Beyond Religious

These are strange times we are living in. Our generation has never seen a time like this. My parents lived through World War II and my dad experienced the depression. They might have encouraged us to settle in, tighten our belts, and weather the storm. Now it is our turn. We are the ones who must learn to move forward in a new normal. We cannot predict the length of our current difficulty. We are left without the ability to control the outcomes. We are left only with trust.

20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 5:20 (CSB)

The Jews had a very sophisticated religious structure. There were many devout religious followers during Jesus’ time. There was more that one sect or interpretation of how to obey the laws given to the Israelites by God. All sects had wholehearted followers. The most famous group were the Pharisees. They were highly religious with an elaborate set of rules to follow. These rules were put in place to ensure that the law of God would not be broken. We view the Pharisees negatively, but we should remember that they were doing the religious things they thought were necessary for obeying what God had commanded. They were very devout.

Jesus comes and sets the world upside down. The Sermon on the Mount explains what it means to live out God’s kingdom values. The people would have recognized the devoutness of the Pharisees. But, what does Jesus say here? He raises the bar. He says the comprehensive set of rules, involving all areas of life, falls short. Obeying them is not enough. Jesus makes the point again and again in the Sermon on the Mount that this external framework for religion is not enough. We are to be people who are, not just people who do. We are to be transformed by Him and that transformation is to flow into all areas of our lives. We are not just here to check religious boxes and to go about our own business treating God and others as insignificant or as tools for our success.

How does this apply to our current affliction? The information overload we live in is not always our friend. I look at the statistics and wonder what will happen to me. My risk category for adverse outcomes to Covid-19 is higher than most. I am finding myself challenged in the same way the Pharisees would have been. Is my faith an outward religion? Has it been just a great framework for my life? Or, is God who He says He is? Do I really believe that God created me for this time, that He saved me from my sins, and that when my time here on earth is done, I will live forever in His presence? Now is where the rubber meets the road. I must now BE, not just do. Now is the time we have to stand on what we believe and to trust Him. He is in control and nothing can thwart His plans. I will continue trusting Him and walking with Him all the days I spend in this life.

What about you? Are you struggling? Seek Him. The battle is in both in our minds and in our world. We must practice good health hygiene as we social distance or stay home. We must also practice good spiritual hygiene. The battle in our minds is always present. Now is the time to open our Bibles, pray, confess and repent, and to trust Him. Now is the time to live what we have believed.

I will be praying for you, will you be praying also?

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