Reversal of Religion
Jesus takes the normal concepts of religion and shockingly turns them upside down.
Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
We are continuing in our Great Reversals series this morning.
You know, God has done a lot of reversals in my life since I became a Christian at 18.
For one, I hated religious people growing up.
People who talked about God all the time. Jesus this and Jesus that.
“And look, I’m wearing my new Jesus shirt today.”
“And I wrote I love Jesus on my notebook.”
They just, I don't know, just bothered me I guess.
Now, God has obviously reversed a lot of that in my life.
And I think now, looking back on that, a good portion of that was my own insecurity about my own fate.
They had something I didn’t, and it bothered me. It made me uncomfortable because I KNEW I didn’t have it.
But yet, there were people who bothered me even more than just normal religious people.
Overly religious people. And I don’t mean “overly” in that they were super dedicated, but in that they were dedicated to just religion, but they didn’t actually back it up with their lives.
Cuz, we can spot hypocrites from even an early age.
Seriously, little kids even can pick out when their parents operate like this:
“Mom, I thought you said we weren’t supposed to steal? Than why are you taking 20 ketchup packets home with you from the restaurant?”
Or, teenagers can spot a hypocrite a mile a way.
Great example of this: Teaching a 15 year old how to drive. Right?
Parents get in the passenger seat and the explain everything about driving to their kids while their kid awkwardly drives the car all over the road.
Then, what happens later when the parent is driving again?
All of a sudden it’s like driving with Simon Cowell in the passenger seat.
Mom…you didn’t stop all the way.
You know you’re speeding right now, right?
They didn’t care for the last 15 years, but all of a sudden, they’ve got an opinion.
When we know the truth, we can spot people who don’t really stick to it.
And so can Jesus.
And I want to cover a tough passage on that this morning. A passage about people who maybe say or do religious things, but don’t really mean it. They don’t really follow-up with their lives.
And I want to look at 3 areas specifically: People who feel they are “religious” because of activity, because of their proximity, or because of their heredity.
Let’s start w/ our Great Reversal passage for today.
Mentioned last time that there are 3 teachings in the Bible where Jesus ends w/ his Great Reversal Catchphrase, “The Last will be first, and the first will be last”
And this is the second one. And it’s an intense one. Just a warning. But we’re willing to cover those things. Turn to the book of Luke
(Luke 13:22-30) – NIV
22 Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. 23 Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?” He said to them, 24 “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. 25 Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’ “But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’ 26 “Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ 27 “But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’ 28 “There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. 29 People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. 30 Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.”
Okay. Tough passage from Jesus. Let’s unpack this a little bit. He’s primarily speaking to his Jewish audience.
A lot of the Jews just assumed that they were Jewish…they were God’s chosen people so, they were…good to go.
Others assumed, well, I’ve done a few religious things here and there…heard some teaching here and there…so when it comes to judgment, I’m good to go.
Jesus says, “not so.”
Ok. Well, why not?
The logic behind it often gets reversed.
Spiritual activities. Or “religious” activities as people used to call them… things like going to church…reading the Bible…etc, are important. They’re great. But they’re not the ticket in.
We aren’t in by association.
But the people thought this way. “Well, Jesus, we heard you speak. We listened to you teach. We even went to some of the dinners you had!”
Doesn’t matter. Doesn’t matter.
This is a reversal of religion. Jesus is taking the concept of religion: “That you do a bunch of good things and build your good deeds up to God, and he’s sweeping away the ladder right from under people.”
It’s reversed. It’s NOT about association. It’s ABOUT what did you do with the fact that He died for you? Did you accept that?
See, we’re not Christian just by activities and association.
It reminds me of when I was in high school. We, like any school, had a national honor society. Which, everyone joined so their college application would look a little better.
But being in the national honor society, and even doing their activities didn’t make you an honorable person. Just because you did their activities.
At that time in my life, I could have cared less about the activities. I just wanted a better application.
But, in Christianity, we sometimes feel like we better shore up our resume…shore up our application for judgment day.
And we don’t take it too seriously. We’re wiling to do the minimum.
Just like when I was in high school. We had to do 2 NHS events a year. So how many did I do? 2.
I only cared about my application.
And some people only care about their application to heaven.
I better get to church once in a while. Better go on Easter. Better show up a few times this summer. Gotta have some sort of formal connection to God in case he wants to investigate me and read my application.
And a lot of people drift through life like this.
Some people even attend church more regularly, yet when you ask them, and I’ve met plenty of people like this, when you ask them anything about God, they don’t really know anything.
