Jesus, the Spirit and Religion

Yesterday, I wrapped up my post with a question:

What part of following Jesus Christ, or if you prefer, following the leading of the Holy Spirit, can be confined to a man-made religion?

I mentioned that I’d be interested to hear your thoughts; I’d still like to hear them. I also said that today I’d share some of mine, which I’m about to do, and we’ll see what the Word of God has to say on the subject in the coming days.

As for my initial thoughts, I think that “religion” as we discussed it yesterday, has little or nothing to do with following Jesus Christ, unless it acts as a catalyst for us to learn more about following Him. Here’s what I mean by that:

Not long ago, I was given some things that a particular group of Christians expect of a Pastor (or whatever any particular group may want to call it). A Pastor should always wear a suit and tie on Sunday morning, he should never make a joke or be light-hearted about anything, for that is not worshipful. A Pastor should never ask a rhetorical question in a sermon, for that isn’t reverent, and someone might actually feel comfortable enough to offer an answer. A Pastor should always stand up on a platform behind a lectern (“in the Pulpit”) for not to do so isn’t worshipful. It is also irreverent and unworshipful (I’m not quite sure if that’s even a word) for him to challenge the congregation (isn’t that called “exhortation” in the Bible?). Oh yes, and reverence requires several periods of silence within the worship service. Other items that are not reverent or worshipful are things like talking before the service, having modern music, and changing the Order of Service in any way.

If I’m entirely honest with you, when I see these things in writing here, it is really hard for me to take any of it seriously; this is ridiculous, yet the person giving out the rules was deadly serious…

So were the Pharisees in the Gospels as they spouted off a litany of man-made rules and regulations to Jesus. This is religion in action, and it sometimes acts in direct opposition to God’s purpose, and here’s how: Within the group whose rules I’ve just shared, everyone under the age of 50 has left; the average age is over 70. They very much want church outreach in their community, so they have an after-school program for children. There are some parents who are happy to take advantage of free child care, but not one of them attends that church, nor are they ever going to. Their membership has declined over the last several years by about 75 percent, some of those say they will never attend any church again, so badly were they treated when they expressed different ideas about things…

See what I mean?

While this may be an extreme case, it is by no means a rare one; there are boarded up church buildings all over this part of the country as a result of this sort of thing, and the one I’ve mentioned here has been advised to close up by multiple people, including myself.

Let’s take a look at a couple of examples of how Jesus reacted to religious rules over the next two days, and next week, let’s see how Paul dealt with similar issues- see you then.

About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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28 Responses to Jesus, the Spirit and Religion

  1. Mel Wild says:

    Wow. I guess I’m the opposite of a pastor. My congregation should’ve told me I was doing it all wrong. 🙂

  2. Bette Cox says:

    Boy, that is some list! My own pastor and church (Trinity EPC in Florence, SC) would miserably flunk that little test, every jot and tittle of it. 🙂

  3. paulfg says:

    “What part of following Jesus Christ, or if you prefer, following the leading of the Holy Spirit, can be confined to a man-made religion?“

    Perhaps fellowship.

  4. martypressey says:

    I agree with your post. Too many churches have gotten wrapped around a defined liturgy and lost the message of Jesus. When I preach, I try to counter that to the degree possible. Some churches I have preached at still want the same liturgy. So I comply. Yet I will interject in my sermon and throughout the service different messages that point out the Pharisaic viewpoint and how they were deceived, missing Christ in all their rules.

    • Don Merritt says:

      I’ve done the same thing and I have so often been amazed at how certain ones simply do not desire to see what is right in front of them, for the will to not know or see or hear is so strong.

  5. Interesting thoughts. I know as a Christian I have had some moments where I felt in the presence of the Holy Spirit….like when I was standing atop Megiddo overlooking Armaggedon Valley last winter. I was praying and just felt the indwelling of the Spirit and I asked, “what should I know Lord?” And I heard, “It is done. Prepare.” There was no one around me. Literally no one. I wouldn’t necessarily share that with many Christians… they’d feel uncomfortable. Many don’t appreciate the movement of the Holy Spirit and find it actually dark side stuff. Sadly.

  6. Barton Jahn says:

    It would take an entire book to pick-apart the silly rules you listed in this post.

