warnings to religious people

woe to you

“No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a basket, but on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness. Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness. If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light.” (Luke 11:33-36)

Religious people close their eyes to Jesus (the Light of the world). In Luke 11, the Pharisees and lawyers had such eyes. They eyes were darkened. On the outside they appeared holy and righteous, but the opposite was true about their insides. Their insides were without light, full of pride and unbelief (vs.37-41). Therefore Jesus gives some serious warnings to religious people. In fact, he gives six warnings:


1) Do not brag about what you give to God (v.42, i.e. tithes & services). Religious people don’t care for people or God, the care about how holy people think they are.

2) Do not love the good seats in God’s house (v.43). The Pharisees paid good money for the good seats—the seat where everyone had a good view of them.

3) Do not love titles. The Pharisees were more concerned about their name than the name of God (v.44). Their fame will die with them in the grave, but God’s fame lasts forever.

Jesus trumps the Pharisees. Jesus is title is: Son of God, King of Kings, and Savior of the world. He is seated: at the right hand of the Father, the seat of supreme authority. His fame will stand the test of time and one day all will bow at His feet.


4) Do not burden (intimidate/bully) people with rules stacked upon rules (v.46). The lawyers made their living studying the law and enforcing them upon others. They don’t love Jesus or people, they only love being in control of rules and making sure others are keeping them.

5) Do not kill the prophet who calls you to repent (vs.47-51). In the Old Testament, Israel killed the prophets they did not like. The religious people will kill Jesus too.

6) Do not make the Scripture to fit your agenda (v.52). Instead, search the Scriptures to understand God’s plan. The only way to God is not religion, it’s Jesus. Religion gets in the way of redemption. Not only do religious people not understand they prevent others from understanding too.

Jesus trumps the lawyers. He is the author and perfecter of the law. He willingly dies a sinless servant so that the unrighteous could have His righteousness. Jesus is the key to Scripture. He is the Door (cf.11:9-10). Knock and you have eternal life.

In conclusion, each of these warnings has something in common: They show the condition of man’s heart, which is full of pride and idols. Now, it’s easy to point fingers at religious people, but if you were honest, you and I can be just like Pharisee or lawyer? Where has religious thinking distorted your heart? What sins of religious belief or action do you need to repent of? What does repentance look like in those areas of your life? Will you let Jesus’ light shine inside out?

Jesus breaks the rules

breaking the rules

Rules. Rules. Rules. They are everywhere. There are rules for school, rules for the road, rules for table manners, rules for marriage, rules for parents and children, rules for governing, rules for meetings, rules for church, written rules, unspoken rules, and even rules for rules.

Sometimes rules can seem nettlesome when we don’t understand their purpose. Like, why can’t we use #1 or #3 pencil for tests? Now, rules aren’t all bad. Think of a world without rules. It would be chaos. Rules are good. Rules are meant to protect us and help us. This is the heart behind a parents saying to their children, “Look both ways before crossing the street.” It’s a rule that could save ones life.

God has made rules too. His rules perfectly and lovingly protect us and help us. However, some people have seen God’s rules as overbearing or unreasonable and choose to rebel. Rebellious people break the rule by ignoring them altogether. Others have seen God’s rules as insufficient and needing additions to fit their religious system. Religious people make rules for God, themselves and others.

So is it ever okay to make or break the rules? In Luke 6, Jesus will answer this question as He’s being accused of breaking their rules. What rules does Jesus break? Certain religious leaders accuse Jesus of breaking the Sabbath rules.

What is the Sabbath? Literally, it means “rest” and is rooted in the seventh day of creation when God rested after six-days of creating (Genesis 2:2-3). God did not rest because He was tired, but He set an example for mankind (Mark 2:27-28). God knew in His infinite wisdom that man would be weak and need to take a day off from work and enjoy the day of rest. The Sabbath is a day dedicated to God (Exodus 20:9-11). So how do the religious leaders think Jesus breaks the rules of the Sabbath?

1) Jesus breaks the rules by helping His hungry friends (Luke 6:1-5)

no_food_or_drinkJesus and His disciples were hungry and there was no McDonald’s drive-thru available to get a quite bite to eat. In accordance with the law (Deuteronomy 23:25), they go into a field, pick grain, crush it with their hands, and eat it. The Pharisees catch wind of this and cry foul. They ask, “Why are you sinning on the Sabbath?” (v.2) Why do they assume Jesus and His followers are sinning? The Pharisee’s saw this as harvesting and threshing, and accuse Jesus of doing work on the Sabbath. Sounds like a stretch, eh?