Cuz it’s NOT really about God to them. It’s about the application.
Or better yet, if you ask them to talk to you about God, they are speechless. They don’t want to TALK about it with you. That’s uncomfortable. After all, their faith is personal.
But, that’s a perfect example of someone who’s just trying to fill out an application for heaven. And not someone who actually knows Jesus.
And Jesus just said in our passage. He’s not interested in your application. Where you’ve been, what you’ve heard. He’s interested in your heart. What you did w/ the cross?
And maybe I’m making you uncomfortable right now. And that’s okay. I’m okay with that. Your eternal destiny is worth me making you uncomfortable.
See, because real faith. A real faith in Christ is something that isn’t just personal to us. It’s something that we would WANT to talk about.
I have a few friends who attend church quite often, but they would NEVER, EVER talk with me about God. That’s just too awkward.
And that for me is A litmus test. I know it’s not really real for them. There’s no relationship. And here’s why.
When people ask me… “So, David, tell me about your wife. I haven’t met her yet. What’s she like?”
I don’t say: “That’s personal.” No, I have a relationship w/ her, SO I have tons to say.
Or, when people ask you to start talking about your kids, you don’t say, “That’s personal.”
If you’re ever in an uncomfortable moment of silence w/ someone just ask them about their kids, that’ll get them going for at least a half an hour.
And if someone really has a RELATIONSHIP with Jesus…not just they heard him teach or ate a meal at the same place as Him….
If someone really has a relationship with Jesus…not just they go to church and had communion quite often…they will want to talk about Jesus with you.
For he SAVED THEIR LIFE on the cross.
Seriously, what if someone saved your life for real? Say they pulled you out of the lake while you were drowning?
And someone asked you, “Tell me about the person who saved your life?”
That’s a sign of religious activity. Religious application building. Not a relationship with Christ.
Sometimes Christians throw out the phrase: “Christianity isn’t a religion, it’s a relationship.”
It’s kind of corny, but you know what, it’s true.
Religion is merely the practice of building up enough good deeds to get to heaven, but Christianity has almost nothing to do with that.
Christianity is NOT ABOUT HOW GOOD you are. It’s not.
(Romans 9:30-32) – NLT
30 What does all this mean? Even though the Gentiles were not trying to follow God’s standards, they were made right with God. And it was by faith that this took place. 31 But the people of Israel, who tried so hard to get right with God by keeping the law, never succeeded. 32 Why not? Because they were trying to get right with God by keeping the law instead of by trusting in him. They stumbled over the great rock in their path.
Paul is saying that being a Christian, being saved, entering Heaven with Jesus has NOTHING to do with following the law, the 10 commandments.
It’s not about an application. It’s not a thorough review of all your lists, good deeds, and associations.
It’s a yes or no question: Did this person accept the gift of forgiveness offered by my son on the cross?
Yes or no.
Which, by the way, for those of you that already have a relationship with Jesus
We often get this at the beginning of our walk with God, and then we regress back into trying to earn his favor by mounting up a list of religious deeds.
So as you listen today, I want you to think, “Am I falling back into this “religion thing???”
I want to tell you something else: GOD IS ALREADY FULLY IN LOVE WITH YOU.
The sin in your life didn’t take him surprise.
He already knew you would do it when he sent His son for you.
You can’t do anything to lessen his love.
So, stop trying to EARN it back and accept it back.
(Galatians 3:2-4) – NLT
2 Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by obeying the law of Moses? Of course not! You received the Spirit because you believed the message you heard about Christ. 3 How foolish can you be? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort? 4 Have you experienced so much for nothing? Surely it was not in vain, was it?
We sometimes try and earn God’s favor by religious activity, but other people think they have it by religious proximity as well.
Again, that’s what the people told Jesus. They were like, “Listen, Jesus, let us in. You taught in OUR streets for goodness sakes. You had meals at our houses. In our neighborhood. You were like our hometown guy! Let us in! Remember me…it’s Vinny from down the block???
See, but it’s not enough to have a cultural association either.
And this is where I feel we really get caught. This is the great lie of American Christianity. You live in America…so you are….Christian.
But just cuz you’re hanging around the neighborhood, doesn’t mean that you KNOW Him
And just because you’re in an environment with a lot of Christians…whether a church or a country…doesn’t mean you know Christ.
It reminds me of a celebrity. Seriously, you can do this with any celebrity who was from a smaller or medium sized town.
