally not only is doctrine essential, not only is discernment crucial and here's really the core of our message this morning, religion can be harmful. Religion can be harmful. He says, "Skip, those are some pretty hard words." Well, they were intended to be because that's the truth out of the text. Religion according to this text can do two things. Number one, it can justify evil. Look at Verse 19. Now, you'll get this just by a plain reading. Jesus says, "Did not Moses give you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why do you seek to kill me?" So do you get that? These pharisees, these strategists, these leaders prided themselves in keeping, being purveyors of and guarding the Law of Moses. But wait a minute, isn't there something in the Law of Moses like, thou shall not murder? Isn't that like the sixth commandment? So you see the fallacy? We are keepers of the law. We're going to kill this guy. Red flag, time out. That's the problem. It can justify evil. It can be harmful and actually take people's lives.
Now, of course they say you have a demon who's seeking to kill you but both Verse 1 which says Jesus stayed in Galilee and didn't go to the feast immediately is because they were trying to kill him. In Verse 25, notice this, now, some of them from Jerusalem said, "Is this not he whom they seek to kill?" So they let the cat out of the bag. Some were trying to hide the fact but the fact is they want to kill him in the name of their religion, the name of it--protecting our religion. I'm reading a book, I've been reading it since May, either I'm a slow reader or it's a long book and really both are true. It's a book of over a thousand pages. It's on crusades and I wanted to kind of bone up on that period of history that I wasn't too familiar with and I've always been interested in.
So it amazed me that in 1095 when Pope Urban II issued a command to find what he called Christian soldiers to be commissioned to go the Holy Land and reclaim the lands lost back to God in the name of Christ, to expunge that land of all of its evil inhabitants that he gave these Christian soldiers the permission to kill people in the name of Christ. Saying to them, if you die in the process, you will be given instant indulgence, instant heaven and all of your family members as well. In fact, the rant that went on was this and I quote, "Fight for the salvation of your souls." That is religion at its lowest. It's a blot on the history of Christendom. It doesn't end there. Fast-forward to few years ago when America suddenly woke up to the understanding that there are lots of religious people out there who want to kill us and the realization happened on September 11, 2001 when 20 people boarded their planes and thought we can crash them into buildings and kill lots of people in the name of our God.
And now, we discover there's not just a few of these because we like to just say, "Oh, there's just a few of them." The few is about conservatively 13 million with radical ideas like we have to destroy the great Satan, and say, who's that? You are, you're the great Satan. You're an American, you're the great Satan, we're going to destroy you in the name of religion. So here is how religion can be harmful. It justifies evil. Secondly, it minimizes good Verse 21, Jesus answered and said to them, "I did one work and you all marvel." What is the one work he was referring to, do you thing? You know what it was? It was the healing of the man at the pool of Bethesda a year and a half before this. A year and a half before this when Jesus was in Jerusalem, John Chapter 5, it was the Passover. There was a man at the pool of Bethesda, he'd been paralyzed 38 years. Remember the story? Jesus said, "Hey, you want to get better?" He goes, "Well, nobody would put me in the pool." Until Jesus said to him, "Rise, take up your bed and walk." And it happened to be what day? Sabbath Day. Now, do you think Jesus thought, "Oh, I forgot it was Sabbath Day." No, he knew exactly what it was.
And so the guy picked up his mat, he didn't want to run home, he ran into the temple to give thanks to God first and on his way out of the temple the religious people stopped him, you can't carry that, it's the Sabbath. "I did one work," Jesus said, "You all marvel, you're all open arms about that. You claim all over his case in my case because of that." He continues verse 22, Moses therefore gave you circumcision not that it's from Moses but from the Father's and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath so that the Law of Moses should not be broken, "Are your angry with me because I made a man completely well on the Sabbath?"
Here's what you need to know. Jesus is giving a classic rabbinical argument. The argument is from lesser to greater, from circumcision to healing that is his argument. So here's the problem, there seems to be a contradiction in the Old Testament law that our lord brings out. One hand, you have the Sabbath and the Sabbath says on that day you don't do any ordinary work. The other law, Leviticus 13, another is that every male child born in Israel on the eighth day after his birth has to be circumcised as the outward sign of the covenant. So Jesus says, "So, what happens when the date of circumcision happens to be on your Sabbath?" Because, you know, kids don't schedule when they're going to be born, they're just born and you count eight days and if the eighth day falls on the Sabbath, now you got a problem because you can't do any ordinary work which means you can't circumcise, but you guys seemed to be okay with that.
In fact, one of the Rabbi said and I quote, "Great is circumcision which overrides even the rigors of the Sabbath." So here's his argument, from lesser to greater, saying, "You guys mutilate a baby's flesh on the eighth day and that's okay. I heal a man's flesh on the Sabbath and it's not okay. What's wrong with that picture?" And that's what religion will do, it will minimize good. Jonathan Swift back in 1711 wrote, "We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another." Huge difference, so clear here, a huge difference.
