Teaching Sermons For Pastors and Laymen

 5-16-2004

Title: Consequences of Bad Religion

Text: John 11:47-48, 53

Scripture Reading: John 11:45-53

 


Introduction

CHRIST DIED DURING Passover week in Jerusalem. 

It was the HIGH HOLY WEEK of the year for the Jewish people. 

And Jerusalem was CROWDED with religious pilgrims. 

It does not take much reading of the gospel accounts to realize that JESUS WAS CRUCIFIED BY RELIGIOUS PEOPLE. 

The voices that shouted, “CRUCIFY HIM!” had frequently prayed in the temple. 

The CROSS IS AN EXAMPLE OF THE EVIL that can be accomplished by bad religion.

We are going to consider the CONSEQUENCES OF BAD RELIGION today. 

The scripture that we are going to use is JOHN 11:45-53.

“Then many of the Jews who had come to Mary, and had seen the things Jesus did, believed in Him.  But some of them went away to the Pharisees and told them the things Jesus did.  Then the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered a council and said, “What shall we do? For this Man works many signs.  If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation.”  And one of them, Caiaphas, being high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all, nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish.”  Now this he did not say on his own authority; but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad.  Then, from that day on, they plotted to put Him to death.”

 

LET’S BEGIN TODAY BY GIVING CONSIDERATION TO RELIGION AND THE CROSS.

Jerusalem was the HOLY CITY, and it is still the Holy City for three religions; Christianity, Judaism and Islam. 

MARK RECORDS AN IMPRESSIVE LIST of religious leaders who participated in planning Christ’s death. 

Allow me describe those very religious people.

THE SADDUCEES were the priestly party whose work and interest focused on the temple. 

THEY LOVED A SMOOTH, formal worship service; they had a flair for pomp and ritual. 

THE PHARISEES were the legalist whose pride in keeping up the fine points of the law separated them from “sinners.” 

THE SCRIBES interpreted and preserved the law. 

THE CHIEF PRIESTS officiated at worship and spoke the words of forgiveness. 

Completing the group were the ELDERS-community leaders and various rulers. 

ALL OF THESE LEADERS MINGLED with a crowd of zealous Jews, many of whom journeyed countless miles for the annual exodus deliverance celebration; the Feast of Passover. 

IT WAS NOT THE DOWN-AND-OUT group who crucified Jesus. 

THE UP-AND-IN CROWD did it-law-abiding, hard-working, religious people did it.

The next thing to see is that there was a CONNECTION BETWEEN JERUSALEM AND ROME. 

THE EASE WITH WHICH THESE RELIGIOUS LEADERS became a party to evil was partly the result of an unhealthy connection to Rome. 

THE ROMANS CONTROLLED THE SANHEDRIN; the HIGH PRIEST WAS A ROMAN APPOINTEE who acted at the bidding of the Roman officials. 

ONE OF THE CHIEF PRIESTS EXPRESSED THEIR DILEMMA: “THEN THE CHIEF PRIESTS AND THE PHARISEES GATHERED A COUNCIL AND SAID, “WHAT SHALL WE DO? FOR THIS MAN WORKS MANY SIGNS.  IF WE LET HIM ALONE LIKE THIS, EVERYONE WILL BELIEVE IN HIM, AND THE ROMANS WILL COME AND TAKE AWAY BOTH OUR PLACE AND NATION” (JOHN 11:47-48). 

JESUS’ RAISING OF LAZARUS from the dead caused many of the Jews to believe in Him. 

JEWISH AUTHORITIES FELT they could no longer allow Jesus to work miracles and convert the Jews. 

The Sadducees and Pharisees quickly called a MEETING OF THE SANHEDRIN (the Jewish Supreme Court) to discuss the problem. 

THE JEWISH NATION HELD A PRIVILEGED STATUS WITHIN THE ROMAN EMPIRE, AND THE SANHEDRIN FEARED THAT JESUS WOULD GAIN A LARGE FOLLOWING, CAUSE A CIVIL UPROAR, AND ANGER THE GOVERNING ROMAN EMPIRE.

IF THAT HAPPENED, these religious leaders would lose their positions and political power. 

The high priest Caiaphas suggested that JESUS SHOULD BE KILLED.

Those leaders, which would be the equivalent of the church today, BOWED BEFORE THE ROMAN GOVERNMENT. 

GOD WAS NO LONGER ACKNOWLEDGED as the supreme authority. 

THEY WANTED TO PLEASE THE ROMAN OFFICIALS more than they wanted to please God. 

BUT THE ALLIANCE that these religious leaders made never paid off. 

The power with whom they cooperated TURNED ON THEM in A.D. 70 and destroyed Jerusalem and the temple. 

Thousands were KILLED and many were SCATTERED as they ran from the violence. 

