★ “Back to the Basics” – Follow-Up to Can 1 Conversation Change a Life? ★

96 - Daily Dependence - Follow Up to Can 1 Conversation Change a Life 3About a year ago we posted ★ “Back to the Basics” – Can 1 Conversation Change a Life? ★, in which we looked at how one conversation between Jesus and the Pharisee Nicodemus changed his life and how if we will be open to listening to the call of God, we could be used to change the life of others.  I shared in ★ “Back to the Basics” – Pursuit #1 – Opening the Pipeline ★ about how I had a fantastic conversation with a man in the next seat on the flight home from Indiana which has continued with us texting back and forth about God and matters of faith.  I have also been trading emails with a member of my project team about life.  We went from discussing the Presidential Election to Trump’s Wall to handle immigration to what he thought about God which opened the door to the subject of today’s post.  I would like to use his 6 questions to delve into the hot-button topic of “How God could send someone to Hell that never heard the gospel?”  At the end of this post I will give you two messages from Pastors that I greatly respect and have sat under the teaching of for years (one in person and one through Podcast.)  But I digress…I will paste my answer to each question in order of how he asked them…

1.  Why is there not a Gospel of Jesus?  So much was written by flawed men. 

Though man is certainly flawed, the Bible was written by the direction of God.  Part of my faith is that the Bible is the inherent Word of God.  The first thing to understand is that though Jesus’ name is not on the top of any book, every word in the bible is inspired by God through the Holy Spirit.  2 Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV)

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

“All Scripture is breathed out by God” and was intended to be a road map or instruction manual for how to live.

2.  How can Christianity which is all about Christ claim that all people who don’t accept Jesus go to hell and suffer for all eternity?

Regardless of the racial, social or economic background, every single person has been told of the existence of God…By God Himself.  God has placed a God-shaped hole in everyone one of us.  Every person has questioned where they came from, how they came about and ultimately what will happen after we breathe our last breath.  The question is, do you look up or do you rebel against the truth?  Also any sentient being cannot look at the magnificence of a sunrise, or the gentle breeze across halcyon wheat fields or the giggle of a child’s laughter and not wonder if there is not something greater than themselves.  Again the question is, do you open your mind up to the possibility or repress the stirring?  Pastor Robert Morris made statement:

“The Bible says that since the beginning of time, God has revealed Himself to every person both internally and externally.  Every person is born with a conscience, given to them by God, that gives them guidance about right and wrong.  Scripture says that creation itself is proof of His existence, and promises that every person who makes an effort to seek God will find Him.  Therefore, no one has an excuse.  We can see God if we’ll only look.”

Ultimately you have to understand that

“There is no one holy like the LORD, Indeed, there is no one besides You, Nor is there any rock like our God.

Because God is just and holy many people see these 2 attributes as negatives, but there has to be consequences for Sin.  But what many people struggle is that:

“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”

3.  Could you believe that a person like the Dali Lama who is kind and completely about peace in the world would go to Hell?

This question is a difficult one to answer.  I cannot truly answer that question because God is the who judges and will decide who is destined to go to Hell or not.  Jesus did say in John 14:6 (NLT),

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father [God] except through me.

The question though is from the presupposition that there are actually kind and good people.  Romans 3:10-12 (NLT) says,

“As the Scriptures say, “No one is righteous— not even one. No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God. All have turned away; all have become useless.  No one does good, not a single one.”” 

And Romans 3:23 (NLT) says:

“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.”

Sin is very real and though people may strive to be kind and peaceful; there is no one who is perfect.  See Romans 3:24-26 and Romans 5:12-17.  To make matters worse, 2 Corinthians 4:4 which talks about how “Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe.”  It is interesting to note that people were never intended to go to Hell.  God created Man to have a relationship with Him and set Him in the Garden of Eden which was paradise on earth.  Robert Morris made this point:

“Hell was created for Satan and his angels, (see Matthew 25:41) when they inexcusably and rebelliously rejected God without cause.  God sent His Son so that no one else would ever have to go there.  God gave every person a free will.  We can choose to love Him or to reject Him.  The people in heaven are those who have chosen Him.  Many others reject Him, in spite of His unlimited goodness.  Our eternal destiny is not His choice, but ours.  Hell wasn’t created for people, but according to Isaiah 5:14, it was enlarged because people inexcusably reject God.  So, the question is, ‘How could anyone reject a loving God?’”