As we close I want to just give you four quick comparisons, sort of to sum this up, other fundamental differences between religion and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So if you're taking notes, here's number one. Religion emphasizes the outward. The Gospel of Jesus Christ emphasizes the inward. You notice that here, the conversation is about circumcision, the ritual. What Rabbi school did he go to, all the outward stuff, the external stuff. It's all about the outward. Jesus is all about the inward. Remember in the Sermon in the Mount when Jesus was teaching us to pray and he said, "Okay, when you guys pray, don't be like the religious people. They love to stand on the street corners and pray so that everybody can see them. They do it to be seen by man."
And again, look at Verse 24, "Do not judge according to appearance." That's what religion does. There are even some circles within Christendom, let's say, if you dress anything or in anyway except just a plain way. If you try to make yourself look good at all, any make up at all, any nice clothes, it's just not good, it's not spiritual. So the idea is--if you look really narrowly you must be really spiritual. Look at that person, that person must be holy. Why? He looks so bad. They're judging by appearance, religion emphasizes the outward; Jesus emphasizes the inward not the outward.
Second, religion emphasizes prohibition, what you can't do. The Gospel is all about freedom. You know, they'll say, "You can't heal on the Sabbath. You can't walk and carry your mat on the Sabbath." Jesus said, "You will know the truth and the truth will set you free." Theirs was a righteousness of negatives, like little pious teenager in Sunday school who said, "I don't smoke and I don't chew and I don't go with girls that do." "What do you do?" If you're only known for what you're against but not for, you've got a problem, a righteousness of negatives.
Number three, religion sets up barriers. The Gospel breaks barriers down. You know, where Jesus was teaching at the temple, he was teaching in a court called the court public court of the Gentiles. That means that everybody, Jew or Gentile could be in that court and listen to anybody teaching, that's why he went there. But there were other courts within the temple, there was on court for women that was Jewish women. If you're a Gentile, you couldn't go in there, they'll kill you. But if you're a Jewish woman, you could go in that court. There was another court for Jewish men if you're a woman you couldn't go in there, Gentiles women, men and then one for the priest. And what did Paul say in the New Testament concerning Christ? There is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, civilian, bond or free we are all one in Christ. That's the Gospel. It tears down the barriers. Jesus said, "Come unto me all you that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest."
Fourth and finally, religion says, work your way. It does, it always says work your way. You want to get to heaven, better work hard, better be really sincere and try really hard to be a good person. If you want to get to heaven you work your way. If you want to get close to God you work your way. You know what Jesus says, "I am the way." You want to get to heaven? "Yes, I'm the way. I'm the way, the truth and life, no one comes to the Father except through me." So different.
I want to end on this note, back to that whole thing of learning and teaching and doctrine. I discovered something, it just sort of stopped me again and I was reminded of it this week. On four occasions in the New Testament, Jesus rebuked the religious leaders and he said to them--asking this question, "Have you not read? Haven't you read Moses? Haven't you read the Psalms where it says this and this?" As if holding them accountable for knowing things? So all these religious leaders around and Jesus goes, "Excuse me, do you guys ever read you bibles? Because it says there... haven't you read that?" I just want to encourage you that as a Christian become a learner, a reader, a thinker, reason through these things to have a devotion to a steady spiritual diet of truth.
I was on an airplane coming back to Albuquerque southwest flight. I sit next to a guy who was focused. He was devoted to a book that was on his lap. It was a book of crossword puzzles. And I was actually--I was amazed because he was just--he was into it and he was just totally focused and he's writing things down, he timed himself when he started and when he stopped, timed it started and stopped. Here's a guy who could see patterns of letters in the maze that was before, and these were big pages, it was a thick book.
And so, I started talking to him, I said, "Excuse me, but you're like--you're into this, aren't you?" He goes, "Uh-huh." And he goes, "You want to know what my record is?" I said, "Sure." "I wrote it down. 33 words in nine minutes." And I don't know what that means but I went, "Wow." That sounded impressive to me knowing nothing about crossword puzzles. I swear I never do one. But he timed, he goes, "My record is 33 words in 9 minutes on this big things. So I went, "Wow." He goes, "You know what? Whenever I travel, the first thing I pack, my book of crossword puzzles, the first thing I pack." I said, "Why is that?" He goes, "Keeps my mind up flying,]." He must not like the flying experience, so I respect that.
But I walked away thinking, man, I wonder if that's my--like my first concern is, the book. I got to pack this, I'm going on vacation, this has to come with me. I'm traveling, this has to come. I'm getting up in the morning, got to get this. I just wonder if that manual of truth sits unopened where there's a steady diet of that truth worked in our lives because it's essential. And with that essentiality and that openness to it comes the discernment that is necessary and we see the difference between Christ, the refreshing person of history and all of the religious nonsense that is in opposition to him. Let's pray for that.
Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, this unique individual so different from the status quo that was going on in Jerusalem and is going on even still in many religious circles. This person is so compelling to us. We're taken in by him. But when we realize that this Jesus wasn't a man from history long ago but is still alive to this very day having risen from the dead and has power to change and work people's lives, ours included, we're even more compelled. And we come to that place hopefully where we will to do his will and we come making and not about us but about him and with a worshipful heart and a willing mind. Lord, I pray you'd work those things in us and I pray for anyone who doesn't know Christ yet personally though they might be wonderful people, sweet people, devoted people, contributing people, religious folks but they don't personally know Jesus yet. I pray that today would be the day when you would invade their lives with your grace and show them the difference between a system of beliefs and a personal relationship.