Go to that person’s hometown, and start asking people about him or her.
I tried to think of a celebrity while writing this, and the 1st person who came to mind was Chuck Norris.
I looked it up, Chuck Norris grew up in Ryan, Oklahoma population 831.
I guarantee you that if you went to Ryan, OK, every single person there would tell you how they know Chuck Norris, and how they used to be best buddies.
But do they really KNOW Him? They might have seen him at the grocery store some, or seen him at school. They might have the Walker Texas Ranger Theme song memorized. But do they KNOW him? Do they know what he’s like? Do they have a relationship? Prob not.
But people try and do the same thing with Jesus. They just try and get AROUND Him.
And people were doing it ALL the time in Jesus’ day. THOUSANDS of people would come to hear him speak.
Do you know how many believers gathered in Jerusalem right after he was crucified and resurrected? 120.
Just because you’re around Him, doesn’t mean you know Him.
And this is true for those of you that are checking out God and for those of you who have already even started a relationship w/ Him
It’s not just about proximity.
Just because you’re in a garage, doesn’t make you a car.
And just because you’re in a church, doesn’t make you a Christian.
But “religion,” old school religion says that’s fine.
In the old way, Not only can you build your religious application with activities, you can add associations.
But Jesus is reversing religion.
The first will be last. The last will be first.
It doesn’t work like that anymore.
The people w/ some of the best “resumes” are going to be last. Because they never got to know the one they were trying to impress w/ their resume.
They spent all their time just working on the resume.
Outward contact with Jesus…hearing him teaching…means nothing. He doesn’t want outward contact. He wants inward change.
He came and died on a cross for us. To take our place.
Not so we could build a resume or application…
If it’s just about us building some resume, I ask you what’s the point of him dying???
He died so we could be forgiven and have a relationship w/ him.
I want to cover a third mistake w/ you if I can about how people wrongly think religion will be enough.
Let’s look back to our Great Reversal passage.
We’ve already seen that the people think they’re fine because they’ve done some activities w/ Jesus, and were close to Him, but there’s one more reason they think they’re fine, but Jesus says they are going to be shocked to find out otherwise.
(Luke 13:28-29) – NIV
28 “There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. 29 People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.
See, the Jews thought they were fine, well, because, they were Jews. And Jesus is saying, Yes, you will see some of your ancestors there, but there are also going to be people from EVERY nation there!
It’s not just about you being a Jew. That’s not what it’s about.
See, not only did the people think they were fine because of their religious activity and proximity, they thought they were fine because of religious heredity as well.
It’s a great reversal because the Jews always assumed they were first. They were God’s chosen people. Good to go. First in line. And now, many of them will be last. They missed the messiah. Even some of them who heard him speak.
And when Jesus is talking about “last,” about weeping & gnashing of teeth…he’s talking about hell…so this is serious.
(Romans 9:6-8) – NLT
6 Well then, has God failed to fulfill his promise to Israel? No, for not all who are born into the nation of Israel are truly members of God’s people! 7 Being descendants of Abraham doesn’t make them truly Abraham’s children. For the Scriptures say, “Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted,” though Abraham had other children, too. 8 This means that Abraham’s physical descendants are not necessarily children of God. Only the children of the promise are considered to be Abraham’s children.
This is what that means: In the OT, God promised Abraham that he would have a son (who would be Isaac) in his old age…
And then we read that God counted Abraham, righteous, saved, because He believed God.
Not because of something He did. But because He believed.
Or, Paul explains elsewhere:
(Galatians 3:6-7) – NLT
6 In the same way, “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” 7 The real children of Abraham, then, are those who put their faith in God.
So, Paul is pulling these two things together. It’s not about being Jewish in your blood, it’s about being a child of Abraham in your faith.
God’s true people are those who believe, not those who can trace a blood line.
And you might be thinking, uh good, fascinating to know, but I’m not Jewish…so I don’t get it.
Even though few of us are Jewish, people are still doing this today.
My parents are religious. I grew up going to church. I don’t much anymore. But I grew up that way…so…I’m Christian.
That’s the same thing. It’s the exact same thing. People are trying to trace their way to God through their ancestry…through their culture.
But that’s not how we are God’s children. We are God’s children, like Abraham, if we believe in God’s promise.
And God promised Abraham he would send him a son.
Then God sent his own Son for you. & the question is: Do you believe in that?
