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Christianity without Christ

In John 5:39, Jesus tells his audience a rather dumbfounding thing: “you search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me!” (John 5:39). “Yet”, he continues in verse 40, “you refuse to come to me to have life.” What a tragic mix up! To hold dearer to the Scriptures than to the Jesus that the Scriptures point to. To confuse the message with the messenger, and the messenger with the One our hearts long for! Such was the terrible mistake that first century Israel fell into. To take Christ out of Christianity and put trust for salvation in a misinterpretation of the word.

                What do I mean?

                Read how painfully White describes this situation: “But the Jews lost the spiritual life from their ceremonies, and clung to the dead forms. They trusted to the sacrifices and ordinances themselves, instead of resting upon Him to whom they pointed.” (the Desire of Ages, pg. 29). It isn’t just that they misinterpreted what kind of Messiah was promised to them. It is that they ended up making the religion that would remind them of the love and dreams that God had for them a burden. A lifeless, fruitless, heavy burden.  One that transformed its Author into a tyrant demanding obedience, eager to smack into oblivion anyone would you fail to keep properly any tiny little detail of the law that men had perverted.

                Here are some examples of this:

  • The disciples are heavily criticized for not washing their hands before eating.
  • Jesus is accused of breaking the day of rest when healing someone on the Sabbath.
  • The disciples assume a sick individual is in such condition because of God’s punishment.
  • Pharisees would encourage money lawfully meant to help ailing parents to be donated to the temple treasury instead.

These are some examples of what a religion without Christ can be, or at least was, during the times of Jesus’ life on earth. If you pay attention, you will notice an interesting pattern emerge. When Jesus is taken out of Christianity, we end up taking each other out of it also. A religion birthed by a God of love, without Him, is transformed into a religion of superiority and pride. One where I am better than you because I behave/observe the law better than you.

So, what’s the challenge? To live a Christ-centered Christianity. One that makes you, like it made Jesus, a “friend of sinners” (Matthew 11:16-19).