Our brother Daniel Lee preached a timely message last Sunday titled "A Tale of Two Sabbaths." To help you meditate on the sermon, and as we prepare our hearts for this coming week's sermon, we share some of those notes and points here. Or, you can listen to the full message.
6 Differences between law-keeping religion and following Jesus
- There is little joy, freedom, or life in our obedience to God. And this is because…
- We view God’s commands as a burden, as a drudgery, as slavery. It is mere duty and not delight. The reason is that we don’t know the heart of the God behind these commands – he gave them for life.
- As a result, we’re proud of ourselves. We believe God owes us something. Why? Because we shoulder this burden of obeying God’s commands.
- On top of God’s commands, we add manmade rules and preferences, and we elevate them to the place of God’s commands. We baptize our preferences, our ways of doing church life, our ways of living, and judge other people by them.
- We care more about being right than doing good. That is, we care more about other people’s sins and what they deserve, rather than their suffering and what we can do to help them.
- We begin to look for faults in others, and we become quick to make accusations. We feel the need to prove that others are in the wrong and that we’re in the right. Perhaps we feel we are fighting for some just cause, perhaps a political one, or a situation at work. We look for the speck in others’ eyes, and disregard the log in our own eyes.
For those of us with strong opinions, grand visions, or ideals of things, Dietrich Bonhoeffer has sobering words:
God hates visionary dreaming; it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. The man who fashions a visionary ideal of community demands that it be realized by God, by others, and by himself. He enters the community of Christians with his demands, sets up his own laws, and judges the brethren and God himself accordingly. He stands adamant, a living reproach to all others in the circle of the brethren. He acts as if he is the creator of the Christian community, as if his dream binds men together.
When things do not go his way, he calls the effort a failure. When his ideal picture is destroyed, he sees the community going to smash. So he becomes, first an accuser of his brethren, then an accuser of God, and finally the despairing accuser of himself.
Because God has already laid the only foundation of our fellowship, because God has bound us together in one body with other Christians in Jesus Christ, long before we entered into common life with them, we enter into that common life not as demanders but as thankful recipients. We thank God for giving us brethren who live by his call, by his forgiveness, and his promise. We do not complain of what God does not give us; we rather thank God for what he does give us daily.
This is the result of accusing our brethren, of Pharisaical religion: it destroys life, instead of saving it.
But even for Pharisees, there’s good news. Our passage makes this point, v2: only some Pharisees are out to get Jesus (v2). Others are not. Pharisees can change. Jesus changed Saul of Tarsus and gave him a new name – Paul. Jesus saved Simon the Zealot and made him a disciple. Jesus changed Nicodemus, a Pharisee. You too can change.
You just have to let go of depending on your law-keeping, and realize that where you have failed to seek life, Jesus has come to save yours. It’s through him that you received a right standing with God, and through your union with him that you’ll continue in your relationship to God.
The more you see this, the more you’ll realize that He offers a new way to live, the more you’ll also become like him – someone who wants to see others’ lives saved. The more you can show mercy. The more you can live in free and joyful discipleship. And the more the community of his followers becomes a light in this world.