Isn’t that a fascinating thought?  Instead of viewing it from the perspective that God is sending people to Hell, the truth is that People are choosing to go to Hell because of their blatant rejection of the free gift of salvation through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross!  You can read more on this in the post ★ Thought for the Day – But God… ★.

4.  How do I have faith when Christianity and all other religions say we go to hell if we don’t believe?  Christianity is all about Jesus and Christianity says we go to hell when for many life is stacked against them even to the point they may not have even heard of him?

In addition to what I stated above, in a message that I just heard, Steven Furtick made this profound faith…

“The Opposite of Faith is not doubt.  The Opposite of Faith is certainty.

Faith is meant to be more than a formality.

Faith was meant to be more than a feeling.

Faith was meant to be more than a formula.

In fact if you can reduce it to a formula and make sense out of it, it ain’t faith.”

It’s normal to have doubts and to question but in the end, there will be some things we just will never know this side of heaven.  Hebrews 11:1 (NLT) says,

“Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.”

God is the only one who knows whose heart belongs to Him and whose has rebelled.

5.  Is the simple answer that parts of the bible while true there maybe parts that are not because they were not written by Christ?

As I mentioned above, The Apostle Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 that the entire Bible is true.  Charles Stanley made this statement.

“The truth of God’s Word applies to all men and women in every culture, in every age, in every walk of life…Through the ministry of the Holy Spirit; the Bible enlightens each individual to recognize personal sin, the need for salvation, and the best possible life course.”

For me the Bible is my anchor of my life.  I believe if people truly want to grow in their faith and live a victorious in life than dusting off the Bible on the nightstand and opening it up is a necessity!  In an older post called ★ Thought for the Day – All About the Big Ten ★, I wrote about the importance of knowing the whole Bible because of its relevance to our life.  Check it out; it looks through the lens of the Ten Commandments.

6.  What do you think is the greatest sin with respect to sins against others? 

There are definitely sins that I believe are worse than others, rape, murder, child abuse to name a few but the Bible has something very different to say.  In asking this question I asked if he were referring to the Ten Commandments or perhaps “The seven deadly sins” – Pride, Envy, Wrath, Gluttony, Lust, Sloth and Greed but regardless of what he was asking, there is a really easy answer that comes from Jesus’ little brother James where he said;

“For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws. For the same God who said, “You must not commit adultery,” also said, “You must not murder.” So if you murder someone but do not commit adultery, you have still broken the law.

So whatever you say or whatever you do, remember that you will be judged by the law that sets you free. There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you.”  James 2:10-13 (NLT)

We as humans are broken, sinful people in need of Savior to rescue us from ourselves, see Psalms 14:1-3, Romans 3:23-26 and Romans 5:8-9.

I will tell you what I told him, that I am truly honored that you have opened your heart for us to dialogue about God and to share with you what I have learned through the study of His Word.  I will close with this final truth of Who is God and what do we mean to Him…James 1:16-18 (NLT)

“So don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters. Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow. He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession.”

We are His prized possession and all God wants from us is a relationship with Him!  Here is a blog I wrote that expands much deeper called…★ “Back to the Basics” – I Hate Religion and I’m a Christian…Part 2 ★, would love to hear your thoughts!

Here are so follow-up resources…

★  “Tough question…How can a loving God send people to Hell” – Robert Morris

http://gatewaypeople.com/ministries/life/events/the-end-what-happens-next/session/2011/08/13/a-tough-question#.TkvLcu7ZdUB.gmail

★  “Functional Faith” – Steven Furtick

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=935vFzx722c&sns=em

Check back soon as we will be posting ★ “Back to the Basics” – Pursuit #2 – What Are You Feeding On? ★  that will continue our series of the 3 Pursuits that will lead to a successful life!

