Daily Spirit & Word: 661:
Christianity is not a Religion or Rules, but a Relationship.
Good morning my friends, it’s good to be back into our series going through the Gospel of Mark: We pick up where we left off in Mark 2:18-22. However, we must bear in mind that the Gospel of Mark is not just a selection of stories about Jesus life and teachings, but is carefully put together by God’s inspiration to communicate a message. When we read the Gospel as a letter all in one go, we’ll see that this section of Mark reveals the growing tension and opposition from the ‘religious’ people of Jesus time, because Jesus teaching and practice was stark in it’s contrast between what they both taught and did religiously, it also slowly begins to reveal what they were like on the inside.
- Religion: Is a way of doing things to please / appease or entreat God:
- Rules (in religion) are the correct ways of doing these things.
- Relationship: Christianity is God’s way of getting close to Him.
If you look at the Bible as a whole, you’ll note that the people with whom God was most pleased were those who walked with Him: Noah, Enoch, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Gideon, Samuel, David and Solomon. There are many, many more, but the reason God was so pleased with them, was not because they kept or followed the Jewish Religion to the letter, but because their hearts were set on being with God. Moses was a “Friend of God” and King David, was renowned as “a man after God’s own heart”. (Christianity: it’s all about relationship).
It was NEVER meant to be about how ‘religious’ you are: Yet even today, people mistake Christianity as a ‘religion’ first and foremost, when right from the time that Jesus walked, talked and taught His own disciples, it was all about how to get into and maintain a relationship with God as your Father in Heaven.
Christianity: Is viewed by the Media, Government and Education system as a “Religion”. Even in Church Schools today Christianity is taught as just ONE of the world’s religions. It’s as if we (the human race) have a smorgasbord (a collection of many different varieties of religion) of different religions that we can choose from; Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Seikism, Catholicism, Mormonism and Christianity. Today they are all labeled as “Faith Communities”, as if they are all different versions of the same thing. They are not the same, there is only ONE valid way of getting to know God today, it’s NOT through ‘religious’ practice, but in a relationship with and through His One and Only Son Jesus Christ.
My friends, at the START of 2016: I believe God wants you to KNOW afresh today, that Christianity, being a Christian: Is NOT a Religion or a Set of Rules and Regulations, but it’s all about your RELATIONSHIP with God through the LORD Jesus Christ.
In this section of Mark’s Gospel: We see that opposition to Jesus teaching of this FACT brought about fierce criticism, to the point that people plotted to murder Him. Mark 3, but let’s just focus today upon this;
Mark 2:18-22 (NIV)
18 Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came and asked Jesus, “How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?”
19 Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them.
20 But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast.
21 “No-one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse.
22 And no-one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, he pours new wine into new wineskins.”
The Pharisees had been practising their religion for generations, following the traditions and teaching of men. You don’t find much fasting in the Old Testament: It’s only when people needed to get back to God. The Pharisees, of course, wanted to know why Jesus wasn’t following their religious practices. The way they saw it, if Jesus was a good Jew, He’d be even more religious than them or at least as ‘religious’.
Christianity is a totally DIFFERENT way of being with God.
All other religions in the world: Follow, rules and regulations to be right with God. (the Pharisees were no different).
Only Christianity is shown to be a way of faith where God came to make man right with Himself.
The Drowning Man:
It’s like this: A man was drowning in the middle of the wildest ocean on earth; the Atlantic. He began to shout for help;
Moses chirped in first: I’ll give you ten ways to swim in the ocean: follow these instructions and you will be safe: The man tried to follow Moses teachings, but still he was still drowning and shouted again for help.
Mohammed: who was sitting with Moses and the others, chirped in: just find the direction of Mecca, Kneel down and pray five times a day; and you’ll be safe. The man tried, but every time he did so the water went up his nose.
Buddha: shouted, no don’t try and save yourself, be still, accept your karma and just empty your mind.
The man tried to be still, but each time he did so, he began to sink. He cried out for help, his situation was getting serious as he was too weak to carry on.
Then the Lord Jesus: pushed the others aside, saw the man’s predicament, that he was drowning, Jesus dived in to SAVE the man. He lifted him up and they both walked on the water to the shore. The man was SAVED by Jesus.
What use is RELIGION to a drowning man?
What’s the difference: Each and every world religion teaches that we must follow a set of rules and regulations in order to please or appease God, to be right with God, but through the teachings of Jesus Christ, we can see that it’s all about how we RELATE to God. It always was, even in the Old Testament, but the Jews missed it or misunderstood it. But God had made it clear from the outset;
God Chooses to be With People:
Exodus 6:6-8 (NIV) Moses was to tell the Israelites: (Relationship).
6 “Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment.
7 I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians.
8 And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the LORD.’ “
(NOTE: Can you see that this is exactly what God did when He sent His Son Jesus Christ to SAVE mankind? He rescued us from the cruel bondage to sin, satan and the world; set us free and gave us new life in the promised land; the Kingdom of God)
Jeremiah 30:22 (NIV) ” ‘So you will be my people, and I will be your God.’ “
Jeremiah 31:32-34 (NIV) The Promise of the NEW Covenant (Agreement).
32 It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD.
33 “This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.
34 No longer will a man teach his neighbour, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
Leviticus 26:11-13 (NIV)
11 I will put my dwelling-place among you, and I will not abhor you.
12 I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people.
13 I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt so that you would no longer be slaves to the Egyptians; I broke the bars of your yoke and enabled you to walk with heads held high.
2 Corinthians 6:16 (NIV)
16 What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”
Revelation 21:3-5 (NIV)
3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.
4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
God Makes It Possible for RELATIONSHIP: Between those He chooses and those who respond to His invitation.