Because Jesus says in our passage today…
(Luke 13:24-25) - NIV
24 “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. 25 Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’ “But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’
But what is the door???? JESUS IS THE DOOR
(John 10:7-9) – NLT
so he explained it to them: “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who came before me were thieves and robbers. But the true sheep did not listen to them. 9Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures.
And this is what life is about. Entering through the Gate that is Jesus Christ.
Accepting what He did.
But many people spend their lives scurrying about doing all sorts of things. Often even “religious things”
They’re building the resume. Racking up activities. Racking up associations.
All the while running around, but never actually entering through the door.
So I want to ask you the most important question of your life: Have you entered through the door?
It’s a yes or no question.
Don’t be satisfied with a “close enough” approach. Are you saved or aren’t you?
And churches are often full of people who don’t know how to answer that question: That question of yes or no.
They’ve got a lot of people who’ve done a decent amount of spiritual things, they’ve been doing church stuff for a while.
And maybe that’s even you. You’ve been around HERE for a little while
You like God. You’re interested. Maybe you’ve done some church stuff. Maybe you’ve even done house groups and more.
And that’s great.
But what have you done with Jesus?
A bunch of idiots said the world was going to end yesterday. & it didn’t. Obviously. But listen, the Bible does say that some day it will. And even if it doesn’t happen in your lifetime, your life will still someday end.
So what are you going to do w/ Jesus?
Have you walked through the door?
And the door is OPEN to everyone. No matter what you’ve done. But the path is marked out. There is one door. But it’s open. It’s wide open. Jesus paved the path for you to walk through it. He built the bridge to it.
2,000 years ago Jesus died on a cross.
And he died because we weren’t good enough on our own. In fact, we deserved punishment because God is just. He demands justice.
But he’s also SO loving and So merciful.
So He sent his Son Jesus to die in our place.
And if we would believe in that, if we would ask for forgiveness, and believe in that, and put our trust in Him, and agree to follow Him…
That…that…is walking through the door.
And into the great banquet with Him.
That’s not being around Him, or trying to impress Him or learn about Him. It’s having a relationship with Him.
Do you have a relationship with Him? Have you walked through the door?
Because listen, the door is shut at death. Just like Jesus said.
When you die, there are no second chances.
It’s your choice now. Here on earth.
Because Jesus made a choice for you on earth.
He was so in love with YOU, that he decided…because He didn’t have to…but He decided to die…a horrible death…for you.
And now the choice is…will you decide to believe and LIVE for Him?
And I want to give you the opportunity to do that today.
The Bible says that
(Romans 10:9) – NIV
9 That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
If you feel like God’s tugging on your heart this morning to give your life to Him…to believe in what Jesus did on the cross.
And Not just to impress Him with a few good deeds…but to surrender…
And if you feel like He’s moving in your heart to do that, then let’s do that. This is the best decision you can ever make. Seriously. Trust me. The best decision you can ever make.
And if you want to give your life to Him this morning by asking for forgiveness and believing in what he did on the cross, let’s do that.
Here’s what we’re gonna do:
I’m going to give you a minute to think about it. God is big. So big that I know that if it’s something you need to do…He’ll put it on your heart.
And then after that, I’m going to ask you to stand up and pray with me if you want to give your life to him. To believe on Him.
So let’s just spend a minute in silent prayer, and then I’ll ask you to stand if you want to make a decision for Him today…the best decision you can ever make.
All right, let’s take a minute to each talk to Him.
Ok. Everyone can keep their eyes closed.
If you want to give your life to Him today and believe on Jesus, I want you to stand up where you are.
Stand up if u want to let Him in…to be forgiven…to follow Him.
Ok, amazing. Praise God.
Now, I want you to pray with me.
This isn’t a magic prayer. But just a prayer for you to tell God what’s on your heart. This is what Romans 9 said…believe in your heart and CONFESS W/ YOUR MOUTH
If you’re standing, would you pray this out loud after me:
I confess to you, that I have sinned against you.
And that I have fallen short
But God, I believe, that you sent your Son Jesus, to take my place
And God, I thank you, for forgiving my sins.
And now I commit, to following you, with my life.
Thank you God. Amen.
Amen, you can have a seat.
I just want to pray and praise God…… Let’s pray.
If you gave your life to Christ today, at the end of the service, I need you to come up here to your front right, and we’re going to give you just a few materials to help you get started in your relationship with Christ.
Won’t take you long at all, but it’s important that you have direction in where to go next. Thanks.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
You may use this material all you like! We only ask that you do not charge a fee and that you quote the source and not say it is your own.