ONLY EVIL CAN RESULT from an unhealthy connection between church and state. 

A FREE CHURCH IN A FREE STATE IS IDEAL. 

THEN THE CHURCH CAN EXERCISE ITS PROPHETIC ROLL and petition the state to use its God-given responsibly.

Out of self-interest CAIAPHAS SAID it was better for Jesus to die for the nation than for the entire nation to perish. 

JESUS DID DIE for the nation but for an entirely different reason. 

It says in Proverbs, “RIGHTEOUSNESS EXALTS A NATION, BUT SIN IS A REPROACH TO ANY PEOPLE” (PROVERBS 14:34). 

ONLY THROUGH CHRIST’S DEATH can a nation have the reproach of sin replaced by the righteousness of God. 

And the righteousness of God comes to people only THROUGH FAITH IN JESUS. 

A NATION IS EXALTED when righteousness exists in the hearts of its people. 

JUST AS WISDOM IN THE HEART OF A MAN ENERGIZES THE PRODUCTION OF WORKS THAT MERIT DIVINE APPROVAL, SO RIGHTEOUSNESS IN THE HEART OF A NATION WILL ENABLE THE PRODUCTION OF WORKS THAT WILL BRING THE SMILE OF GOD UPON THE NATION. 

SIN IN THE HEART OF A NATION will be easily seen, for it will come from a pollution that will bring reproach upon the people; and God’s judgment will soon be seen falling like a hammer. 

ONLY THROUGH CHRIST’S DEATH can a nation have the reproach of sin replaced by the righteousness of God.

THE WORST THING ABOUT BAD RELIGION MAY BE THE LOST CONCERN FOR PEOPLE.

WHEN JESUS RAISED LAZARETH FROM THE DEAD, that incident triggered this religious conspiracy. 

SOME PEOPLE PUT THEIR FAITH IN JESUS WHILE OTHERS “WENT AWAY TO THE PHARISEES AND TOLD THEM THE THINGS JESUS DID” (JOHN 11:46). 

These informers were EYE-WITNESSES of the miracle, but they were not convinced by it. 

THEY DIDN’T INFORM THEIR LEADERS MERELY AS A MATTER OF NEWS, but for the purpose of exciting them to more vigorously persecute Jesus. 

To make matters worse, THEY LIED about what they saw. 

For the Pharisees, NEW LIFE FOR THE DEAD was not as important as retaining their religious leadership. 

STONES AND MORTAR TOOK PRIORITY OVER SIN AND MORTALITY. 

The people who God called to be “A LIGHT TO THE NATIONS” had replaced their world vision with concern only for their own nation.

RELIGION IS AN EVIL FORCE when it becomes an institutional caretaker and loses concern for the people. 

MISSIONARY BILLY PATE SAID, “THE CHURCH MUST TRANSLATE ITS HEART FROM THE EMPTY CAVITY OF BRICK AND MORTAR TO THE THROBBING MARKETPLACE OF HUMAN NEED.  TOO LONG IT HAS LIFTED THE CUP OF COLD WATER TO ITS OWN LIPS.”

One Sabbath day when Jesus entered the synagogue A MAN WITH A WITHERED HAND was among the worshippers. 

The religious authorities “WATCHED HIM CLOSELY, WHETHER HE WOULD HEAL HIM ON THE SABBATH, SO THAT THEY MIGHT ACCUSE HIM” (Mark 3:2). 

THE RELIGIOUS LEADERS WERE MORE CONCERNED about protecting their tradition than helping a man with a handicapped condition. 

In spite of all that Jesus did and said, THEY HARDENED THEIR HEARTS AND RESISTED HIS MINISTRY, even to the extent of accusing Him of being in league with Satan.

IN THE END, they cooperated with the evil one! 

The Lord is in the business of putting things right: RELIGIOUS RULES ARE OF SECONDARY IMPORTANCE. 

BAD RELIGION, ON THE OTHER HAND, IS CONCERNED WITH THE STATUS QUO.

THIS IS THE LAST POINT; THERE IS SOMETHING GREATER THAN RELIGION.

JESUS ONCE ANSWERED THE CRITICISM OF THE PHARISEES THIS WAY, “YET I SAY TO YOU THAT IN THIS PLACE THERE IS ONE GREATER THAN THE TEMPLE” (MATTHEW 12:6).

THE JEWS HAD AN EXTREME RESPECT FOR THE TEMPLE; but Christ, in a corn-field, was greater than the temple, for in him dwelt not the presence of God symbolically, but all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. 

In Revelations we are told, “HEAVEN WILL HAVE NO TEMPLE IN IT, FOR THE LORD GOD ALMIGHTY AND THE LAMB ARE ITS TEMPLE” (REVELATION 21:22). 

