Thank God For CNN

I knew that I shouldn’t watch it but I did anyway. My kids were in bed and the house was quiet and dark. The week ahead looked busy so this was likely the best opportunity I would have to see it. My gut told me that this would not end well. But I didn’t let that stop me.

That night, my wife and I sat down to watch a new show on CNN called Believer where each week Reza Aslan finds a new religion to be condescending toward. The episode we were about to watch focused on the relationship between Vodou and Christianity in the small country of Haiti.

The show didn’t disappoint. When it was over, I was disappointed. That’s because Christians were presented as religious crusaders for daring to build hospitals in the nation that is saturated in corruption and poverty. Vodou, on the other hand, was presented as grossly misunderstood. If you’re keeping score at home, the religion that motivates people to build hospitals is bad and the one that gets people to sacrifice pigs to demons is good. The last few minutes of the show looked like a commercial for Vodou.

This should come as no surprise from a network that spends millions of dollars producing and promoting documentaries in an effort to, “find the real Jesus.” In the CNN lexicon, “finding the real Jesus” is code for the Jesus of the Bible being fake. That’s right. The church has gotten it wrong for two thousand years now. Thankfully, CNN is here to tell us the truth.

We should be very quick to examine CNN’s version of the truth. This is, after all, the same network that likes to feed debate questions to presidential candidates of a certain party in order to help them to prepare beforehand. Truth, we should all know by now, isn’t so high on CNN’s list of priorities. It appears that trying to discredit Christianity is.

Perhaps, like me, you’ve noticed that CNN doesn’t take time out of its regular programming each year when Ramadan rolls around to, “find the real Mohammed.” You know, the rapist and child molester. Some of that could be out of fear. CNN probably doesn’t want the same fate that their counterparts at Charlie Hebdo suffered. To them, Christianity is a much easier target.

That’s because, in large part, Islam is built on the blood of the so called infidels. Christianity is grounded in and saturated with the blood of Jesus. In our world, acts of terror are much less offensive than God dying for the sins that we committed.

Islam is advanced by the sword. Shortly before his crucifixion, Jesus told Peter to put away his sword (Matthew 26:52-53).

If anyone, even a bestselling author with his own show about religion on CNN, ever tells you that all religions are the same, you can be certain that they have no clue what they are talking about.

Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t an appeal to boycott CNN. I watch CNN regularly and if you care about getting a glimpse into the secular worldview, I suggest that you do the same. Just know that you are being lied to.

But don’t let those lies get you down.

The book of Acts will help you to put CNN and their constant jabs at Christianity into perspective. Slander and persecution are the fertilizer from which the church grows. Acts is filled with accounts of the church being persecuted. And the persecution is much more intense than anything CNN has thrown the church’s way. But notice what happens after each instance of persecution. The church grows exponentially.

After the disciples are mocked and written off as drunks, three thousand people were added to the church (Acts 2).

After Stephen is martyred, Saul, the man who helped to make it happen, becomes a follower of Christ (Acts 7 – 9).

When Paul is kicked out of one region, he moves to another one and gospel growth follows (Acts 17).

And so on.

Christian, don’t let opposition, slander and media misrepresentations about your faith get you down. Be encouraged and know that it is from this that real growth comes. For a few decades now, some churches have tried to grow their numbers through gimmicks and give aways. At best, all those techniques ever do is draw a crowd. Real growth, or discipleship, comes when the church keeps its course through opposition.

CNN is no threat to the body of Jesus Christ. In reality, they are like a kid kicking over dandelions in the front yard. He thinks he’s getting rid of the weeds but all he’s really doing is making them spread.

So thank God for CNN.

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Benevolent Dictators, The Gospel And Georgia’s Burqa Ban

Update: Jason Spencer has decided to withdraw House Bill 3.

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You might have a hard time believing this but there’s a really bad bill scheduled to come before the Georgia Legislature. This one has nothing to do with raising taxes or making grits the official breakfast food of Georgia. House Bill 3, if passed as written, would prohibit the wearing of any device that would hide a person’s face while taking a photo for a driver’s license, driving a car or, get this, while on, “any public way or public property.” 

To be clear, the bill’s sponsor, Jason Spencer, isn’t trying to crack down on young suburbanite women at the Mall of Georgia who wear their scarfs too high up on their face. This is a ban on burqas.