    Off the top of my head some of the lessons Jesus shared with the disciples: to John and James that they were displaying the wrong spirit in suggesting that Jesus call down fire upon the town of Samaritans…Jesus setting a small child in the midst of the disciples to make the point that wanting to be “somebody” important in the kingdom of heaven is contrary to divine love…the almost unattainable emptiness of self in picking up our cross to follow Jesus into our walk of faith, often in the opposite direction of the “American Dream…which takes a lifetime to actualize in our hearts…articulated in the Sermon on the Mount…and the incredible section in John where Jesus tells the disciples and us that the Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth…implying that this will unfold through the experiences of discipleship.

    How any of these deepest of concepts could square with the silliness of wearing a suit and tie (nothing wrong with that)…not listening to other people’s ideas and comments…standing behind a pulpit for preaching and teaching…the question to me is how can people get so far off course?

    For me the starting number one requirement for any Christian church is to have the gospel message of salvation being preached…with some form of an altar call…so that lost people can become liberated by the blood of Jesus and be set free from sin.

    Then it is good Bible teaching that connects people with Jesus Christ so that Jesus can take it from there…to lead and guide believers into their unique callings and purpose in life. Barton

  7. Barbara Lane says:

    I hear you – such requirements are clearly like the Pharisees. However, I do think a church could want to do outreach with a program for children even knowing that none of the parents would ever come to church there. While to remain a church that stays alive we do need to put our energy, time and money into things that will grow the church, I think there is an argument for doing things for the community that will never benefit the church. To do something just because it would help the community without any return to the church. For example: One area that my husband and I always did when we were pastors was visiting those in nursing homes and assisted living. Clearly none of these people would ever attend our church or contribute financially – yet they were a group of people that needed love and encouragement that the church could give.

  8. My current and previous pastors would have been run out of town on a rail.

  9. Pingback: Definition of religion | Just me being curious

  10. Annie Newman says:

    Yikes! That sounds like a terrifying church! Yet my heart hurts for the congregation you’ve described. They clearly want to do more, the childcare outreach makes that apparent, but are so beholden to their own rules they are blinded by them. As an Episcopalian, I love high church and tradition, but recognize the importance of being welcoming and also the need for different types of services, too, where others may be more comfortable.

    • Don Merritt says:

      You bring up a critical point- knowing the difference between tradition and Scriptural imperative. Sadly, many people, like the group I wrote about, have been “blinded” as you so aptly put it, and can no longer see the difference. Tradition is all well and good unless it becomes the point of the exercise instead of God. Thank you so much for sharing that.

  11. jlue says:

    I think religion, all manmade, is possibly the most used tool in Satan’s toolbox. We are not really called to be religious. The Bible doesn’t speak much about religion. We are called to faith and obedience to God’s Word. Christ condemned the religious Pharisees. He warned against false prophecy and false doctrine.

  12. Pingback: Definition of religion – Re-theologizing

  13. I don’t mean to offend, but, Religion to me means, “A Belief In And Worship Of.” I admit I got this from the online dictionary but I agree with this. To put on a suit and tie regularly would, I think be an act of doing something religiously – with consistent, conscientious regularity. I Religiously Pray Daily and Study GOD’S WORD and I have learned to live a Religious Life, although not always perfectly. Blessings to you and your Openness. Thanks for your support!

  14. Sundancekid says:

    I believe your post is well thought out. I am seeing a migration of millenials out of the church or I should simply say out of the building. The true church is the people that are disciples of Jesus Christ. Millenials have as you said been hurt by church. Which is why church has moved online, and the street. The building is supposed to be a gathering place to meet and fellowship, and serve God together, but it has become a social club. Where a select few specially educated get to minister, and everyone else is left watching and pew warming. This had made many tired of church because the mission has been forgotten. People want to change the world, and the church of Jesus Christ is supposed to do that. The church literally translates to an assembly of people gathered for a purpose in this case the purpose for the gathering is Jesus Christ, and his mission to seek and save the lost. So we are now seeing a new stage in the overall plan of God to do just that with the evolution of modern technology. Thank you for your insights I look forward to reading more of your posts.

  15. Sundancekid says:

    Thank you for your insight

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