Picture 1“I was cut deep to the heart as I read back over Mark 7 this morning. I was convicted of areas in my life that are still consumed by a religious, proud, and self-righteous spirit…”

In my “younger” days I used to describe my love, and devotion to God using the word “religious”. I’d say things like, “Oh, yes, I am VERY religious”, with a stern look on my face as if to make sure people knew how serious I was about this particular aspect of my life. I would also find myself pleased when I would get the opportunity to answer, “yes” to someone when asked, “Wow, you’re a pretty religious guy, huh?” Even as I type this I cringe at the thought that I actually used to be “proud” of the fact that I was religious. (Those two words are perfect partners)

These days I do everything in my power to tear down that false, or should I say OPPOSITE perception of what it means to be a passionate follower of Jesus. You see, Jesus DETESTED the religious; dare I say HE detests (present tense) a religious spirit? I get asked weekly about my “Religious Tattoos”. I used to hate it, but now I love every opportunity that I get to share about my love for Christ, and His lack of desire for me to be a religious person. I get to share about the freedom I have in Him, and the mission I get to be on FOR HIM that is birthed from my RESPONSE TO HIM for what He’s done for me. They hopefully walked away with a more clear understanding of the person of Jesus, and how HE ALSO seemed to have some “beef” with the religious people of His time.

I was cut deep to the heart as I read back over Mark 7 this morning. I was convicted of areas in my life that are still consumed by a religious, proud, and self-righteous spirit. It also caused me to think of the many ways I “just don’t get it” because religious tradition gets in my way. I am going to post some selected verses from chapter 7 of Mark that have been especially revealing, or got me thinking this morning. I would encourage you to read the entire chapter.

“…They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men. You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men…” (7:7-8)

“…And he said to them: ‘You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions…!'” (7:9)

“…Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that…” (7:13)

My hope here is that we may allow the words of Jesus to cut us deep as we think about the things we do out of man made tradition, which may hinder or slow the spread of the Gospel. For most of us these religious traditions or not done out of self-righteous pride, but rather out of a Gospel deficiency that we suffer from in some area of our lives. If you are offended by any of this then the scriptures may be attempting to burn away a religious spirit somewhere deep in your soul. (This scripture offends me often, and the religiosity that exists in my life shrinks little by little-praise Christ.)

What man-made religious practices come to your mind when you read this scripture?

What are some “modern day equivalents” of the Pharisees questioning Jesus and His disciples for not washing their hands before they ate?

How do our religious traditions (That may not necessarily be BAD) dangerously affect some of the core sacred practices of our faith? (Communion, Baptism, etc.)


11 thoughts on “Religious.

  1. I agree with you. But I do want to say this: it’s all about the heart. Sometimes I hear people tag the term “religious” on any Catholic person. And I don’t think this is right. Because some Catholic people are actually doing these traditions with a good heart. They LOVE to worship God through these traditions. It’s about God to them and not religion. (Of course I’m referring to the Catholics that don’t have skewed views on what the Gospel is)

    So I’m guessing that when you say the word “religious,” you’re referring to someone who JUST goes through the motions without any heart. Because I’m sure we can both agree, some of those traditions are not bad in themselves. But once people put them in front of God and not use them FOR God, then that’s when it gets bad.

    Like communion for example: completely set up by Jesus. But if people do it just because they feel obligated, then they’re being religious and Jesus doesn’t want that.

    • I do somewhat agree with you Jon. However, I think a lot of us do “religious” things thinking that they are “for God” or are “pleasing to God” when they may not be. (The Pharisees were doing TONS of stuff “for God” thinking it pleased Him) That, I think would describe a religious person to me: someone who seeks to earn God’s favor through good deeds, works, or religious duties. (Not just someone who is “going through the motions”.
      Also, a lot of things we do that are really great and biblical have been skewed. They are good things, but we’ve hi-jacked them and made them less than what they should/could be. Take communion for example: we’ve reduced it to something MUCH less than it is. Is it WRONG, or BAD the way we do it in the church? Well…in and of itself, no i don’t think so. However, is it what it COULD be if we stopped being so darn religious about it? For example, why do we not take communion as families in our homes around the table at meal time? Why is it only is some weekly worship service, or every quarter? You see what I mean?
      Or, take Baptism: we’ve become so religious about it that only a certain select group of people are even ALLOWED to do it. It can only be done in certain places, on a certain day, and at a certain time. Oh ya, it must be scheduled as well.
      I could go on and on about have we’ve taken beautiful things and allowed them to become religious acts. I have to wonder if we’ve completely lost the point….and if it doesn’t make God very sad….