I can understand the problems of a concealed face during a driver’s license photo but using the power of the sate to prohibit the wearing of a burqa while driving a car or “on public property” is very problematic.

It matters how Christians respond to this.

We must be firm in our theological disagreement with our fellow Americans who are Muslims. No man can serve two masters (Matthew 6:24) and it is clear that the God of Christianity and the god of Islam are not the same. However, we must be just as firm in defending the rights of our Muslim neighbors. Believe it or not, this can be done without compromising the faith.

There’s something very troubling about so-called conservative evangelicals. As I’ve always understood it, conservatism referred to limited government. Recent history reveals that conservatism really means government that’s just as big as the kind that progressives prefer, only with conservatives instead of liberals reaching into our lives. Simply put, many conservatives have abandoned the concept of liberty in favor of a benevolent dictatorship.

And make no mistake, a government that can tell people what they can and cannot wear on “public property” is a dictatorship. I guess it depends on who you ask as to whether or not it’s benevolent. And a government that can tell Muslim women that they have to put their faith in the backseat while driving or in the public square can just as easily tell Christian families that they can’t homeschool their children and tell Christian churches that they can’t refuse someone for baptism or membership.

This bill is rooted in fear. Spencer reasons, “This bill is simply a response to constituents that do have concerns of the rise of Islamic terrorism, and we in the State of Georgia do not want our laws used against us.”

But we must remember that fear is the enemy of liberty. When we allow ourselves to be ruled by fear, we can be sure that there will be scores of benevolent dictators eager to fix the problem. And we can be just as sure that the fix will be worse than the problem.

A while back I was driving my family to a soccer tournament that my son would be playing in. It was a trip like most others but this time we had an extra passenger. My son’s teammate came along for the ride because his parents had to work. My son’s teammate was Muslim.

Now, we could have performed our own stop and frisk on this young boy before letting him into our car. We wouldn’t want him setting off a bomb in the back seat of our Camry, now would we? Call me a bad parent, but we didn’t screen this young man. And somehow, no bomb went off.

But something else happened.

For the entire hour of our drive, I played the music of Lecrae. He’s a rapper who frequently references the gospel. And while Lecrae’s music was playing, I was praying. I was praying that the light of Christ would shine through our family as we interacted with one another and through Lecrae’s lyrics as they blew through our speakers.

When we got to the soccer fields, my son’s friend didn’t get out of the car and pray to make Jesus Christ his Lord and Savior. He did something very different from that.

He threw up.

Now, I don’t know what that has to say about me and my family but I think that it was an answer to prayer. While I was cleaning up vomit, my wife was comforting this young Muslim boy as if he was her own. The light of Christ shone through her that afternoon. And I’m still praying that it penetrates the heart of that young man.

Muslim’s suffer. Sometimes their suffering comes from being car sick. Sometimes it comes from ridiculous laws. Either way, it is the job of followers of Christ to be there for them, with love and truth, when that suffering comes.

It’s the sacrificial love and truth of God and his people that removes burqas.

Not ridiculous laws from benevolent dictators.

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A Prayer For The American Church

Heavenly Father,

We are so prone to wander. In many cases, we have replaced worshiping You with apologizing for You and making You more consumer friendly. We have remained silent while those around us have suffered. Like the German churches that sang their hymns louder so that they wouldn’t hear the screams of Jewish prisoners from the passing trains, we have neglected the hurting. Our nation deserves Your wrath, not Your blessings. Father, send us revival instead. And send it through Your church.

Father, forgive us for idolizing our political leaders. We throw our coats on the ground before them and wave our palm branches at them every four years only to suffer the pain that comes shortly after the election when we realize that even the best leaders are not You. Not even close. Forgive us for living under the red or blue glow of a political party rather than shining the light of Christ like we’re supposed to.

Forgive our hypocrisy. We talk so much about caring for the unborn. And we should. Help us to do even more to defend the cause of the babies who are murdered in this country before they are even born. But we pat ourselves on the back, convinced that this is enough. We talk a big game about respecting life but when we hear about a kid in Chicago who just lost his, we turn it into a political talking point. Lord, help us to care just as much for the 18-year-old kid on the other side of the tracks as we do for the child who has yet to be born.

