Being Christian or Being Religious – John 5:1-30

“’Get up,’ Jesus told him, ‘pick up your mat and walk.’ Instantly the man got well, picked up his mat, and started to walk. Now that day was the Sabbath, and so the Jews said to the man who had been healed, ‘This is the Sabbath. The law prohibits you from picking up your mat’” (John 5:8-10, CSB).

In the story of Jesus healing the disabled man at the Pool of Bethesda on the Sabbath, consider the absurdity of what the Jewish leaders are contending. They argued that because the man picked up his mat and walked away with it on the Sabbath after being healed by Jesus, he broke Sabbath law.

Whaaat? The man had been disabled for 38 years!

Because of their religious convictions, they concluded that Jesus shouldn’t be healing people on the Sabbath because it caused them and Jesus to break Sabbath law.

This certainly begs the question: “Does God take a break from redeeming people?”

Jesus answered the Jewish leaders’ criticism by reminding them of the omnipresence and omnificence of God. “Jesus responded to them, ‘My Father is still working, and I am working also'” (vs. 17).

Jesus declared that it’s not that He is doing work on the Sabbath, it’s that He is doing God’s work on the Sabbath! And God’s work is a 365/24/7 undertaking!

Almost 50 years ago Fritz Ridenour published a little book titled, How to Be A Christian Without Being Religious. Ridenhour explained that religion attempts to please God through human effort.

Ridenour insisted that religion is about people reaching up toward God while Christianity is God reaching down to people. Christianity claims that people have not found God but that God has found them.

But, there are always those who prefer religious efforts or try to turn their Christian faith into religious regulations. They prefer their own will over God’s will. Then, they can be in control and feel good about themselves because they are “religious.”

“It's time to stop being religious and start being a Christian.”  --Chip Ingram

When my religious convictions compel me to judge people or prevent me from helping people, then it’s my own version of righteousness and not the righteousness of God granted through the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Want to know how to be a Christian without being religious? Jesus tells us what to do in vs. 30: “I can do nothing on my own. I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, because I do not seek my own will, but the will of him who sent me.”

When it’s my rules and not “God rules,” it’s religion, not Christianity!

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith,just as it is written: The righteous will live by faith. (Romans 1:16-17, CSB)

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