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★ “Back to the Basics” – Can 1 Conversation Change a Life? ★

In our second installment of the “Back to the Basics” series we are going to answer the question…

If you missed our first post in this series, you can got back and read it here ★ “Back to the Basics” – Religion vs. Relationship – Part 2 ★.  This juxtaposition between “practicing a Religion” or “having a Relationship with God” is the starting point of everything!  I believe that for you to move forward in your faith you have to get this straight in your mind, it is the core of what God desires for all of us.

So let me ask you this question…Do you consider yourself a Glass “Half Empty” or “Half Full” Type of Person?  Or another way to look at it is…76 - Daily Dependence - How do you view life

It really makes a difference, because your response to this question can really influence your answer to the one posed in this Thought for the Day.  If you tend to view life through a “half empty,” or pessimistic lens, than you many think that people can never change so how could 1 conversation make that big of a difference.  But if on the other hand, you have a “half full” or optimistic viewpoint, than you may approach this with a more open mind…which I pray you will!

Contrary to how these Thoughts for the Day are usually developed, I will ask you a series of additional questions to get to our answer.  The conversation we will be looking at is recorded in Chapter 3 of the Book of John between Jesus and a religious leader of that time named Nicodemus, who was a Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin.  At the risk of going down a rabbit trail…I want to give a little background.  As a Pharisee, Nicodemus was part of a group of Jews who thought that they kept all God’s rules perfectly and were above reproach.  What made this conversation unusual was that the Pharisees were stanch opponents to the teachings of Jesus and were so self-righteous that they believed they were incapable of being wrong.  Interestingly if you look up the word Pharisee in the dictionary, you will see one definition as being “a hypocrite,” which Jesus continually called them.Okay, let’s get back on track…The text that we will start at is from John 3:2-7 (NLT),

After dark one evening, he [Nicodemus] came to speak with Jesus. 
 
“Rabbi,” he said, “we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you.”
 

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”“What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?”Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit.  Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life.  So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’”

STOP…now let’s start with the questions….
When you hear that phrase “born again,” what comes to mind?  It can be confusing if you have never heard accurate teaching on what it means.  Here is a link newspring.cc/watch/stepup/born-again to one of the best on messages I have ever heard on what it means to be “Born Again” from Clayton King (NewSpring Church) if you want to learn more on this.

Some people have the impression that being “born again” is some sort of brainwashing or that people who call themselves “born again Christians” are crazy because they have seen some eccentric preacher on TV in the middle of the night or knew some person who spoke about it in “Christianese” terms that unless you knew the context you will never understand the meaning and it just sounds like nonsense.  Well lets look back in our text because Nicodemus had questions too…

In John 3:8-12 (NLT) Jesus finishes His thought with…

76 - Daily Dependence - John 3-3 - Born Again“The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.”

“How are these things possible?” Nicodemus asked.

Jesus replied, “You are a respected Jewish teacher, and yet you don’t understand these things?  I assure you, we tell you what we know and have seen, and yet you won’t believe our testimony.  But if you don’t believe me when I tell you about earthly things, how can you possibly believe if I tell you about heavenly things?”

I love what Jesus said in verse 8…“The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.”   You can’t see the wind and yet you know it exists because you feel its effect, it is the same way with the move of the Holy Spirit.  You see, when you ask Jesus to be your Lord and savior then the Holy Spirit comes into your life that will transform you into a new person and making you “born again.”  You may have heard it as “being saved” or “salvation” or “as You are a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ.  Max Lucado nailed it when he said, “Christianity, in its purest form, is nothing more than seeing Jesus.”  So…
76 - Daily Dependence - How much evidence do you need to believe in Jesus
76 - Daily Dependence - Answer

“No one has ever gone to heaven and returned. But the Son of Man has come down from heaven.  And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.”  John 3:13-15 (NLT) 

In the brief time Jesus was on earth He did incredible miracles from healing the sick, making the blind see, the lame walk and even raising a man from the dead!  The author of the text we are looking at was one of Jesus’ closest disciples and was there to record this conversation which does not show up anywhere else in the Bible.  He also state stated in the very last verse of this book that…