The Pharisees were sticklers for law keeping. The took God’s law and added to it a man-made framework to give them the appearance of righteousness. So with such laws like, “Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy,” (Exodus 20:8ff) they made-up a list of rules to look really holy, but the Sabbath became just another religious activity.

Isn’t that easy to do? Have you ever made the Sabbath a religious activity to boast in yourself? It is easier to keep your own rules of righteousness than measure yourself by God’s rules. According to their rules, Pharisees were on the Varsity Team and everyone else was on warming bench.

How does Jesus respond to the Pharisees accusation? First, He compares the situation to the example of David and his soldiers eating the bread of Presence from the temple, which was only to be eaten by the priests (1 Sam.21:1-6). Jesus points to the fact that God is more concerned about the person and the motivation of their heart than the particulars of the law. Jesus could see through to the hearts of the Pharisees and they were evil.

Second, Jesus doesn’t appeal to the religious leaders authority or accept their theology, instead He claims, “I am Lord over the Sabbath” (v.5). In other words, Jesus says, “I wrote the law and the Sabbath was my idea. Stop arguing with Me and start listening. Don’t fight Me, follow Me. Since I made the Sabbath, He define it.” Not only does He define it, He lives and fulfills it before their very eyes.

Sabbath is a wonderful gift from God to be enjoyed. Religious people suck the joy, passion, and purpose out of it (and everything they add rules to). They make the Sabbath as fun as going to the dentist on a free day. This particular Sabbath should have been the most unique, memorable, and joyful ones of their lives because they were in the presence of the Son of God.

2) Jesus breaks the rules by healing a man’s hand (Luke 6:6-11)

no peopleOn the Sabbath, Jesus goes to the synagogue for worship. He’s teaches. And Luke, the doctor, tells us there is a man present who has a withered hand. The Pharisees and scribes are listening critically to Jesus words and waiting with baited breath to see if He will heal the man. Like wolves ready to pounce on their prey, they were salivating at the opportunity to catch Jesus doing something they thought offended the law. Religious people are quick to tear apart and devour others.

This time Jesus asks the question, “I ask you, is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to destroy it?.” (v.9) No response is given because the answer is obvious. Jesus then has the man to stretch out His hand, in faith, he does what Jesus says, and Jesus heals him. In that moment, Jesus showed the religious people that helping someone in need trumps holding tightly to your rules. Jesus transforms this man life. Forever will he remember this Sabbath as the day Jesus healed His hand and healed his heart.

Religious people are not ruled by loving God or loving people, they ruled by a love for rules. Loving rules is legalism. Legalism is when people take the Bible and add to it. They make rules outside of the Bible that are equal to the Bible. Legalism is unbiblical, unloving, moralistic, man-pleasing, compromising, critical, judgmental, arrogant, self-righteous, and godless.

Legalism is an enemy of Jesus and His Word

Legalism is a dangerous enemy; it adds to the Bible and rejects Jesus as the only sufficient means to righteousness. Legalism denies something called sola scriptura, where Scripture alone are our highest authority. Sola Scriptura was first coined by the Protestant Reformers. All other authorities, like other books, teachers, rules, and leaders, are under, not equal to, Scripture. Religious people tend to elevate teachers and also other lists, and rules, and books equal to Scripture.

So dangerous is legalism that it kills Jesus. The Pharisees were so angry that they connived a plan to get rid of Him, “But they were filled with fury and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus.” (v.11) Religious legalist don’t lose because they make their enemies pay. When they are angry they attack. Luke 6:11 will lead to Luke 23:46, which is the murder of Jesus.

Jesus summarizes the rules with two rules

Jesus doesn’t break any of the Bible’s rules, but He breaks certain religious rules. He does so because He values helping people more than following others expectations, traditions or religious rules. He knows that religious legalism is the default setting of every human being. So in Matthew 22:37-40, Jesus shares the two most important rules, often known as the greatest rules,

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

These rules show God’s heart for giving the law: love. God intends the law to protect and help you love Him and others around you. It’s not about loving the rules or loving to rebel against them. It’s about loving the God and others. As Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27-28)

Some of you need to repent of your religion. Enough with the legalism. Enough with the rule making. Enough adding to the Bible. Enough with the self-righteousness. Enough with the boasting and bragging. Enough with the criticizing and judging. Repent of your religion and come to Jesus. You can’t have Jesus and religion. It’s just Jesus.

