You Frustrated with Religion?
The story is told of a man who was stranded
on an island after a shipwreck. He spent years alone on the island but
was finally rescued. The captain of the ship asked him, "What are those
three huts you have here?" The man said, "Well, that’s my house there."
The captain asked, "What’s that next hut?" The man said, "I built that
hut to be my church."
The Captain asked, "Well what about that other
hut?" The man said, "Oh, that’s where I used to go to church, but I got
upset and left."
Do you ever feel that this is the way
that many go about trying to discover the relevance of Christianity? Discovering
the relevance of Christianity in our modern times is not easy. Many
are walking into church buildings across the nation and walking out because
it all seems irrelevant. Many who are searching don't know what to look
for and end up being misled. They sense that something is amiss in their
lives, but they are having a difficult time discovering what is missing.
The design of many religious groups
may only divers the attention of the one seeking to the superficial.
It may seem as though the person has found what he/she has been looking
for, as the person's life is filled with religious activities. But eventually
the feeling of emptiness returns and they are on the move again.
There is a longing within the soul that
needs to be filled, but if it isn't filled with the right thing, we will
remain restless and unsatisfied. If you don't feel satisfied, it
may be a sign that you are looking for the wrong thing. It is really dangerous
when we fail to find that which we are looking for.
24 "When an evil spirit comes
out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not fmd
it. Then it says, 'I will return to the house I left.' 25 When it arrives,
it finds the house swept clean and put in order. 26 Then it goes and takes
several other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live
there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first." NIV
I think these verses are descriptive
of many who are searching. They have sought to rid their lives
of evil, but have failed to discover anything meaningful to fill the void
left. Many have decided in all the confusion that it is futile to continue
Hopes Lie beyond Religion
Filling the void goes beyond being religious.
Many religious people went to Jesus looking for something more relevant.
They felt the same emptiness on the inside that our modern world feels.
Jesus met each person where each stood and gave each one of them the key
to filling their emptiness saying, "Blessed are those who hunger and
thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled" (Matthew 5:6 NIV).
Filling the void goes beyond being righteousness.
Many righteous men and women came to Christ, but they were not filled.
The rich young ruler came to Jesus proclaiming
that he kept all the commandments, but he realized something was amiss.
He asked, "What good thing can I do to inherit eternal life." Nicodemus
was a very righteous man but he came to Jesus with an emptiness he didn't
know how to fill. His visit with Jesus left him baffled.
3: 1 Now there was a man of
the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2
He came to Jesus at night and said, "Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who
has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are
doing if God were not with him. "
3 In reply Jesus declared, "I
tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born
4 "How can a man be born when
he is old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely he cannot enter a second time into
his mother's womb to be born!"
5 Jesus answered, "I tell you
the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water
and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth
to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born
again. ‘8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you
cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone
born of the Spirit. "
9 "How can this be?" Nicodemus
The key to finding fulfillment is to
make sure you understand the nature of what you are truly hungering for.
It is possible to seek a righteousness for which we do not hunger, which
only leaves our lives more empty and frustrated. This approach will only
leave an empty longing for something more real.
6: 1 "Be careful not to do
your 'acts of righteousness' before me~ to be seen by them. If you do,
you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. NIV
20 For I tell you that unless
your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of
the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. NIV
The Pharisees did not desire righteousness;
they only used righteousness as a means to self glory. It left them miserable.
Jesus challenged the religious world
of his times with their need to be reborn. Have
we overlooked our need to be reborn in our haste to build the church? I
want the church to be what it was when it was first established, but it
must first experience a rebirth of its thinking. This is hard to accept
by those that think they are too old to be reborn. It was hard to accept
by many of the first century. But this was the reason their religious practices
left them empty and frustrated.
Today the transformation of rebirth
goes beyond church membership. Some go to big churches because
they like to be part of something big. Others go to small churches because
they like the family like atmosphere. Some go to church because they feel
they are doing what is right.
The religious turmoil in our world today
makes it apparent that our hope lies beyond religion. There is
a kind of anger that accompanies so much of religion today that it is making
the message of Christ to the lost world irrelevant. Anger is not the answer
to the world's problems. The world may be hungering, it may need to change
but anger only instills more anger and reaps a whirlwind of trouble. Moses
discovered this the hard way.
11 One day, after Moses bad
grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at
their hard labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people.
12 Glancing this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian
and hid him in the sand. 13 The next day he went out and saw two Hebrews
fighting. He asked the one in the wrong, "Why are you hitting your fellow
14 The man said, "Who made you
ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the
Egyptian?" Then Moses was afraid and thought, "What I did must have become
15 When Pharaoh heard of this,
he tried to kill Moses, but Moses fled from Pharaoh and went to live in
Midian, where he sat down by a well. NIV
Moses was a privileged Hebrew
that grew up as the Pharaoh of Egypt's son, but he despised how his people
Moses learned that trying to reconcile
the world out of anger over the way the world operates will never work.