“Jesus also did many other things. If they were all written down, I suppose the whole world could not contain the books that would be written.”  John 21:25 (NLT)

So that leads us to our next question…

76 - Daily Dependence - Do you know why Jesus came to earth76 - Daily Dependence - Answer

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.  God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.”  John 3:16-17 (NLT)

I am sure that you have seen “John 3:16” written somewhere whether held by a fan in the stands, or on a t-shirt, or spray painted along the road.  It is a foundation verse and probably the most quoted verse about how much God loves us and why Jesus came to earth.  God sent His son to die so that we could have eternal life with Him!  You can read more on this in previous blog called ★ Thought for the Day – Sweetly Broken ★.

76 - Daily Dependence - What happens if you don't believe76 - Daily Dependence - Answer

“There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son.  And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil.  All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed.  But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.”  John 3:18-21 (NLT)

This reminds me of one of my favorites quotes from John Wooden which I have shared before but it fits so perfectly…

“There is a choice that you have to make, in everything you do.  So keep in the mind that in the end, the choice you make, makes you.”

So the choice is yours, but know what you decide about Jesus will have eternal consequences!

76 - Daily Dependence - Answer

Myrrh…You may remember hearing about the Three Wisemen from the east who followed a star to Bethlehem to bring gifts to Jesus.  Part 1 of the answer is found in Matthew 2:11 (NLT):

“They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”

Part 2 of the answer is found in John 19:38-40 (NLT)…

“Afterward Joseph of Arimathea, who had been a secret disciple of Jesus (because he feared the Jewish leaders), asked Pilate for permission to take down Jesus’ body.  When Pilate gave permission, Joseph came and took the body away.  With him came Nicodemus, the man who had come to Jesus at night.  He brought about seventy-five pounds of perfumed ointment made from myrrh and aloes.  Following Jewish burial custom, they wrapped Jesus’ body with the spices in long sheets of linen cloth.

You are probably wondering why this question is in here…Besides being a fun bible trivia question, the answer is found in Verse 39…Look who is mentioned there…Nicodemus!!  Even though he was a Pharisee and had a lot to lose by assisting Joseph of Arimathea in preparing Jesus’ body for burial, it is clear that he made the decision to follow Jesus and accept the salvation that is available to everyone!!! So can 1 Conversation Change a Life?  I think it is clear!!  Yes, if you will open your mind and heart to Jesus!!

I will close with this quote from Clayton King’s message on be “Born Again,” (that I posted the link to above.)

“Salvation cannot be achieved.  It can only be received and it’s received when you believe.  You can’t achieve your salvation, you can’t earn it.  You can’t work for God’s love, it’s already there, it was they before you were born.

Jesus is willing to save you, but He’s also able to save you.  It’s one thing to be willing, it’s another thing to be able.  He’s the only one who is able to save you…”

 

If you would like to like to pray to accept Jesus, go to this blog post…

★ Thought for the Day – I Hate Religion and I’m a Christian… ★ 

It has a simple prayer that you can lead you in making the best decision of your life!!  Please message me if you would like to learn more!  I pray that you will make the decision to trust Jesus, I promise you will never be disappointed!!

If you are interested there is a follow-up to this post called:

★ “Back to the Basics” – Follow-Up to Can 1 Conversation Change a Life? ★

★ “Back to the Basics” – I Hate Religion and I’m a Christian…Part 2 ★

74 - Daily Dependence - Religion Vs RelationshipThis is the first installment of our new segment called “Back to the Basics,” where we are looking into the fundamentals of Christianity, and getting back to the roots of our faith.  Though this is titled “Part 2,” you are not crazy, you have missed the one that was specifically titled “Part 1.”  Rather this is an extenuation and building upon of our very first blog post which is called ★Thought for the Day – Religion vs. Relationship ★ that really captures what “Daily Dependence” is all about!!

An atheist was taking a walk through the woods.

“What majestic trees!  What powerful rivers!  What beautiful animals!” he said to himself.

As he was walking alongside the river he heard a rustling in the bushes behind him.  He turned to look. He saw a 7 foot grizzly charging towards him.  He ran as fast as he could up the path.  He looked over his shoulder and saw that the bear was closing in on him.  He looked over his shoulder again, and the bear was even closer.