In Jesus teaching here in Mark’s Gospel: Mark 2:21 “No-one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. 22 And no-one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, he pours new wine into new wineskins.” Jesus is NOT giving us a NEW religion, He’s revealing that trying to maintain the OLD religion will NEVER work. It will be like pouring new wine into old wineskin, the wine and the skin will be ruined.
Have you ever had an old pair of jeans with a rip? Did you ever try and repair that rip with NEW denim? If you did, then you’ll know that when you wash it, the NEW denim will shrink and make the tear even worse. I did that myself in the 1970s. I learned the hard way that you need old denim to mend old jeans. No my friends, to repair old jeans you need old denim that’s been washed a few times, but is still OK. Then you’ll be able to wear you jeans until they wear out.
However: Christianity is NOT just sticking a patch of ‘religion’ on an old religion, it’s a totally different way of being right with God. Jesus didn’t come to give us another ‘religion’ but a relationship that lasts forever.
Christianity, the way of being right with God, is TOTALLY different from the Old World Religions: You can’t get right with God by following; rules, religious rules and regulations. There’s no way to pray to be right with God. There’s no way to do right, to get right with God. Because trying your best still leaves you the same inside. You can’t erase sin by doing more good. You cannot become pure by praying more. There is a way to be purified though, to be washed clean and be right with God forever. All you need to do, to get right with God today, is get into the RELATIONSHIP that He’s always wanted with mankind from the beginning of Creation: However, He waited until the time war right to send Jesus Christ, His One and Only Son into the world, to make the way possible.
- REPENT (turn from sin, trying to live without God, turn to God)
- Believe (Believe that Jesus Christ died upon the Cross to pay the price for your sins so that you can be forgiven, set free from sin, given new life and be filled with God the Holy Spirit),
- Receive: receive Jesus Christ as your LORD and Saviour, then Jesus will be your friends, God will be with you, God will walk with you, He will be your God and you will be one of His people.
- Relate: What do you do after Repenting, Believing and Receiving? Do you follow a religious code or rule of life? NO! It’s all about a continuing relationship, following the teachings of Jesus Christ in which He shows you how to live in such a way that God will continue to be pleased with you and you will be a PEACE. Things like; love your neighbour, enemy, wife, family, the stranger, the alien, the poor, the weak, the widow. Love your fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord, love the Lord… It’s all about a RELATIONSHIP of LOVE.
Jesus teaches that once we’re in God’s Family; we’ll want to be holy, honest, righteous, good and true. He’ll change our heart’s desires so that we will not want to sin anymore. He does this or it is accomplished by the indwelling presence of God the Holy Spirit. Therefore, He tells us to be filled afresh with Holy Spirit.
Repent; Believe; Receive; Walk; Live; Relate….
Note: None of that is anything to do with a ‘religion’. It’s relationship from beginning to end.
NOTE: It’s ONLY through Jesus Christ that we can have or enter into this relationship with God. He paid the price, we receive the benefits.
So: When you next hear someone saying, “To be a good Christian you must; wear these clothes, practice this form of religion, fast regularly, pray this way, do it like this,,,” You’ll KNOW they are trying to ADD ‘religion’ onto the FREEDOM that Jesus came and won for you on the Cross to bring you into a relationship with God as Father that lasts forever.
It’s no wonder my friends, that Jesus taught those ‘religious’ Pharisees so clearly; you can’t sew a new patch on old cloth, you can’t pour new wine into old wineskins… the tear will get worse, the skin will burst… both the skin and the new wine will be ruined. Jesus way was NOT just a patch on the old way, it was NOT new ‘religion’ into the old religious system.
If you try to be religious after getting saved and set free by Jesus Christ, it’s like pouring your new wine of God’s Kingdom into the old wineskins of religiosity. Don’t be tempted to do it.
Yes: A believer in Jesus will; pray, read God’s Word daily, fast occasionally and live righteously in the world, but He’ll be doing it to be closer to God. A believer will do it because He loves God and wants to serve and give his life for God. He’ll not be doing it to try to earn a place or the favour of God. God LOVES you once you are His child. He’ll be your God, you will be one of His people, He’ll be with you forever. No amount of religious practice will ever add anything to your relationship with God.
1 Peter 2:6-12 (NIV)
6 For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”
7 Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone,” 8 and, “A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for.
9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
11 Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.
12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
My friends, Jesus came, not to pour the new wine of the Kingdom of God into the old winskins of ‘religious’ practice, but to give us a NEW WAY of being right with God. You, if you’ve responded to the Gospel, are God’s Chosen People. You are holy because Christ has washed you clean from your sins when you accepted His sacrifice of Himself upon the Cross, not because of religious practice or observance. You are Royal: Because you are a member of the King’s family now. LIVE then as God’s royal, holy, redeemed people. In the freedom from religion that Christ came and died to win, it’s a freedom that will outlast this Earth. Live, walk and love in RELATIONSHIP with Jesus Christ and His holy and redeemed family.
I’ll say it again; My friends, at the START of 2016: I believe God wants us to KNOW afresh today, that Christianity, being a Christian: Is NOT about Religion or a Set of Rules and Regulations, but it’s all about your RELATIONSHIP with God through the LORD Jesus Christ, it lasts forever with God as your Father.
Question: Do you want the New Wine of Jesus Kingdom within you? Do you want Him to forgive you and change you on the inside? Do you want His love to fill you to overflowing, so that you’ll long to follow His ways? Or do you still desire a religion that is HARD like the old wineskin of Judaism, Islam, Hinduism etc, etc? You cannot have both!
Jesus did not come to give us a new religion, it’s not even a patch that you can stick over an old religion, but a relationship with God the Father that will last for all eternity from the moment you make Jesus Christ your Lord and Saviour.
Have an Awesome Sunday with Jesus your LORD. Amen!