Some of you also need to repent of your rebellion against Jesus’ rules. Enough with rebellion. Enough with rule breaking. Enough ignoring the Bible and subtracting from it. Enough with bashing the religious. Enough with reverse legalism. Enough with lawlessness and licentiousness. Repent and follow Jesus.

Come to Jesus. Receive His death for your sin, His righteousness for your unrighteousness, let Him do the work of grace and transformation in you. The truth is Jesus lived the perfect life. He died a substitutionary death, and He rises to give you the gift of righteousness. Stop trying to be righteous on your own and receive the righteousness of Jesus, and share that message of grace with those around you who need it too.


Why do most people not ahead church? Do people that don’t go to church believe in God? Some often assume that just because someone doesn’t go to church that they do not believe in God. The fact is, many do not understand the unchurched. If you were to interview an unchurched you would come to understand:

1. Unchurched believe that any religion is okay, as long as it helps you.

We live in a universalistic world that thinks it is sophisticated and politically correct to say that all roads lead to God. I hear the masses say, “You can believe what you want, I will believe what I want, and we are all okay.” The fastest growing religion in America and the world is tolerance which has the motto’s: “everything can be right” or “nothing is certain.”

Is that really true? Can anyone make that claim? What we understand from each of the major religions of the world is that everyone thinks they are right and others are wrong, even those who claim to be agnostic or atheist. Can they all be right or wrong when they are all truly different at their core? No.

2. Unchurched are curious about the spiritual, but put off by religion.

People are generally fascinated and intrigued by the spiritual. However, they do not want to be tied down by any one belief or give up control to God. As I talk to many unchurched youth I am overwhelmed by their desire to know about God, faith, and the afterlife, but not commit to it. 4 out of 5 American’s call themselves deeply spiritual [Aug.26, 2002 Barna Update], but base their faith on their circumstances not on absolute truth or formal religion. People do not want a religious system running their lives, telling them to stop sleeping with their partner, to obey “stupid” moral standards, to quit abusing substances, or to start forgiving their parents.

3. Unchurched do not know what Christianity really is all about.

A few weeks ago I was meeting someone for lunch. While waiting I was talking to another person waiting for a friend too. This person began to complain about their work and how they were glad to be on lunch break.  Every other word that came out of their mouth was an expletive. When they were finished venting they asked, “What kind of work do you do?” I have to laugh inside when people ask this question. Mostly for the response that follows, “I am a pastor”. He just looked at me with that I-am-embarssed-for-cussing-like-a-sailor-in-front-of-a-minister-look.

After an awkward pause he said, “Oh, you know, I am a Christian too!”

I did not doubt him, but I did question, “That’s great. Where do you go to church?”

“Oh, I do not go to church.”

“Why is that?”

“Well you do not have to go to church to be a Christian,” was his dogmatic reply.

Many consider themselves Christian by default because they live in America, their mom was a Christian, or because they went to a denominational church sometime in the past.  Two-thirds of people who do not go to church say that they are Christians [Barna, 2000], while half of those same people do not celebrate Easter which is a big Christian holiday. It doesn’t take you long to learned that not everyone who says their a Christian really believes that Jesus Christ can save them from all their sins or that He is the only way to eternal life.

4. Unchurched do not know what to believe for certain.

Many who claim that they are Christians in the previous point are uncertain about one thing: where will I go in the afterlife? That is the age old question. The common answer is, ” I do not know. Does anybody? I think I am good enough.” Today, there are many unfounded theories about God and His plan for life after death. Some will say, “God is a good God and will be gracious to me. Of course, He will forgive everybody.”

5. Unchurched are searching to fill an empty void.

How good is good enough? Who sets the standard of the scale of goodness? We like to set the standard by weighing our goodness against anthers goodness. I might think, “Well, I am not as bad as Hitler or that molester I heard about on the six o’clock news.” Who says you are not as bad? We like to project upon God our good standing and impose upon Him mercy.

I would like to propose that when reading the Bible from cover to cover it is clear–I do not deserve His mercy, I am not a very good person at all, I desperately need God’s grace to cover my sin, and belief in God’s Son is the only means to an afterlife of peace. I absolutely believe that a daily relationship with Jesus Christ is what will fill the empty void and longing of our heart. Jesus is certain, poses great questions to the ultra-religious [John 8:54-59], and claims to be the way truth and life [John 10:20]. Nobody goes to heaven but through Him [John 14:6].