A couple of months ago, if you are in Christian circles, chances are you would have seen a video called “Why I hate religion, but love Jesus.” The whole deal was that Christ is not about religiosity.
And that is 100% true. If you look at the seven woes where Jesus condemns the Pharisees, it’s clear. Jesus is always slipping in snide comments; “It is not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick,” “let he who is without sin cast the first stone,” don’t draw attention to your prayer and fasting, and so on.
Colossians 2 deals with “ascetic practices” – why are the saints at Colossae getting fooled into following festivals and rituals? The record of debt from the law has been cancelled; these other things have an appearance of wisdom, but it is simply not about appearance.
In Romans, Paul goes to town describing the law; we are not under the law, we are saved in Christ, because nobody is righteous, and we need to front up to that. Galatians sees Paul effectively forbidding the church from circumcision; it was distracting the church (which already had enough problems) by creating rifts between Jew and Gentile; the religiosity imported from the Old Testament is not for people living after Christ. The writer of Hebrews is sharing Paul’s brainspace; he really hits home that Jewish practices and the law aren’t doing them any good; Christ is superior to the angels, and this new covenant is better than the old, because it completes the story that the Old Testament was hinting at.
So what about the Old Testament. It’s easy to think that the whole Old Testament was about religiosity. There certainly were a lot of rules and observances. But we have the same thing coming up over and over again.
Saul disobeys God in trying to be overly religious, and God does not pass over it. It’s not “oh Saul, you meant well, so I’ll turn a blind eye.” Saul is punished for treating religiosity as more important than God’s express command. It’s not just the rogue ruler who goes bad though; Isaiah speaks of “true fasting” – the idea that people are pretenders to piety by fasting and acting religiously, but not freeing the oppressed and feeding the poor. There are a bunch of times where the Israelites rely upon their actions and religiosity, particularly with the sacrificial system. But this seems to come to the fore in Malachi – God (as he has done before) says that the sacrifices aren’t pleasing him. Wait, what? The Israelites are pretty stuck at this point; doesn’t this pay off our debt? You mean we can’t buy our way back with animal blood?
The sacrifices were meant to pay for the sin; to make atonement. Now there are a whole bunch of reasons why that just didn’t work. How can an animal pay for human sin? In the arrival of Christ, we see what is being hinted at; religiosity never worked, these things were hinting that faith in God to forgive would save us, and the actual sin is paid through the cross. Praise God!
Here’s what I’m getting at. Tonight as I was reading my bible, I went over Psalm 50. Have a read over it.
It basically sums up how God is not pleased with sacrifices, and how the sacrifices themselves do not have any worth to him.
I read it something like this;
“C’mon guys, think! Did you think that I need you to give me cows to eat or I’ll starve? That somehow you were paying back the debt? That somehow you were making it up to me, by killing the animals that are mine in the first place? I own those things. I want to keep you involved with me here; remember how I’m gonna be with you, and be your God? And how that’s gonna turn out sweet for you?
So just remember that, and stop insulting and rejecting me. If you disown me with your mouth and your life, then no amount of my animals and little religious things can pay it off. So wake up!
It’s about being thankful! Get your priorities sorted, and we’re still on.”
It just struck me as really ironic; when we go into legalism and religiosity, we are trying to pay back God with things that he already owns. That just doesn’t work. We simply cannot pay back our debt; it’s too big, and everything we have is not enough. Only Christ could pay it back.
God Bless you guys, and praise be to God.