Guest writer: Sharon Jaynes
Don’t Give Me that Old Time Religion
What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things…I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his suffering, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead (Philippians 3:8-11 NIV).
Friend to Friend
If ever there was a group of men who knew the Scriptures, it was the Pharisees and Sadducees of Jesus’ day. And yet, time and time again Jesus called them out on their hard hearts. They knew the Scriptures, but they did not know the Scripture Writer.
These men had no passion for the God they served. They served out of duty rather than desire, and unfortunately, they passed on their obligatory rule following religion on to the men and women they were supposedly leading to God. Their head knowledge clouded their heart condition. They saw themselves as the best, when in reality, they were to be pitied most of all.
The Pharisees’ and Sadducees’ cold-hearted efforts to create rule-following clones left soul-hungry people in their wake. Rule-following religion always does. If it could have solved the sin-sickness caused by Eden, then God would have given the Law and left it at that. He didn’t.
The Old Testament Law included 613 rules and regulations added to the Ten Commandments. I don’t know how the people were expected to remember them, much less keep them. But Jesus challenged the Pharisees’ pious traditions and condemned them for not practicing what they preached.
He called them out for making a big show to be noticed by men, for elevating themselves with titles, and for overlooking their hardness of heart. They were the most religious men of their day, and yet, they were void of any relationship with God. Their hearts were far from Him.
Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, ‘Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!
Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition...Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men’” (Matthew 15:1-3, 6-9).
Paul, on the other hand, a Pharisee lawman-turned-Christ-following grace-man, longed to know God intimately. He was willing to give up everything to experience the divine romance and sacred union. He wrote: “What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things…I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his suffering, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:8-11, emphasis mine).
Saul, the Pharisee who had been perfectly content knowing the facts about God, became Paul the Christian who was willing to give up everything to know the heart of God. He wanted to know Jesus personally and experientially. And while God longs to have a relationship with His children, He waits to be wanted.
Lord, today I am praying the words of Paul to the Ephesians. I pray that I will be rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ for me, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that I may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
In Jesus’ name,