Father, help us. Help the people who are tired of being labeled uneducated simply because they didn’t go to college to relate to the people who are tired of being called thugs just because they wear a hoodie. Help us to grieve with those who grieve. And if it’s Your will, give us the strength to do something to stop the grief. Even if it’s a grief we may not be able to fully relate to.

Father, help us to not settle for being divided into groups that aren’t supposed to get along. Help Your church to lead the way in breaking down the terrible walls that keep us apart. Lord, we do not want to abandon Your truth. Protect us from doing that. But Lord, help us to remember that it’s okay for us to abandon our cultural labels and the marching orders of those who turn a profit off of keeping us at odds with one another. Help us to remember that Your truth is not merely an American truth or a white truth. It is Your truth. And that is enough.

Help us to be committed to Your word. Forgive us for obeying the parts we’re okay with while ignoring the difficult parts. Father, Your word is truth. All of it. But help us not to be content with keeping Your truth to ourselves. Help it to impact the way that we work on our marriages, the way we raise our kids, the way we resist evil and the way we love the evildoer.

God, save us from fear. The Anxiety Industrial Complex rules the day. Business is booming in the fear industry. Everyone is worried and afraid. Help us not to be. Instead, help us to worship you, not just on a Sunday morning in a church building but on a Thursday morning on the way to work when we hear about yet another terror threat. Help us not to ultimately look to man for peace from anxiety. Give us a picture of the promise You gave us through Paul when You said that the peace of God would guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Help us to know the presence of Christ at the doors of our frightened minds and hearts.

Father, You are good. You have delivered us. Because of Your great grace, the work of Your Son and Your Holy Spirit, we are Your children. Help us to look for our identity no where else. And help our hearts to ache for those who are not Your children.

Lord, there will come a time when America will be no more. But Your kingdom cannot be shaken. It can be ridiculed. It can be mocked. It can be rejected. But it cannot be shaken. It is an eternal kingdom. Help us, your people, not to forget where our citizenship is.

Thank You for the mercy and patience You have shown to us.

Awaken us.

Expand Your kingdom as You see fit.

In Jesus Christ’s name,

Amen.

 

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The World Needs Religion

Can you hear this church organ playing 'Amazing Grace'?

I’m a people watcher. So while my kids were finishing off their dinner, I was watching the people in the restaurant. There was the guy who appeared to be sharing a meal with his kids before returning them to their mother. There was the extremely thin waitress. And the extremely fit cook in the back who looked like he was counting down the hours until the days third workout.

Suddenly, they all started to look at us. At least that’s how it felt for a second. They were really looking out the window behind me at a group of kids who had just showed up in the parking lot and weren’t exactly looking for something to eat. It seemed serious because all of the mangers were scurrying around like managers do in such situations.

When I got up to pay for our meal, I asked the girl at the cash register what was going on. She told me that the kids outside were waving flags from the back of a truck and yelling mean things at people. And she told me that an employee of the restaurant had gone out to confront the aspiring hoodlums. That employee from the restaurant was not Captain Workout, the buff cook in the back. It was the waitress. The extremely thin waitress.

I’m all for working out and being in shape. And while I’ve never been mistaken for a world class weightlifter, I have no problem with people who are. But what, if I may ask, is the point of being in good shape if all you do is look in a mirror when your muscles are needed most? There’s nothing healthy about keeping your good health to yourself and your mirror.

Faith works the same way.

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. James 1:22 (ESV)

What is the point of hearing a great sermon if it doesn’t play out in the way you treat your family? What good is believing all of the right things if those beliefs don’t impact the way you talk to your kid’s little league coach?

The world needs religion. Now you certainly won’t hear that on the news. Many church leaders would even disagree with such a notion. They like to remind us that faith in Christ is more about a relationship than a religion. While there are some truths to that, we must consider which religion we are talking about.

For example, Christianity is worlds away from Isalm.

And Christianity is also completely different from Mormonism.

Those two statements will get you a lot of Amens in this Sunday’s worship service but here’s one that might not.

Christianity is completely different from going to church.

Speaking in general terms, belief is what separates Christianity from religions like Islam and Mormonism. Sure, it all plays out in the actions but it starts with belief. The religions do not believe in the same God. But it’s the actions that separate Christianity from simply going to church. A church goer deceives himself into thinking that simply believing in the right God is enough. A true Christian’s beliefs catapult him into action, not to earn salvation but as a result of salvation.