  2. I am going to pick on myself because I need to admit this more than anyone else. I think sometimes we take Bible Study as a “religious” activity because churches don’t want their flock to chew on bad theology. I have no problem with grammatical historical hermeneutics and inductive bible study. but when was the last time you heard anyone talking about looking up what the Bible says about a certain topic? and when do we admit to ourselves that even though bible study methods are good, but ultimately it is the Holy Spirit that is our teacher?

    John 5:39 ESV You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me,

  3. In my opinion, religion is forceful – we’ve all heard people say that they don’t like religion forced on them, or “shoved down their throat.”

    What I have with Christ is a love relationship, and although it isn’t always as deep on my part as it is on His, it is based on His love for me – which enables me to have love for Him, love for myself and love for others. God is a gentleman and will never force himself on anyone, He opens his arms and waits for people to open their hearts to them.

    Religion says, “You’re going straight to Hell if you don’t turn from your ways.” And while that’s the truth, the love of Christ says, “You don’t have to live this way – I am the way, the truth and the light. Let me feed you, let me quinch your thirst and let me provide for you – with me you’ll never be hungry again. I died for you, I offer you forgiveness, you don’t have to do this on your own.” And yes, this is spiritual.

    I try not to laugh when someone blatantly condemns another to Hell with the “you’re going straight to Hell if you don’t turn from your ways,” but then follows it up with and enthusiastic, “Oh, and, Jesus loves you!”

    The message that is being sent out needs to turn from condemnation to love. I mean, look straight into Romans…
    Romans 8:1
    There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

    THERE IS NO CONDEMNATION IN CHRIST JESUS – it states it right there in the Bible, plain as day. Look in John…
    John 3:16-21
    16For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

    17For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

    18He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

    19And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

    20For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.

    21But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.

    When we walk in a spirit of religion, not only do we hinder our walk with God, we send the wrong message out to the lost and dying world whom Jesus came to save, not to condemn.

  4. I remember the last message I preached for a youth thing was called, “It’s okay to have a little junk in the trunk.”

    The funny thing, well it was really a God thing that was funny, is that there were hardly any youth there – which was unusual – it was mainly the adults.

    The message was “come as you are and God will change you.”

    God really does love everyone. The tattooed (or some of us would be in trouble there), the sinners, those who are saved…God’s love is agape, it has no limits, no bars, no restraints.

    It is time that we stop sending out the wrong message to the lost.

    The thing that shocked most people is that I had kids come up and I pulled things out for them to wear. I had boys and girls in skirts and dresses.

    That part of the message was truly heartbereaking for me. We try to tell people that you must live up to this standard and do this and that and fit into a certain mold to be a Christian.

    I told the kids to take the clothes off. And one by one, I went down the line, took each dress and skirt and said, “God takes the things that the world gives you and the things that the church gives you…” then I hugged each one of them and said, “and he wraps his arms around you and says YOU ARE QUALIFIED!”

    Its not about what we do, good deads are great, but won’t get us into Heaven. Its about who GOD is and His undying love for us that qualifies us to be a Christian, that qualifies us to partake in his kindgom, to become part of His family.

    I am so sick of churches pushing people away because they look a certain way, or they may cuss, or they struggle with anger, or are not virgins, or whatever the excuse may be. We are not the ones who died on the cross, but it seems like sometimes we take credit for the things God does. And that religious spirit causes such a hinderance and is so destructive, yet most people look straight past it.

    They ask why their church numbers are down, they ask why they haven’t seen anyone saved in a while…

    And the answer stares them straight in the face.

    It’s not about numbers, its not about how many songs you sing, its not about how famous your preacher is – its about the love of God.

    When we look past this terrible shield that the devil has placed right in front of us (the spirit of religion) then we can see the work of God revealed not only in our churches, but in our families, in our friendships, in all relationships and most importantly in ourselves.

    I’m sorry this is so long, but it’s time for us – as the body of Christ – to open our eyes and really look at the message we are sending out.

  5. One thing that has been a topic of discussion for us lately, that relates to your post Aaron, is this religious concept of feeling like we have to be doing something “official” for the Kingdom, that we need to join or create some kind of tangible “ministry”, with a label on it… For those of us who grow up in religious circles, this gets ingrained pretty deeply.