IN OLD TESTAMENT TIMES, the temple was viewed as the dwelling place of God. 

AFTER CHRIST’S RESURRECTION, the people of God took over the function of the historic temple, for the Spirit of God came to dwell in them. 

IT HAS BEEN SAID, “ONE MAN’S RELIGION IS ANOTHER MAN’S BURDEN.” 

Religion had become a BURDEN IN JESUS’ DAY. 

The religion of the Pharisees brought DESPAIR AND FUTILITY. 

CHRIST OFFERED JOY, HOPE, LIFE. 

HE OFFERED HIMSELF instead of a religion. 

He asks us to accept him instead of a CREED OR DEAD RELIGION. 

CAIAPHAS AND HIS RELIGIOUS CONSPIRATORS thought they had put an end to the Nazarene. 

INSTEAD, HIS DEATH LET LIFE LOOSE for the entire world.

A German pastor, by the name of Martin Niemoller, wrote “the sermon of the gallows.” 

I want to read you what he wrote.

There was in front of my cell window in the Dachau concentration camp a gallows, and I often had to pray for those who were hanged on it, poor souls. 

The gallows put a question to me: “What will happen when one day they put you to this test and lay the rope around your neck?” 

Will you then with your last breath cry out, “You criminals, you think you are right in executing me as a criminal, but there is a living God in Heaven, and He will show you!”? 

And then the second question followed: “What do you think would have happened if Jesus had died this way, cursing His enemies and murderers?” 

You know the answer: Then you would be rid of Him; for then there would be no gospel, no good tidings of great joy, no salvation, no hope! 

Not for anyone, not for you! 

But--thank God--He, Jesus, died otherwise, differently, not cursing his murders, but praying on their behalf: “Father, forgive them; they no not what they do!” 

They could not get rid of Him, for He held on and kept them in His forgiving love; and His Father heard His prayer and was well pleased with His Son. 

So there was no escape. 

This death worked too well—and there is no escape—this death marks His final victory: “I have overcome the world!” 

 

                                                                          Conclusion

LOOK AT THE CROSS. 

RELIGIOUS PEOPLE killed Christ! 

THE RIGHT LOST OUT TO RELIGIOUS RULES; SELF-INTEREST PREVAILED OVER SERVICE TO OTHERS; RELIGION TOOK THE PLACE OF A RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD. 

EVIL WAS THE RESULT, BUT Jesus triumphed over evil, and He lives. 

TO ALL WHO RECEIVES Him comes faith that changes the world, faith that overcomes evil with good.

Friends, there’s a lot of “bad religion” around today. 

It’s in the churches, on TV, on the radio, and in the literature that is being published. 

Jesus spoke against those who spread bad religion in His day. 

He said, “Woe to you experts in religion!  For you hide the truth from the people.  You won’t accept it yourselves, and you prevent others from having a chance to believe it” (Luke 11:52). 

These religious rulers occupied very much the same position that church leaders occupy today. 

People looked to them for the truth. 

But they placed the emphasis on material things rather than on the spiritual purpose for which those things were to be used. 

And they themselves were not living according to the scriptures.

Unfortunately, the greatest hindrance to the cause of Christ today is the professed believer. 

We need to examine our own lives in light of this scripture. 

James described “good religion” in his epistle.  

He wrote, “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” (James 1:27; KJV). 

If you have the right kind of religion it will be both pure and undefiled—and Christianity certainly ought to produce this. 

A Christian ought to “To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction.” 

A child of God ought to be in contact with the people of the world who have problems. 

They need to make personal contact. 

So many churches today only have a religion of the sanctuary, but not a religion of the street. 

We need a religion of the street also. 

We should be in contact with people in a personal way, with tenderness, and kindness and helpfulness.

Finally, we are to keep ourselves unspotted from the world. 

As believers we are to be in the world, but not of the world.

True religion is selfless, and reaches out to those with needs. 

I read about a little boy whose mother had died. 

His father was poor, but he worked hard to raise the little fellow. 

There was a wealthy couple, relatives, who were interested in the boy. 

They said to the father, “You will never be able to give the boy much, but we are wealthy and we can give him everything he wants.” 

So the father went to the little boy to talk to him about living with these folks. 

He said to the little fellow, “They’ll give you a bicycle, new toys, and wonderful gifts at Christmas.  And they will take you on trips.  They will do things for you that I can’t do.” 

The little boy said, “I don’t want to go.” 

And the father said, “Why?” 

The boy said, “They can’t give me you.” 

That’s all the little fellow wanted. 

There are a lot of people today who want that personal contact. 

Let’s pray that God will lead us to make contact with people that we can help, even if it is only by showing them sweetness and love and consideration and kindness. 

But let us remember to keep ourselves unspotted from the world.

Amen

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