“Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. As He walked along, He saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth.’Follow me,’ Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.
While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and ‘sinners’ were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed Him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the ‘sinners’ and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: ‘Why does He eat with tax collectors and “sinners”?’
On hearing this, Jesus said to them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’
One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grain fields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, ‘Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?’
He answered, ‘Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.’
Then he said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So, the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.’” – Mark 2:13-17; 23-28
In Matthew 10:34 Jesus says, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword!” Now, why did Jesus make this radical statement? First of all, because it’s the truth. All you have to do is start talking about Jesus and you will see division. But more to the point, Jesus said this not because He didn’t want to bring peace, but He knew that His coming would bring division, strife and even war. Jesus knew that His coming would stir up the anger of God’s enemies. He also knew that His preaching and message would lead to one place, the cross.
Whenever someone comes up to me and says, “Russ, I know you are a very religious man!” I usually correct them. I know what they are trying to say. They are trying to pay me a compliment in their own way. But what they don’t realize is they are saying the worse thing they could ever say about me because the last thing I am is a religious man. I never have been and I never will be. In this limited space, I want to show you the contrasts between religion and Christianity as we examine the on-going battle between the religious leaders and Jesus.
The battle between Jesus and the Pharisees began in earnest when Jesus looked at the paralytic (Mark 2:5) and said, “Your sins are forgiven.” With these words Jesus laid down the gauntlet. He knew exactly what He was doing. When Jesus declared a man’s sins forgiven, He was declaring Himself to be God because only God can forgive sins.
Below are some of the key differences between religion and Christianity:
- Religion focuses on the outward appearance, while Christianity focuses on the inward condition of one’s heart. 1 Samuel 16:7 says, The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. Jesus came to save sinners, not those who think they are good and righteous.
- Religion is basically advice while Christianity is news! Religion offers advice on what to do. Christianity proclaims Good News about what has already been done. Do you see the difference? Religion always focuses on what we do. Christianity always focuses on what has been done.
- Religion makes you blind. Jesus makes you see! The Pharisees were the most religious people on the face of the planet. Yet, they were blind guides. In Matthew 23:16 while in the Temple courts, Jesus said to the Pharisees, “Woe to you, blind guides.” Here was the Son of God standing in their midst, healing lepers, giving sight to the blind, even raising the dead, and yet, they failed to understand who He really was. How someone can be that blind is beyond me.
- Religious people try to earn God’s favor by living as good a life as possible and hope they have been good enough in the end. Religion sees man as basically good because it fails to see the total depravity of our sinful nature. Therefore, it sees no need to be born again. Christianity is raising the flag to surrender when you realize that nothing good is in you, that is, in your sinful nature.
- Religion cannot cleanse you from your sin and it cannot give you a new heart. Jesus offers cleansing, and by faith you can receive a new heart, and a new spirit, and become a new creation. 2 Corinthians 5:17 states, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.”
- Religion fails to see Jesus as God, while Jesus says, “I AM!”
- Religion is dangerous because it is destructive, seductive and deceptive. Religion breeds death rather than life. Religion seduces us into relying on self, rather than on Christ for our salvation. Finally, religion deceives us into thinking we’re okay with God when we’re not.
Don’t be blinded by religion. Come to Jesus. He is your only hope. And He is the Only Way. Come to Him while you can.