Joseph Iregbu

Purpose Guy

Religion Got in the Way

For the past 4 and half months, we’ve been going through a daily in-depth study of the book of Matthew at family devotion, trusting God for a deeper experience of Christ, and the life He calls us to live.

It’s been both a real eye-opener and a deeply rich experience.

The religious leaders, in chapter 21, pressed upon Jesus to reveal the source of His authority. Rather than engage them in their plot, He posed a question of His own about John the Baptist; a question they deliberately ignored to answer.

The discourse took a significant turn when Jesus went further to narrate the story of a man with two sons, who asked both to work in his vineyard. The first refused initially but later had a change of heart and obeyed his father.

The second however was quick to declare his commitment to obey his father but also had a change of heart and did not follow through on his professed obedience.

In response to Christ’s question, the religious leaders were correct to identify which of the two did the will of their father; it was the first son. Then came these words:

Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you.

Then it hit me…

Religion got in the way

The worst of sinners among the religious leaders (at least, that’s how they saw tax collectors and prostitutes) embraced God’s free gift of grace to genuine salvation ahead of them.

They (the religious leaders) assumed the role of heaven’s gatekeepers but never made it through themselves. Why? Religion got in the way.

They knew the letters of the law but not the spirit of it. They knew the demands of the law and the Torah but not its application with love and mercy to human relationships. Why? Religion got in the way.

They were professors of all things godly but were the most judgmental of all men different to them. Anyone who held a different opinion was spurned and regarded as irrelevant. Why? Religion got in the way.

They spent several hours in the temple but were void of the presence of God. They loved their own but cared less about those outside their fold. Why? Religion got in the way.

They had a zeal for ‘godly’ traditions but lacked godly compassion. They loved the laws of God but not the God of the laws. They were quick to condemn those that sinned but could not see the log in their own eyes. Why? Religion got in the way.

Why this matters to us

How does this translate to us? In so many ways. Indeed, in so many ways. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall —  1 Corinthians 10:12.

There is a huge gulf between knowing about God and knowing God. We must strive for the latter —  Jesus died and rose to bring us into direct fellowship with the trinity and close intimacy with the Godhead.

The pursuit of traditions and religiosity becomes detrimental to our holy pursuit of God if our traditions become the substance and ground of our devotion and worship, not Christ. Share on X

We are not called to uphold traditions that have no eternal consequence but to embrace the grace of God that brings salvation and express that grace in a way that exemplifies the nature and love of Christ to the world around us. We are called to be Christ-like.

We must consciously fight to wean ourselves of Pharisaic tendencies that make us look holy on the outside and condemn others solely on that basis, but we are corrupt and void of inward holiness and integrity before God.

The tax collector in Luke 18:13 did not let religion get in his way. He came a sinner, saw grace, embraced grace and walked away a saint. The Pharisee standing beside him also went to ‘church’ but was not transformed. Here’s why:

But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

No scorecard to read out to God. No good deeds to boast about. Only an epiphany of his sinfulness; all made possible because he didn’t let religion get in way.

So, what would you do?

P.S. Check out the latest episodes on Purpose Guy Podcast on Anchor, Spotify and everywhere you get podcast.

Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash.

About Joseph Iregbu

From a homeless, near-school-dropout to living a story worth telling. Purpose is my passion. What's your story?

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