    Instead of serving others simply because we’ve been remade by the Love of Christ, we get caught up thinking we need build a sort of “religious resume”, this invisible document in our heads that lists all of the things we’re accomplishing for God, and to always have our “Christians references available upon request”…

    And I think this is a much more subtle type of trap, because it’s not the kind of “religious practice” that has a name, or is even talked about, because it’s more of an unitended product of the broader consumeristic Christian culture… People get passionate about wanting to follow Jesus, to see His Kingdom expand, and then get sucked into thinking they need to rely on an impressive “Christian resume”, instead of keeping their testimony at the forefront. But in sharing our testimony, we remember that the most powerful moments in our life are not the things we try to do for God, but rather what He has already done for us…

    • So good guys. I feel like this is a root issue that has hindered the church in America from pushing forward. I got a text from my brother in law this morning. He’s in high school, and was having a conversation with a Christian girl in his class. She went off about how tattoos are sinful, and Christians shouldn’t have them. She quoted Lev. 19 (of course=) and my brother in law didn’t know how to respond. I mean, after all, she DID use scripture to back herself up right? So, here we have a generation of religious Christians who’ve been misled by their parent’s, etc. into a life of religion and duties rather than a life “remade by the love of Christ”. I’m encouraged though, to see young people rise up and start questioning the religious of their time. Holy Spirit come!

      • I cannot tell you how much I hate Christians saying that Christians shouldn’t have tattooes and quoting the Bible to back them up. Sure, my body is the temple of God, but don’t we decorate churches – which are also considered “temples of God.”

        My tattooes are from my hard times, but each time I see them, I remember WHERE God brought me from – straight up from the pits of Hell. This doesn’t mean that I can’t use them to glorify God.

        And that is another purpose in our lives – to bring glory to God.

        My parents are dead-set against tattooes and some of their ways of thinking just seem so far-fetched. I just can’t believe that some people are stuck in the old Testament when by his death, Christ created a new Testament and a new covenant with us – He paid the debt he did not owe and one that would cost more livestock than any of us own (since old testament was about animal sacrifice for forgiveness). Sure, our generation may be a little further “out there,” but we’re able to reach people that other “Christians” turn away from (due to tattooes, drinking, and other silly excuses).

        Our testimony – where we’ve been in life – is what helps us reach out to the lost. We can say, “look, I know where you are, believe it or not, I was there, too. I know the feeling of loneliness, the emptyness and the desire to be more, to do more, to see more. And I can tell you from experience that there is only one thing that will fill that void. Its not drugs, its not sex, its not alcohol, partying or friends, its Jesus Christ. Without him I would be incomplete, and I would be dead. I can’t turn back to life I used to know because of the Savior I know. He loves you no matter what you’ve done in your past and he wants to forgive you and bring light and life into your life.”

        Aaron, I have to be honest, this hypocritical, religious spirit is why I left a church and stepped down as Associate Pastor for the youth. I just got weary and tired of it – it is DESTRUCTIVE. I got accused of leading the youth astray by going into a bar to hear a CHRISTIAN band play, yet the people who were pointing the fingers and saying I was leading the youth astray, their kids were part of a Christian band who just played in a BAR.

        I am completely and utterly baffled, confused and appaled by this spirit of condemnation. The only way it will stop is if we stand up in Christ for the sake of the lost.

        We’ve made the mistake that we’re here to fellowship and join with others who are saved. Yeah, that’s all good and nice, but its time for a dose of reality – we’re here to do the work of God and that means to reach out to the lost and dying world. And if people are too condemning and opinionated about people’s pasts, the fact that people have tattooes or whatever they choose to see when they look at people then the church will become part of the lost and dying world.

        Quote scriptures ’till your face turns blue, but if you’re not living it, then you’re NOT it.

        Being a Christian isn’t about going to church to get your “weekly fix.” If you don’t make the time for Jesus, if you’re not living the life we’re called to live, then you’re not it.

        I’m not trying to condemn here, I know I stumble and fall and I need a little tweaking on being Christ-like at times. I’m sorry this is really long and I have like a bazillion things to say about this subject, but I am passionate about it.

        We can’t deny someone a chance at knowing Christ because we’re too busy condemning them.

        I love how the Message puts Matthew 7:1-5
        “1 -5 “Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor. “

  6. Thanks so much Aaron! This is really close to home for me personally and our community right now. I was reading 1 john this morning, “and this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. Whoever keeps his commandments abides in him, and he in them.” when reading about “commandments” in the NT i used to automatically think of our christian system of rights and wrongs, but this passage reinforces what Jesus taught about the greatest commandments: love God and love your neighbor as you love yourself; in short…Love. the end.

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