He tripped and fell on the ground.  He rolled over to pick himself up but saw the bear right on top of him, reaching for him with his left paw and raising his right paw to strike him.

At that instant the Atheist cried out: “Oh my God!”

Time stopped.
The bear froze.
The forest was silent.
As a bright light shone upon the man, a voice came out of the sky:

“You deny my existence for all of these years, teach others I don’t exist, and even credit creation to a cosmic accident.  Do you expect me to help you out of this predicament?  Am I to count you as a believer?”

The atheist looked directly into the light and said, “It would be hypocritical of me to suddenly ask you to treat me as a Christian now, but perhaps could you make the BEAR a Christian?”

“Very well,” said the voice.

The light went out.
The sounds of the forest resumed.
And then the bear dropped his right paw, brought both paws together and bowed his head and spoke: 

“Lord, bless this food, which I am about to receive from thy bounty through Christ our Lord Amen.”

74 - Daily Dependence - Lord Bless This Food

I love that joke for two reasons.  The first, for the zinger of a punch line.  The second reason is for how telling it is of human nature.  Just like that atheist, aren’t we the same way?  It’s only when were in trouble that we call on God.  Well this post is  going to dig into the roots of our faith.  Religion vs. Relationship…This is very personal for me because there is so much ambiguity between these too seemingly opposing words which has wreaked havoc in my life.  I would like to break them apart and talk about one at a time.  Religion is defined by Webster’s Dictionary as a…

“Belief in and worship of God or gods. A specific system of belief or worship, etc., built around a code of ethics, a philosophy of life, etc.”

Let’s define Religious as well.  Religious is defined by the same dictionary as:

  1. Devout; pious,
  2. Of or concerned with religion,
  3. Conscientiously exact; scrupulous.

So religion can be a belief system based on a code of ethics or a philosophy.  It can also be the catalyst for wars, such as the Crusades, (in the Middle Ages) which were expeditions undertaken, to “deliver” the Holy Places from Mohammedan (or Islamic) tyranny.  Or it can be the fuel for hatred and the cause of much pain when misused.  Jonathan Swift once said,

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“We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another.”

“Religion” often times is a big turn off to the “unchurched” or non-church attendees.  Now when I am talking about religion here, I am referring to the system; the organization, and policies that have been established by human beings.  Adjectives such as “Holy Rollers”, “Hypocrites” and “Gossips” are often used to describe churchgoers.  Why is that?

James 1:26-27 gives us God’s reasoning…

If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.  Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Religion has a way of altering people’s way of thinking and how they interact with unchurched people.  And whether an unchurched person misinterprets it or not, “religion” can turn someone off from getting to know the “reason” for the “religion” or should I say the source of the religion.  I know this well because I used to be one of them.  I grew up going to church and saw people not living the way they pretended to be, acting all high and mighty, gossiping about other people, when in reality they were far worse than those they spoke about.  I also had bad experiences with the church leaders being greedy for money.  So I decided religion is nothing that I wanted to be a part if it means that you turn into a hypocrite or become “money hungry.”  I blamed God and I walked out on Him and didn’t look back for many years.  See at that time I didn’t have a “relationship” with God, I only had “religion” and didn’t understand things as I do now.  I went to church on Sundays and attended a parochial school, but that was it.  I had set those church leaders on a pedestal, holding them to a higher standard, and let me tell you whenever you do that, you are just setting yourself up for disappointment because they are just human, just like I am, and just like you are; and humans make mistakes.  Do you know what is the saddest thing about being hurt by some form of religion?  The ultimate loser in the deal is God.  He is the one who is hurt the most.  You may not believe that but it is true.  Not only does God feel our pain but also the hurt that comes from our blaming Him for what man does to us.  Mark Twain said it perfectly,

          “God:  The most popular scapegoat for our sins.”

