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Religion vs. Relationship

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Don't be a religious hypocrite

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List of hypocritical things that get under your skin.
Story of getting a speeding ticket in McIntyre
Read text. Pray.
In this encounter that Jesus had with the religious leaders of His day, we learn about the difference between being a religious person and having a genuine, life-changing walk with Jesus. The Pharisees were supposed to be the spiritual leaders of Jesus’ day, but while they had a lot of religious rules that they tried to keep and also enforced on other people, their hearts were far from God. It’s easy to do that.
It’s easy to have great intentions, but find yourself practicing legalism instead of having relationship. So this morning, we want to look at some things they did wrong, and how we can avoid making those same mistakes in our own lives and perhaps leading others to do the same.

1. If you clean up your heart, you will clean up your life (vv.38-41).

Explain the religious practice of hand washing
Not hygenic
A tradition, not a command
Can you think of any traditions that we treat as law in the church today?
Stand, sit, stand in worship
Programs and special events
What we wear
Nothing is necessarily wrong with these things. They can even have good intentions. But we have to distinguish between what is commanded by God and what is not. We also need to make sure that we have pure motives.
The Pharisees had elevated their traditions above the Law itself, and used them as a litmus test for genuine faith in God.
Breaking the commands had more to do with their own pride than with God’s law.
They were keeping traditions but were neglecting the heart issues that were weightier
Justice for the poor vs. washing hands (which is more important?)
They were meticulous about what they tithed, but they wouldn’t help the poor without getting public recognition. They weren’t doing it for the right reason.
Matthew 23:6–7 ESV
and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others.
Have you ever met these guys? They love the titles: pastor, bishop, reverend, apostle. Jesus actually warned against flaunting titles. He said:
Matthew 23:8–11 ESV
But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant.
Matthew 23:
Matthew 6:1 ESV
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.
They could also be bought. They were essentially like modern day politicians.
I was just talking to someone yesterday about the number of “celebrity pastors” there are and how gaudy and expensive their lifestyles are. These guys give a bad name to Christianity. They turn people away from the truth.
The final comparison Jesus gave was that the Pharisees were like unmarked graves
Walking over a grave or touching a dead body made a person ceremonially unclean
Jesus is saying that in demanding that people follow their traditions and live like the Pharisees, they are making people unclean before God without them even realizing it.
Just think about the common phrase that people give for why they don’t want to go to church. “They church is full of hypocrites.” Why do you think they say that?

2. Don’t Burden Others with Unnecessary Rules and Rituals (vv. 45-46)

This is very similar to the first point, but it goes deeper. We just looked at the fact that the heart affects the rest of our lives, but now we want to turn to a second group of religious leaders called the lawyers. These guys walked right into Jesus’ criticism.
Before we look at these guys let me just point something out. So many people today want to tip-toe around the issues and nobody wants to call sin what it is. We are so afraid of hurting people’s feelings that we are fine offending God as long a people don’t think we are being judgy. Jesus didn’t do this. He got to the heart of the problem with these guys. So what did He say?
Jesus called out the fact that the lawyers were practicing legalism and demanding that people keep burdensome rules that God never intended.
Think about the ways that Jesus got in trouble with these guys.
Healing on the Sabbath
Picking heads of grain as He and the disciples walked through the fields
Let be be clear that the intention of these laws was good, but it was an unnecessary burden. (fence around the law)
We often put our convictions about things on other people, when they are not law, but personal preferences are personal convictions.
The Pharisees were burdening people and not offering them ways to help
In what ways do we do this to others?
Prayer time in the morning vs. other times
Bible translations
Reading the Bible through in a year
How we dress in church: Suit vs business casual
Guiding Questions:
Is this a personal conviction or a command from Scripture?
Is this helpful or does it place an unnecessary burden on others

3. Don’t Cause Others to Stumble (vv.47-52)

The Pharisees could condemn the killing of the prophets by their forefathers and even erect monuments to them over their tombs, but they possessed the same heart as their forefathers.
They might not have been present to kill the prophets, but they would kill the ultimate Prophet, Jesus
When Jesus says that they killed the prophets from Abel to Zechariah that is saying from Genesis to 2 Chronicles, which is the first to last book fo the Hebrew Bible. The Hebrew Bible contains all of the 39 books of our Old Testament, but they are in a different order.
the key to knowledge is the Word of God. They wouldn’t listen and they prevented others from listening.
When we teach our opinions instead of God’s Word, we lock up the key to knowledge and pervert God’s Word
We prevent others from seeing the truth of God’s Word because we want them to hang on to what we believe
We must not come to the Bible with an opinion already in our mind of what it says, but rather we have to let the Bible tell us what to believe.
Even if your favorite pastor or preacher has taught you something, don’t take it as fact alone, but let the Scriptures teach you and change your opinion if that isn’t what the Bible says
When I look at my life, does it lead others into genuine, authentic relationship with God, or am I leading them to become religious hypocrites?
Do I turn people away from Jesus, or inspire them to want to have the kind of relationship that I have with him?
Do I invest my life in others to help them walk with Jesus, or am I laying down heavy burdens on them that they were not called to carry?
All of these are legitimate questions that we need to ask ourselves. God does not play religious games with us. He isn’t impressed by ritual, but desires relationship with us. We have also been called to lead others into this kind of relationship. If we are not investing in others; if we are not sharing the good news that Jesus died for our sins to free us from the burdens of the law that we could not carry, then we are not being obedient.
And what about those of you who have not made the decision to follow Jesus today. Would you be willing to be free from the burden of trying to impress God and simply receive His forgiveness for your sins because of what Jesus did for you by dying on the cross. He was raised again the third day to give you eternal life and fellowship with God. You can pray and talk to God. You don’t need a formula or code. You simply call out to Him and He will save you from your sins. Would you be willing to do that today?
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