Several years ago, Matthew Paris got a lot of attention. He wrote in the Times of London that, “Missionaries, not aid money, are the solution to Africa’s biggest problem.” That may not sound like a statement all that worthy of attention until you understand something about Matthew Paris. He’s an atheist. He continued, “As an atheist, I truly believe Africa needs God.”

This atheist realized something that many in the Church do not. The world needs religion. But not just any religion. Mormonism and Islam will do the world no good. And neither will the religion of church-goers who do not act on what they claim to believe.

The world needs pure and undefiled religion. The world needs Christianity.

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. James 1:27 (ESV)

A few days ago a man was crossing a busy intersection in China on a scooter. He didn’t make it. The automobile that hit him threw his body several feet into the middle of the busy four way crossing. For several minutes no one did anything. Pedestrians walked by. Busses drove around him. The man was ignored. While this is tragic, it should not surprise us. Such actions are consistent with the state religion of China, atheism, which teaches that we are all victims of chance and only the fittest win.

Christianity is different. Christianity recognizes that belief alone will do nothing for that man. True Christianity acts out belief. True Christianity stops traffic to help that man.

Fake Christianity just keeps on driving, believing that God will take care of the poor fellow in the street.

“Which one of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go and do likewise.” Luke 10:36-37 (ESV)

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The Myth Of The Bible Belt

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The man and his little boy were playing on the other end of the field. They seemed far enough away. But after just a few minutes, that little boy made his presence felt. And it felt bad.

My son and I were early for his soccer game so we were killing time on the opposite end of the field as the other little boy and his father. Not content to keep his ball on his side of the field, that little boy decided to kick his ball over to our side. Now normally I wouldn’t have a problem with that. The field was big enough for the four of us. But it got real small, real quick.

While the soccer ball that had just bolted from that boy’s foot soared through the air, I turned around, ignorant of what was about to happen to me. When the ball met my body, I didn’t know what had hit me. All I could do was fall to the ground. My son asked if I was okay. I told him that I was. I lied. I was in Old Testament style pain. It was bad.

The boy who kicked the ball sheepishly walked by me to say that he was sorry. And almost as quickly as his ball flew through the air, he was gone. I was still rolling on the ground with my son standing over me wondering what was wrong with his dad. I finally recovered enough to look up and investigate what kind of punishment that father would be giving to his son for assaulting a nice stranger like myself. The father had been sitting in a chair on his side of the field. As soon as we made eye contact he stood up. And he turned his back to me. And he walked away without saying a word.

The south is known for a lot of things. Sweet tea. College football. Humidity. Hospitality.

I can tell you from firsthand experience that southern hospitality is a myth.

Here’s another southern myth. The Bible Belt.

The Bible Belt is that region of our country that includes the southern states and much of the midwest. It’s the part of the country where there is a church on every corner, people still pray at football games and restaurants give you 20% discounts on Sunday afternoons if you bring your church bulletin.

While all of that is certainly a reality, the idea of this particular region having anything to do with the Bible is misleading.

Quick question. For all of our churches on every corner, what has that done to race relations in the south and midwest? Are they any better than they are in other parts of the country? And have our religious traditions done anything to curb gossip or extra-marital affairs? Not hardly.

Some will be quick to point out that this shows the inability of Christianity to change a culture. I look at it differently. It shows the inability of the Bible Belt to save a soul. That’s because true Christianity is a heart issue, not a geographical one.

I’ve been in church my whole life. Some of the most racist comments I’ve ever heard were in a church setting. I’ve seen arguments in church that make the GOP debates look like a newborn babe laughing at his grandpa. I’ve been to quite a few sporting events where things turned ugly and it looked like World War III was right around the corner. But none of that compares to the tension I’ve seen between two fellow church members when one of them had hurt feelings because the other one forgot to shake hands one Sunday morning.

Some politicians run on the platform of making the Bible Belt bigger. Preachers talk about getting back to the good old days when the Bible Belt was stronger and shinier. All the while, Jesus could not possibly care less about our Bible Belt.

If we really want to make a difference in our culture, we need to forget about the Bible Belt and get back to the Bible. All of it. Event the parts that are hard to live out. We need to remember that Christianity is not geographical or political. It’s cardiovascular.