Your anger only justifies the angry
world's ways-regardless of who is to blame. The world is seeking reformation.
The conflicting ideals of what our world ought to be, leaves our world
angry. God is seeking transformation of our world through the restoration
of my life to his original plan in Eden. It all begins with a rebirth of
me. Moses thought that he could lead his people out of his own anger against
the injustice, but he was mistaken. He found himself exiled in the land
of Midian for forty years.
An Irishman, a Mexican and a redneck were
going construction work on a tall building. At lunchtime, the Irishman
opened his lunch box and said, "Corned beef, if I get corned beef one more
time for lunch, I'm going to jump off this building."
The Mexican opened his lunch box and exclaimed,
"Burritos again! If I get burritos one more time, I'm going to jump off
The redneck opened his lunch and said, "Bologna
again! If I get a bologna sandwich one more time, I'm jumping too!"
The next day the Irishman opens
his lunch box, sees corned beef and jumps. The Mexican opens his lunch,
sees a burrito and jumps too.
The Redneck opens his lunch,
sees the bologna and jumps as well.
At the funeral, the Irishman’s
wife is weeping, she says, "If l’d known how really tired he
was of corned beef, I never
would have given it to him again. "
The Mexican's wife also weeps
and says, "I could have given him tacos! I didn't realize he hated burritos
Everyone turns and stares at
the redneck's wife. "Hey, don't look at me," she says, "He always made
his own lunch."
Moses packed his own lunch
when he went to Midian.. Moses spent forty years in Midian because
of the problems he created from himself out of anger. God's
answer to our problems begins in our own hearts. That's why he said, "Except
you are born of the water and the spirit you shall not enter into the kingdom
of God." Jesus knew that a transformation must take place from
Begins with Listening to the Voice of God
The concept of being born again sounds
as strange and difficult to a modern world as it did to Nicodemus.
"Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom
of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to
flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised
at my saying, 'You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases.
You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it
is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."
The reason these verses may seem mysterious
is because of the mention of the Spirit of God. We believe in a
Spirit world, for God is a spirit and those who worship him must worship
him in spirit and truth (John 4:24). We feel that we have to be able to
explain how the Spirit works before we can be born again. But this is not
the case. Jesus tells us that you don’t know where he comes from. He is
like the wind that blows wherever he pleases. This is the way it is with
those born again.
It is really simple. If I want to live a fleshly
life, I follow my fleshly appetites. If I want to live a spiritual life,
I follow the teaching of God’s Spirit. If I follow the flesh, I will experience
a fleshly birth. If I follow the Spirit’s teaching, I will experience a
the Spirit’s birth.
Jesus said, "Not everyone who says to me,
'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the
will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord,
Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons
and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew
you. Away from me, you evildoers!" (Matt 7:21-23 NIV).
Jesus says you cannot enter the kingdom of
heaven without being born again. He also says that you can’t enter the
kingdom of heaven without doing the will of the Father. Therefore,
A fleshly birth can take on the form
of godliness as it seeks to live a righteous live, but it denies the power
of God. If our activities, religious
and otherwise are totally governed by the will of the flesh we will grow
weary and quit. I think this is probably why the religious world is going
through so much change at the present. There has been a type of godliness
that has robbed us of the power of God.
No other writer of the New Testament
stresses the need for a rebirth, as does John. John said, "He
came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to
all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the
right to become children of God--children born not of natural descent,
nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God." (John
Only God Can Give Us A New Birth
Jesus pronounced this verdict to those
born of fleshly decisions: "Light has come into the world, but
men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone
who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear
that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes
into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has
been done through God." (John 3:19-21 NIV)
The fleshly heart is willing to allow
us to adhere to religious doctrine while remaining totally unchanged.
It is willing to allow us to remain in total darkness. In fact the human
heart may refuse to come to the light. Jeremiah indicates that the human
heart is deep and deceitful and it is hard to know it. (Jeremiah 17:9)
Jesus didn't come trying to change the
way the religious folks did things. He endeavored to change the
reason behind what they were doing. Jesus told them they needed a rebirth
of the heart.
An illiterate couple had just been saved.
They met with a group of believers who all dressed alike. The men wore
red shirts while engaged in a certain project, so the woman made one for
her husband. He came home after the meeting, however, with a look of disappointment
on his face because the others had a message printed on their shirts but
he did not. His wife, undaunted by her inability to read, sewed three words
on his shirt, which she copied from a sign in a store window across the
street. He wore it to the next meeting and came home bubbling with joy.