Isn’t that the truth?  Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that religion is bad.  I am not putting down any religion in particular.  Religion is good, but in it’s the proper context.  There is a huge difference between having religion (or beliefs) and being religious (or self-righteous).  I firmly believe that you must have a set of beliefs or doctrine that is Christ centered and that you should belong to a church that you regularly attend for accountability sake, because it is nearly impossible to live righteously on your own, without some form of support and teaching.  What is critical to realize is that “religion” is there to facilitate our relationship with God, not to be ritualistic or for appearances.

In Mark 2:27-28, the Pharisees were accusing Jesus’ disciples of breaking the law by picking grain on the Sabbath.  Jesus replied and 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.” 

In other words, don’t get hung up on technicalities, man was not created to serve the day, but the day was made for man to honor God.  Or another way to look at it, don’t focus on the day, focus on the “One,” who the day was created for to honor!

Religion can come in many different forms and deep down, whether people want to admit to it or not, everyone has a need to believe in something…And the reason why is because we were all created with a “God-sized hole in our heart,” that only God can fill.  Here is the point; all people have a need to believe, not in a “religion” but in a relationship, a relationship with God, our creator and father in heaven.  Take a look at the definition of relationship.

Noun: Relationship

– A state of connectedness between people (especially an emotional connection).

Now let’s insert “God” into that definition.

Relationship: A state of connectedness between people “and God” (especially an emotional connection).

God desperately wants to be connected with you and me.  He wants it so bad that He sent His son to Earth to show us the way.  (See John 3:16). When Jesus walked on this earth He spent all His time preaching about love, not about religion.  He talked about the love that God has for His children and what we need to do to see the father in heaven.  One day, an expert in the law, tested Jesus with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”  Jesus responded in Matthew 22:37-40 saying,

“’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: `Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Notice He did not say to keep the Sabbath holy or not to commit adultery or not to commit murder.  You see if you love God with all your heart, soul and mind you will honor His day.  And if you love you neighbor as yourself, there is no need to say do not commit adultery or murder because it naturally would not happen.  Jesus had an uncanny way of cutting through all the bureaucracy, all the ritualism, all the hypocrisy, to get to the heart of the matter.  Essentially, He said to stop thinking so provincially…just keep these two commandments and you will keep all the rest.  Obviously with a radical teaching like this, Jesus faced a lot of opposition.  He continually had problems with the Pharisees trying to thwart His ministry.

The name Pharisee in Hebrew means separatists, or the separated ones.  They were also known as Chasidim, which means loyal to God, or loved of God, which is extremely ironic in view of the fact that during this time, the Pharisees were the most bitter, and deadly, opponents of Jesus Christ and His message.

In chapter 23 of the book of Matthew, Jesus made it very clear what his feelings were about the Pharisees.  Starting in verse 6-7, He said that the Pharisees:

“Love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them `Rabbi.’”

In verse 27-28:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.  So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”    

Now those are some harsh words and these are just the tip of the iceberg; within the same chapter and in other parts of the bible Jesus has much more to say.  I have one more definition for you…Webster’s dictionary defines the word Pharisee as:

\Phar”i*see\ (f[a^]r”[i^]*s[=e]), n.

One of a sect or party among the Jews, noted for a strict and formal observance of rites and ceremonies and of the traditions of the elders, and whose pretensions to superior sanctity led them to separate themselves from the other Jews.          

A self-righteous or sanctimonious person, preaching not practicing.

Note the last part of that definition…“A self-righteous or sanctimonious person, preaching not practicing.”  It is clear that Jesus’ statements and their frequent citations through the bible have resulted, in the word “Pharisee” becoming a synonym in the English language for “hypocrite.”

Jesus, himself, hated “Religion” when it was twisted and misused as in the case of the Pharisees.  The lesson to learn from the Pharisees’ example is that self-righteousness is not righteousness, and that God’s true people are to live according to all of God’s Word, not just certain parts that are most convenient or to one’s liking.  Jesus preached about having a relationship with the God, the father in heaven, not about lifeless rules or empty religious traditions.  But rather a relationship whereby we can pray to God saying Abba, Father which loosely translated means daddy.  God is our daddy in heaven with outstretched arms just waiting for us to take one step in His direction.       

