Wednesday, December 2, 2009

You may be surprised by what is getting between you and Jesus

Good morning my friends.

I do not write today with the intention of offending anyone but there is something that needs some serious discussion. It is amazing to hear so many people talk about how religious some people are and how we must all live in the freedom that Jesus gave to us. They judge the religious minded in the Church, but if you give me a day with them I would be able to point out what they do that shows they too are religiously minded. We all are to some extent. There is something about our nature that finds comfort in relying on systems, ceremonies, customs, and routine. In fact, it takes a concentrated effort to avoid a religious mind.

Paul warned the Colossians:

Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: "Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!"? These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence. (1:20-23)

Religion cannot save us. Here is where I may offend some people but it is not my intention. Taking communion and being baptized is not going to save you. They are both beautiful things. One is an act of remembrance and, when done with the right attitude, can be a wonderful experience. The other is a physical testimony of what has already taken place through the Holy Spirit. They are both great but if we become reliant on them as a means of anything other than a symbolic act then we have become religiously minded and we are in trouble.

Paul wrote to the Colossians about the wonderful thing that God had done with our sin and all regulations that tied us down; he nailed them all to the cross so that we may experience freedom of relationship with him. He did not want heavy rules, ceremonies, rituals, priests or anything else to come between him and us. He wanted us to have clear access to him. Paul wrote:

Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. vs 16-17

Remember how holy the Church used to insist the Sabbath was? We had turned Sunday into the Sabbath. There is a whole denomination based on the Sabbath being on Saturday and they follow certain rules about what you can do on that day. There are other denominations that have rules about what you can eat and they even have dress codes along with hair codes. Are we willing to be honest about these things, take a real look at them and be honest in saying that we are religiously minded? Paul writes that these ceremonies and religious ceremonies are only shadows of what was to come. The reality of all of this is found in Jesus and we have Jesus. Why settle for something that only represents realty when we possess and are possessed by realty himself?

This can be terribly hard when we have been raised in these traditions and they have become normal too us. Some things we need to get rid of, just throw them away. Other things we need to put back into context with a proper attitude such as communion and baptism. I hate to put a cramp in anyone's tradition but it is possible to be saved and not be baptized. What is more important, water baptism or Spirit baptism? I do not read anywhere in the Word where it says if you have not been water baptized you do not have Jesus and yet I read this:

And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. (Romans 8:9)

Jesus came to set us free by every tie that binds us, that keeps us from freedom in him. We are meant to be free, to have direct access to the Father. We have daily communion with our God and no longer stand upon ceremony. Some of our traditions are wonderful and beautiful. Easter is an act of remembrance as is Christmas. Observing them will not save us or make us any better. Not observing them will not make us any worse. The only thing that matters is our relationship with Jesus Christ. He is our reality every day. He is our Lord, our Saviour, our best friend, our big brother, our champion, our hero. We do not need to have magically words, or certain actions, or perform certain ceremonies to have access to him. He is in us and we are in him. He told us to ask anything in his name and the Father will respond. He told us we have constant communion with him. Do not allow anything man has to say destroy that communion or to lessen it in any way. Avoid the religiously minded folks before they enslave you again as the circumcision group enslaved people in Paul's day.

Experience the freedom of Jesus today. Just him and you. Speak plainly and be honest. You may be surprise what you discover.