A few days ago, a friend sent me the audio of Paul Harvey’s famous speech, If I Were the Devil. Harvey’s words are both prophetic and enlightening. And they made me think. What if I were the devil?

If I were the devil, I’d be okay with a church on every corner, just as long as those churches preached more about the Bible Belt than from the actual Bible.

If I were the devil, I wouldn’t mind all of the laws that keep people from drinking certain alcoholic beverages in certain places on Sundays, just as long as I could convince the non-drinkers that they’re less in need of grace than the drunks are.

If I were the devil, I’d even be okay with preachers who proclaim the grace of God but only if by grace, those preachers meant doing whatever you want whenever you want and asking for forgiveness later.

And If I were the devil, ten commandments on courthouse walls and prayers before football games would be fine with me. I’d even do all that I could to keep those words on the wall and those prayers on the lips of student athletes as long as the commandments weren’t actually followed and the prayers were only muttered on Friday nights and the occasional Sunday morning.

If I were the devil, I’d feel quite at home in the Bible Belt.

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The Scariest Words That Jesus Ever Spoke

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They are perhaps the scariest words that Jesus ever spoke.

“I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”

The sentence speaks for itself. Jesus is making one final judgement on people. Because of their lawlessness, they will spend an eternity apart from Christ.

But who are these lawless people?

Are they terrorists who devoted their whole lives to destruction? No, that’s not who Jesus is talking to in this context.

Perhaps he is talking to perverts. Again, not in this context.

Well, such a harsh judgment must be directed toward Satan or the AntiChrist. Not this time. Here are the lawless people that Jesus is talking to.

Preachers and teachers who spoke in the name of Jesus.

Exorcists who cast out demons in the name of Jesus.

And miracle workers who did a lot of really cool and powerful things in the name of Jesus.

How can this be? If my son came home and told me that he spent his day at school preaching sermons, casting out demons and performing miracles, I’d be a proud father. So why then would Jesus call these people lawless and condemn them to an eternity in hell?

In a word, it was their performance that did them in.

You see, religious people care about performance. And that’s what these people were doing. They weren’t really casting out demons and preaching sermons and performing miracles. They were just performing. Performance is what matters most to religious people. They love being seen more than they love Jesus.

But Jesus cares about obedience.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 7:21 (ESV)

Don’t get me wrong. Preaching and teaching are important. So are miracles and casting out demons. But it’s important to remember that Jesus does not need those things.

He doesn’t need our sermons.

He doesn’t need our power encounters with the dark side.

And he doesn’t need our religious magic tricks.

What he asks for, however, is our obedience.

Every kid on my son’s soccer team wants to score a goal. Some of those kids play positions that make goal scoring more likely than it is for kids at other positions. A few practices ago, there was a kid scoring a few goals in a scrimmage game. He was playing well. His shots weren’t just going in, they were going in with style.

And then the coach told him to switch positions.

“Go play right back.”

A kid can still score a goal at right back sort of like the punter on a football team can still score a touchdown. It can happen but it probably won’t.

The kid was devastated. And he made it known to the coach. The coach’s response was priceless.

“Well, you can play right bench.”

The kid got real quiet and went to where he was told.

The coach didn’t need the kid’s goals, trick shots and back flips. He was after something else. He wanted the kid’s obedience.

You may live your whole life without Jesus ever telling you to preach a sermon, confront a demon-possessed person or turn water into wine. And that’s okay. You can do all of those things and still miss Jesus.

But there are some things that Jesus has told you to do if you belong to him. These aren’t things to be done in order to earn God’s love or saving grace. That’s part of the religious trap. No, the obedience that Jesus calls for comes as a result of already being saved by his grace.

He has asked you to love him with your total being.

He has asked you to love your neighbor.

He has asked you to kill your sin and pursue his holiness.

So Christian, don’t trade in a life of obedience for the glamour of doing religion your own way without Jesus. It may look good for a while. But in the end you will only fool yourself.

Put away the pressure to perform. Instead, devote yourself to obeying Jesus. You can’t obey him enough to earn your way into heaven. But if you belong to Jesus, your obedience, while not perfect, will be a natural result.

These words from Christ scare me. They scare me because I know that there will be a lot of good religious people with perfect attendance in Sunday School who will be told, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”

I can’t think of a more frightening thing to hear.

