gnats, camels, and following Jesus

“These people honor me with their lips but their hearts are far from me.  They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.” – Matthew 15:8-9 (Jesus quoting from Isaiah 29:13)

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You give a tenth of your spices – mint, dill, and cumin.  But you have neglected the more important matters of the law – justice, mercy, and faithfulness.  You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.  You blind guides!  You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.” – Matthew 23:23-24 (Jesus telling the Pharisees what’s up!)

There is a point where religion gives way to faith.  In order for this to occur there must come a point in time where God becomes real.  To us.  Where His kingdom begins to break in all around us.  It is a pivotal moment.  A crucial moment.

Maybe it comes about in a moment of victory.  Maybe it’s in a moment of defeat.   Maybe it comes about through the words of God in Scripture.  Maybe through the words of a friend.  Certainly the Spirit is involved, softening our hearts.  Whatever it is that brings it about, we must come to a point in our lives and in our faith when a decision is made.  God is either God, or He is not.  Jesus is either Lord, or He is not.  The life-saving work of Christ is either everything to us, or it is nothing to us.  Relationship with God is either a get out of jail free card at the end of this physical life, or it is the transformative covenant that it is intended to be here and now.

Somehow, too often, discipleship is divorced from faith.  As if that’s possible.  As if that’s biblical.  As if that’s acceptable!  The call is to follow Jesus (faith).  Not simply a system of belief (religion).  And too often we find ourselves straining out the gnat but swallowing the camel.

What is discipleship?  Taking up our cross daily and following Jesus (Luke 9:23).  Where does religion end and faith begin?  Only, only, when we follow Him.

If we understand anything from the cross, anything from the resurrection, anything from the design of the Gospel, it is that half-hearted Christianity is a hollow shell of existence, and nothing compared to the overwhelming greatness that comes from living a life defined by Jesus.

Only when we willingly, intentionally give our whole selves over to Him will we begin to live into the fullness of the Kingdom.  And only when we are defined by Christ, will we begin see life with the clarity that only He provides.

Until then we swallow the camel one suffocating chunk at a time….

Glory to God!

Jason

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