He said all of the men really liked the inscription because it so aptly
described the wonderful change they had seen in his life. It turned out
that his wife had written, "UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT."
To be born again we need new management.
The flesh cannot manage our lives; the flesh is far too deceptive and self-reliant.
Jeremiah says that when we listen and follow the stubborn inclinations
of our own evil hearts, it will take us backward and not forward. (Jeremiah
7:24 NIV) We need God's management for a new birth. Unless our lives are
given birth by the power of God's Spirit we will never experience a new
birth nor see the kingdom of God.
It is God who gives us a new heart through
faith in Christ. We are children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.
(Galatians 3:26) We become sons and daughters of God through faith in Christ.
Christ is the master of changing hearts. God said of the Israelites, "I
will give them a heart to know me, that I am the LORD. They will be my
people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their
heart." (Jeremiah 24:7 NIV)Proverbs 21:1-2The king's heart is in the hand
of the LORD; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases. All
a man's ways seem right to him, but the LORD weighs the heart. (NIV)
Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge
him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own
eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil. This will bring health to
your body and nourishment to your bones. (NIV)
God is still in the business of changing
hearts in a powerful way. A changed heart is the result of the
work of the Spirit of God.
The new birth is dependent upon the
Spirit breathed word of God. Any religion that stresses what a
person knows and what a person has done instead of what a person is, is
generally a religion of the mere flesh. Those born of the flesh only preach
what the flesh tells them to preach and they want us to listen to them.
of Change on Pentecost
The wind of change blew on the first
Pentecost after the death of Christ. Jesus had commanded his disciples
to wait in Jerusalem until they were given power from God. While they waited
the wind of change blew upon them.
2:1 When the day of Pentecost
came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the
blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where
they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated
and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy
Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
Many are seeking this experience today
as they send up heart rending prayers to receive the same miraculous experience.
However, those who obeyed the gospel on Pentecost simply followed the instruction
given to the apostles by the Spirit. They obeyed the word preached to them.
It led them to a new birth.
Peter stood up and preached Jesus Christ.
22 "Men of Israel, listen to
this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles,
wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves
know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge;
and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to
the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony
of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.
They simply listened and followed Peter’s
37 When the people heard this,
they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers,
what shall we do?"
38 Peter replied, "Repent and
be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness
of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The
promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off-for all
whom the Lord our God will call."
40 With many other words he
warned them; and he pleaded with them, "Save yourselves from this corrupt
generation." 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about
three thousand were added to their number that day. NIV
The Lord added those who obeyed to his
46 Every day they continued
to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes
and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying
the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those
who were being saved. NIV
Those who responded were in a Jewish
assembly. They weren’t in a church building, but the Lord added
them to that first assembly of believers, it was call the church today.
They had simply responded to the good news that Jesus Christ had saved
them from their sins. They were born again. Of course, the new birth didn’t
stop there, but it led them to follow the example of Christ.
26 Now an angel of the Lord
said to Philip, "Go south to the road-the desert road-that goes down from
Jerusalem to Gaza." 27 So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian
eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace,
queen of the Ethiopians. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28
and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah
the prophet. 29 The Spirit told Philip, "Go to that chariot and stay near
30 Then Philip ran up to the
chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. "Do you understand
what you are reading?" Philip asked.
31 "How can I," he said, "unless
someone explains it to me?" So he invited Philip to come up and sit with
32 The eunuch was reading this
passage of Scripture:
"He was led like a sheep to
the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so he did not
open his mouth. 33 In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can
speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth."
34 The eunuch asked Philip,
"Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone
else?" 35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told
him the good news about Jesus.
36 As they traveled along the
road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, "Look, here is water.
Why shouldn't I be baptized?" 38 And he gave orders to stop the chariot.
Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized
him. 39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly
took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his
way rejoicing. 40 Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about,
preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea. NIV
What amazes me about the eunuch’s conversion
is that we don’t see any discussion about anything except Jesus Christ
and him crucified. Of course, the eunuch had enough background
in the Jewish scriptures to understand where his new birth would lead.
Those Scriptures led him to the Messiah, they would direct him to live
for the Messiah.
There was nothing mysterious about becoming
a Christian in the first century. They just simply experienced
the new birth by focusing their lives on the death, burial, and resurrection
of Jesus Christ. Nothing demonstrates this better than baptism.
3 Or don't you know that all
of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?
4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order
that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the
Father, we too may live a new life.
5 If we have been united with
him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in
his resurrection. NIV