Please, stop wasting your life on religious performance.

Instead, devote yourself to obeying Jesus.

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Jesus And The Italian Tourist

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Alex was excited when he got off the plane. It was his first time in the United States. Everyday of his 60 year life had been spent in Italy. It was home for him. But sometimes it’s good to leave home for a little while.

Jon and Alex have been friends for a while. A few years back, Jon was able to visit Italy. Alex took him to all of the expected places. Jon was ready to return the favor. He was just as excited to introduce his Italian friend to American culture as he was when he experienced life in Italy.

Madison Square Garden was the first stop on the tour of America. Basketball was big in Italy and Jon couldn’t wait to show Alex where it all started. It was a packed house for the Knicks and the Hawks. As usual, the Knicks lost.

As the week went on, there were more stops. All of the usual suspects on the east coast. Boston. Philadelphia. Washington D.C. Alex was overwhelmed by what he experienced. He had seen America on television shows. He had read about it in books all of his life. But now he was getting to see it, smell it and taste it for himself. His joy was evident. He still loved his home but a part of him was sad to leave Jon’s country.

As Jon saw it, Alex hadn’t seen anything yet. He was saving the best stop for the last night of the trip. The two old friends headed out for a dinner that the American knew would be unforgettable for his Italian friend. Alex knew great food. He had grown up around it. His family was in the restaurant business back in Italy. And he had already enjoyed a few American staples. Hot dogs at the Knicks game. Cheesesteak in Philadelphia. He knew that whatever food had gotten Jon so excited to share must be great.

Finally Jon and Alex arrived at their destination. Jon had already made reservations. They walked right past the crowd waiting outside. Table for two.

At the Olive Garden.

Jon couldn’t contain his excitement when the breadsticks arrived.

“This, my friend, is sure to remind you of your homeland.”

It didn’t.

When the overpriced spaghetti came, Jon couldn’t wait for Alex’s response.

It wasn’t what he expected. Alex could not manage to eat hardly anything. His enthusiasm for Italian dining was not quite what his American friend had hoped that it would be.

On their way out, Jon interviewed Alex.

“What was wrong? Why didn’t you eat anything? Come on. You’re Italian. This is an Italian restaurant. What’s the problem?”

As nicely as he could, Alex explained himself to his American friend.

“Just because you call it Italian doesn’t make it the real deal.”

Jesus says something very similar to us.

Just because we call it religion, doesn’t make it the real deal.

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” Matthew 6:1-4 (ESV)

There’s good religion and there is bad religion. Bad religion needs to be seen by men. It does what it does for the approval of others, not the glory of God. And, no matter how orthodox it may appear, Jesus doesn’t like it.

Genuine religion is different. It isn’t concerned with the approval of man. It doesn’t even exist to try to earn the approval of God. Rather, it exists because of God’s approval. Those who are genuinely religious pray because they love to talk to their Father and they know that they need him. They give because they know what their Father has given to them. They fast because they desire Christ more than the finest meal.

What if no one ever complimented you for your religious efforts?

No words of encouragement for that great sermon that your worked so hard on.

No comments about how angelic you sound when you pray.

No awe that you would care enough to actually fast.

No pins for 30 years of perfect attendance in Sunday School.

What if the only reward you ever received for your religious activity was a deeper understanding of Jesus and his love for you? Would that be enough for you? Or would you feel empty without the approval of man?

You can pray all you want and still miss Jesus. You can give to the poor and care more about what it does for your reputation than you care about the glory of God and the good of your neighbor. You can fast and simmer the whole time in the hopes that someone will notice your superb spirituality. You can even keep all of your religious activity private and still pat yourself on the back for keeping it private.

Jesus isn’t concerned with that kind of religion.

In his eyes, it is bad religion because it has man as its center and its objective instead of him.

Bad religion makes people fly airplanes into buildings.

Bad religion makes people knock on your door at 7:00 on Saturday mornings to tell you about Jehovah.

And bad religion makes good Southern Baptists carry on with their religious activities without Jesus.

Jesus is not concerned with your religion, no matter how faithful and passionate it may be, if your religion is not concerned with him. He must be the cause of your religion. He must be the center of your religion. He must be the reward of your religion.

Anything less is a cheap imitation of the real thing.

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