God’s or Man’s Religion?

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That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. 22 Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive.  24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” 25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. – Luke 24:13-27

Dead Tree Among the Living-II | Hawaii | March 2022

There are only two religions in the world. God’s religion or man’s religion. I recall that as a foundational teaching for my theological studies in one of the first seminary classes to took. Revelation and Scripture, was the class. And it made an impression on me. If something doesn’t make sense to me, I’m not ready to dismiss it. If it’s difficult to believe, I must simply make my mind captive to Scripture. I don’t want man’s religion. God alone saves.

God’s religion is everything that is revealed in the Bible. Man’s religion is anything else. It may be an oversimplification. But a phrase of Jesus in this passage puts me in mind of it.  “O foolish ones,” he says, “and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” The word “all” seems important: all that the prophets have spoken. Not some. Not most. All. 

Oh how we like to pick and choose. Oh how dangerous that really is. OK…maybe it’s not a matter of life or death that some of the obscure passages in Daniel gain various and sometimes mutually exclusive interpretations. But that doesn’t mean we dismiss the controversial or confusing teachings. It means we hold to our understanding of them in an atmosphere of humility. 

But this is not just about whether we can edit our Bibles in the manner of Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson famously created his own gospel by taking a sharp instrument, perhaps a penknife, to existing copies of the New Testament and pasting up his own account of Christ’s philosophy, distinguishing it from what he called “the corruption of schismatizing followers.” Danger! (Cf. Revelation 22:18-19)

The stakes are high: not just the plagues that will come to those who add to God’s word, but the share of the tree of life is at stake. But let’s put this in a more positive light. Jesus laments the disciples’ slowness of heart because they failed to believe what the prophets had said about him and his suffering, death, and entrance into glory. 

The central message of the Bible is the love of God shown fully and graciously in Jesus Christ. His death was the proof of that grace. His resurrection was proof of his glory. I don’t want to miss that. Jesus does not want us to miss it either. 

  1. Michael Steele said:

    Pastor good afternoon!  Do you mind enlightening me on the major difference between Jacob and Esau’s Birthright and Blessing handed down by Isaac?

    We are in a really good Bible study on Genesis, and I am tasked with Chapter 27 and 28.  The question came up today, and I would like a Biblical Scholar like you to give me a little input.  Here is my understanding, and please please correct me if I am wrong! My understanding from the text is this: Esau “despised” or gave up his Birthright to Jacob for a bowl of lentels.  Esau really did not care that much for his Birthright because he was not interested in the Spiritual workings of God.  He married Canaanite women to his parents chagrin and was not considered a Godly man, although Isaac seemed to favor his prowess and strength in worldly terms.   He really was more interested in the worldly material blessings that came along with the Blessing handed down from Abraham and then to Isaac.  So , in my mind the birthright had more of a religious and spiritual dimension to it in that the heir of the birthright would be responsible for the spiritual well being of his clan versus more emphasis on the “milk and honey” and other worldly blessings handed down by the Abrahamic Blessing? Am I on the right track or am I missing another deeper distinction between the two?   Thank you so much!  I told Liz about PLI’s ministry and we are sad we cannot make this meeting, but we are existed to begin praying for the successful mission you and Diane are about to partake on! In God We Trust, Michael

    • Greetings Michael!
      You have uncovered some good insights here. I don’t have a particular take on any of the ideas you mention. I do like the insight about Easu’s lax attitude toward God, and that he married Canaanite women. I see a man who took too little thought about the long-term implications of his actions (from a purely worldly point of view). I also see the grave dangers of parental favorites playing out between these two brothers. Isaac and Rebekah were not united in their love for their sons, and each also had their favorite. I do tend to think of how purely human decisions and dynamics can shape character.
      Those human dynamics play out in large part because of the spiritual weakness in their family. I wouldn’t see the need for a distinction of the worldly blessings versus the spiritual blessings. I tend to think of worldly decisions and blessings flowing from spiritual foundations.
      There are so many dynamics at play here. So much sin. And so much of the story yet to unfold.
      My bottom line in all this is that God uses sinners to accomplish his purposes. Jesus points to God saying, “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” Jacob wasn’t exactly pure as the driven snow. We never get it perfect. But God’s grace abounds even over our sins.
      Thanks for asking. I hope this helps!

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