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Religion Gone Bad
Scripture: Luke 5:31-32; Galatians 1:6-9; Matthew 2...
Track 12 of 12 in the Soul Detox series
Running time: 1 hour, 06 minutes, 27 seconds.
Religion is Christ plus the right doctrine or theology. The Gospel is Christ plus nothing. Jesus is all we need and we are free to do whatever we want and how we want in order to fulfill our covenant promise to Christ.

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Mike Nobis Speaker: Mike Nobis
Sunday School Teacher, Former Elder at Madison Park Christian Church. Mike is President of JK Creative Printers & Mailing in Quincy, IL. He is married to Pam and has three children, Tom, Tyler and Jennifer. Mike has three grandchildren: Ryne, Ivy and Alicia.

View all sermons by this speaker.

Religion Gone Bad

One of the toughest things for Paul as he started out spreading the Gospel was getting across the idea of Freedom in Christ. On one side he had the Jews who believed in God so winning them over to Jesus was a matter of showing how prophecy promised the Messiah and Jesus fulfilling that promise. The Jews, because of the Law, had a built in propensity to be very legalistic. This was a real problem for the church and brought many headaches for Paul.

Then there were the gentiles. They came from a perspective that pretty much anything was acceptable. Once they were won to Christ their love and devotion to Jesus changed their perspective but the problem with legalism wasn’t a stumbling block. However, when the two groups were blended together, real wars within the church started to pop up and Paul had to spend a lot of time communicating to the church the freedom Jesus gave them. Today, you and I also have that same freedom but there are forces within the church that works very hard to stifle our freedom.

Have you ever met a person and somehow the topic of religion comes up and the first thing they tell you is “Well, I’m not religious and I can’t stand religious people”. What normally is your response? When someone asks about your religion, do you talk more about the church you attend or do you strictly stay on the subject of Jesus?

The problem is with Christians, we are more comfortable taking about our church than Jesus himself. We mistakenly think that people will be more impressed with our building, programs and staff than they would with the saving grace of God. The Jews loved God but they loved the letter of the law more. They were willing to compromise what God wanted in order to protect the process because within the process they found their security.

By nature are you a person who resists change or you a person who is open to change and likes things changed on a regular basis? Why? How do you handle change within your relationship with Jesus? Change within your church?

Here is the problem for many Christians, Jesus calls us to change. Change from thinking of ourselves as being important to Jesus being important and that there is a world out there that is dying and needs Jesus. Jesus didn't come for the self-proclaimed righteous people but for sinners.

Luke 5:31-32 (NIV)
Jesus answered them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."

The problem for Christians, all of this is not about us, but about Jesus and His desire that all be saved. Jesus set us free to do what we have to do to win as many as possible. But the church places barriers that prevent us from truly being free. Those barriers not only prevent us from being free but also keeps out those who need Jesus the most. Christianity is not intended to be one of the world’s major religions, but rather it is supposed to be a relationship with the one, true living God through his Son, Jesus.

Can someone give me the definition of what religion is? Religion is defined as any system, set of rules, expectations, or regulations that promises God’s acceptance in return for human effort.

This may sound right but it is so far from the truth found in scripture. Paul fought this concept of religion in almost every church he established. Jews on to Christ struggled with the idea of being set free, set free from a system of rules, expectations, and regulations. Religion is a toxic influence that stifles freedom. In fact, we can interchange the word religion with the word bondage. Teaching religion to the church was considered by Paul a false teaching.

Galatians 1:6-9 (NIV)
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel-- which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!

Paul uses a very strong word to explain the perversion some in the church were doing to the Gospel. The word he used meant to taint, distort, corrupt or poison the message of the Gospel. The message was simple; God set us free to fully fulfill our covenant relationship with Him. We are totally free to do two things:

1. To be like Jesus on all we do
2. To accept the ministry of reconciliation. To be Christ’s ambassador.

What are some of the regulations, expectations, rules a church will set up that prohibits freedom, hampers freedom? When a church stumbles into toxic religion, you will likely see two poisonous problems rise up:

1. Religion leads us to focus on the external rather than the internal. Religion requires a behavior oriented pathway to pleasing God. Outward expression rather than an inward transformation. Rules regulate religion.

Jesus hated this sort of religious practice. He hated the outward show. Religion is a faith in what looks good, what is appealing, what is comfortable for the group.

Matthew 23:23-28 (NIV)
"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices--mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law--justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee!
SLIDE 9: First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

What “Not Welcome” signs do we place above our doors in the church that prevents those outside from coming in and feeling welcome?

2. Religion leads to an inner pride, I am better than those sinners.

Luke 18:9-12 (NIV)
To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men--robbers, evildoers, adulterers--or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.'

I find it interesting that Jesus compared the Pharisee and the tax collector. Within the Jewish community, everyone knew a Pharisee was righteous because a Pharisee would tell you so and did things to show they were that way. Tax collectors were hated and in the mind of most righteous people, they were classified in with the evildoers of the day. But there was a problem, the religious (righteous) see the sins of others but are blind to their own filth and sinfulness. He couldn't see his own poisonous pride.

True or False: When you are convinced you are right about religion, anyone who tries to correct you is obviously wrong.

Consider the Christians you hang out with; what percentage has a faith in something totally different than you? On a scale from 1-10, are you a person a non-Christian is comfortable in approaching about issues concerning life? Why do you think so many non-Christians can’t stand Christians?

True or False: Jesus didn't come to make us religious, He came to bring us the Good News.

If true, what good news did he bring you? What good news do you bring to others by your action and your words? If you could not talk about God or even refer to the Bible, how would you do in leading others to Christ? How far are you willing to go, how far are you willing to bend in your faith to win others to Jesus? Are there things you wouldn't do?

True or False: Relationship eats religion for breakfast.

What do you think that means?

Luke 18:13-14 (NIV)
"But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.' "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

Jesus certainly stunned his listeners when he chose the sinner over the righteous person. Jesus took his robe of righteousness and covered the tax collector’s sin. Toxic religion tries to add extra buttons, patches, and badges to the perfect robe of Christ. Toxic religion tries to make God’s robe look better rather than just cover the sins of a fellow brother.

Religion is Christ plus the right doctrine or theology. The Gospel is Christ plus nothing. Jesus is all we need and we are free to do whatever we want and how we want to fulfill our covenant promise in Christ.