In his book Reading between the Lines, Gene Edward Veith explains:

“That the heart of our religion is a relationship with God – and relationships thrive on communication.  We can’t know people intimately by merely being in their presence.  It takes conversation to share thoughts and personalities.”

We need to work, to cultivate our relationship with God.  It is not something that just suddenly happens.  Just like our earthly relationships, we need to put in the time and effort.  If we don’t we could fall away from the faith.

Christianity is real; it’s alive and anything but boring.  A relationship with Jesus is personal.  He’s there for you and me, just waiting to hear from us.  He is the forgiver of sins and our deliverer.  God loved us so much that He sent His son to die for our sins so that we could have everlasting life.  Jesus was the sacrificial lamb for our sins.

There is a bridge in Portland, Oregon that spans the wide Willamette River, called the Marquam Bridge.  It was built-in the mid-1960s; and was designed to accommodate a freeway that was still on the drawing boards at that time, which was to be called the Mount Hood Freeway.  But the freeway was never built.  Oregon voters opted for a light rail line instead, and plans for the highway were scrapped.  If you drive to the east side of Portland over the Marquam Bridge on the upper deck of that two-decker freeway, you can catch a 74 - Daily Dependence - Marquam Bridgeglimpse of the exit that drops off into empty space.  It juts out just a bit from the bridge structure, and then it is cut off as though sliced by a giant knife.  The “exit,” permanently blocked, now goes nowhere, except into the waters of the Willamette far below.  You can see Mount Hood in the distance…but you can never reach the high slopes via the Mount Hood Freeway, because the freeway doesn’t exist.  That’s the picture of man’s relationship with God ever since the fall of Adam and Eve.  We might understand that there is a God and even yearn to reach Him but that is impossible because of the distance between Him and us due to Sin.  That separation between man and God is too great to make it across by ourselves.  But God provided a way to bridge the gap over 2,000 years ago, through the death of Jesus on the cross.  He came to show us the way to heaven and only through Jesus Christ can we cross that gulf to God the Father.

74 - Daily Dependence - The Importance of Jesus

All you need to do is…

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”  James 4:10

Today is the day is to establish or reestablish the relationship that all of us need with our creator.  Open the eyes of your heart and see what God is offering.  Maybe you have lost your way or maybe you are like me and have been hurt by “religion” and you are far from God right now  or maybe you are like that atheist walking in the woods never having sought God before.  Well today can change all of that.  If you are backsliding, you can rededicate your life to Christ.  There is nothing that could stop God from forgiving you and taking you back.  If you fall into the “damaged goods” category from being hurt by religion, I pray that your heart would be opened and that you would break the cycle of blaming God for the sins of man.   And finally, if you are sitting here tonight and you do not have a relationship with God listen to that voice you head, that tugging on your heart by the Holy Spirit and enter into the greatest relationship you could ever have by dedicating your life to Jesus.  Regardless of where you stood with your relationship with God when you started reading this post, you don’t have to stay the same way.  Humble yourself and give up the control of your life to the Lord so He can lift you up!

I want to extend the offer to anyone who does not know Jesus as your Lord and Savior.  If you don’t know what I mean it’s easy.  Give up the control and give your heart to Him.  All you need to do is accept the forgiveness that is available through the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross.

All you need to do is acknowledge that you are sinner and in need of a savior and truly sorry for your sins.  Today start anew and trust in Jesus who was the payment for our sins.  Just pray this simple prayer…

Lord I am a sinner.  I have tried to run my life and failed, I cannot do it on my own.
I need a savior.  Please wash me, cleanse me, and create in me a new heart.
I am sorry for my sins and I believe that Jesus died as the payment for those sins.
Please take my life I freely give it to you.

If you earnestly prayed that prayer, you are a new creation
(see Romans 10:9-10 and 2 Corinthians 5:17)!
God will honor that prayer of surrender and will do incredible things in your life! 

74 - Daily Dependence - New Creation - 2 Corinthians 5-17 - New Creation

Here is the next installment of the “Back to the Basics” series, called ★ “Back to the Basics” – Can 1 Conversation Change a Life? ★, I pray you will be blessed!