Following Christ, not Religion
"But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’[a] For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Matthew 9:13 NIV
Have you ever thought about WHERE you would be at this very moment if God would have never shown us His Mercy? I mean, really think about it. Some of us would be in really bad shape, huh? I know personally if it hadn't been for Christ's sacrifice and God's mercy, "It would look REAL bad for the home team" as my Bishop often says.
Too many times, we as followers of Christ FORGET that we weren't always making the best decisions, and that some of us were heading straight for destruction with a proudly purchased one way ticket. In fact, it was nothing but Christ's love for us that shielded us from a smoldering destination. However, we at times get caught up in being so religious that we tend to forget what being a follower of Christ really looks like.
Matthew 9:13 says,
Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”
Christ wants us to take a solid look at the muck he pulled us from, so that we can whole-heartedly go to those who have bleeding hearts and damned paths, but the desire to feel a void only God can....just as we did. What's the point of showing up every Sunday in our pretty pumps with our important titles and roles trying to impress others who look like us (now), when there are so many who look like we USED to: confused and yearning? Too often we make exceptions for former sinners if they are of prominent status, but how quick are we to embrace a recovering addict? How many of us who may have struggled with promiscuity or an alternative life style are willing to share to someone who's living how YOU used to live? Have we forgotten the willingness of our Father as He came in contact with sinners of every background? Our mission should be His mission: to go to those who acknowledge their sinfulness and shame.
We can't bribe God with sacrificial works or good deeds. He already has appointed our assignment. What better way to appease God than by doing what He asked us to?
Take a few minutes to reflect on your OWN past. Many of us were just as tainted and blemished as those we must share the Gospel with. Christ wasn't caught up in the "way we should do things" nearly as much as He was concerned about the reality of showing mercy by sharing the good news of God's grace. So will you continue pleasing status quo? Or will you be radical for Christ by walking as He did? If you ever need a determining factor, just ask Him to bring back your memory...
What do we mean by "Following Christ, not Religion"? Religion is simply a belief in a higher being (whether it be the trees, "the man upstairs", or a god). We urge believers to follow Christ. Religion set rules, Jesus sets free. When we truly follow Christ and read his Word, we won't be as likely to get caught in the trap religion can set. What good is it to simply be religious, and not redeemed?
A religious person can go to church every week, be around other believers, and never turn from their sinful nature. A religious person can turn their nose up at unbelievers, never share the Gospel (with those who don't know it), and never feel guilty about it. A religious person can believe that they are righteous, but not see the log in their own eye. Matthew 7: 3 says,
"And why worry about a speck in your friend's eye when you have a log in your own?
One who follows Christ will not only go to church every week, but bring others WITH THEM. A true Christ-follower sees their old self in other unbelievers and seeks to help. Not because they're "better", but because they've been there before.
When you're truly righteous, you don't have to convince others of it. When you acknowledge that you were once a sinner and have been spared by God's mercy, you won't judge harshly, but righteously instead. Proverbs 31:9,
Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.
Acknowledge where you WERE, thank God for where you ARE, and seek to GROW in Christ. When you follow Christ, you'll never become complacent. No one said you wouldn't grow weary or get discouraged, but as followers, we know there's an ultimate destination: HEAVEN. We're not followers of an unsure or unstable God. Feeling weak? 2 Corinthians 12:9, 10,
9 Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.