Bible Reading: Luke 11:29-54
It is so easy to become religious. What’s wrong with that? Well, in its purest definition, not anything. That is, if being religious means to be a faithful follower of Jesus Christ. But often, being religious speaks more of activity than relationship. It speaks more about the things that we do…than the person that we are. God doesn’t want us to just be busy, doing religious things that look good, but not paying attention to our relationship with Him. He wants us to focus on our relationship with Him. Then, our lives will be patterned after Him. And the things we do will be the result of our relationship with Him.
Thoughts about God for My Grandkids:
In 1989, our family lived in Charlotte, N.C. Courtney was 7-years-old, and Jeremy was 4-years-old. We had moved there a few years earlier from Ft. Lauderdale, FL. Being a native Floridian who had grown up with hurricanes, it gave me some comfort to know that we were going to be living in an area of the country where that was not very likely to happen. Did I say “1989”? Yep. On September 22, 1989…Hurricane Hugo blew through Charlotte. It had formed over the eastern Atlantic Ocean (September 9)…and grown to a category 5 (that means that it had winds of 157 mph, or stronger). Then, it lost some of its strength and weakened to a category 2. But, just as it hit the U.S. coastline near Charleston, S.C., it re-strengthened to a category 4 with sustained winds of 140 mph and gusts up to 160 mph. By the time it reached Charlotte, sustained winds had dropped to around 54 mph with gusts up to 87 mph. Hurricane Hugo caused 34 deaths in the Caribbean and 27 in South Carolina. It resulted in $9.47 billion of damage ($7 billion in the U.S. and Puerto Rico). The storm reached Charlotte (about 150 miles inland from the coast) at 3 am. I remember us being awake and listening to the wind howl and the trees creak and moan as they swayed back and forth. Occasionally, we would hear a loud crash as a tree crashed to the ground.
The next morning, we ventured out to survey the damage. Our home was not hurt. But several of the neighbors had trees on their roofs, and some of the limbs from the trees had punched big holes right through the roofs and into the inside of the house. We walked out of our front door and down the sidewalk to the street. In both directions, right and left, there were many huge white oak trees lying crisscrossed on the street. Until those trees were removed…no on would be going anywhere in a car. I was surprised to see those trees on the ground. They were big, healthy looking trees. I’d been through hurricanes in Florida that had much more powerful winds and seen similar trees make it through the hurricane without any damage, at all. Why had these trees been blown over? I started looking more closely and discovered something very interesting. While the trees looked healthy on the outside (the bark was strong and they had lush, green leaves)…on the inside, they were rotten. Almost all of the trees that I looked at were alive on the outside…but dead on the inside. This affected the root system…making the tree weaker. When the winds blew, even though they were not that strong, the root system was not strong enough to hold it in the ground…and the trees came crashing down.
Trees are not the only thing that can look good on the outside…but be rotten on the inside. People can, as well. Sadly, they can be religious people. One very religious person, who was a Pharisee, asked Jesus to have lunch with him at his home. The Pharisees were extremely religious. They had religious laws for everything. They wanted to make absolutely certain that they kept God’s Law perfectly…without ever making a mistake…without ever sinning. So, they surrounded God’s Law (primarily the 10 Commandments) with laws of their own (613 of them). Why did they do this? To be sure that they never even got close to breaking God’s Law. Think about it this way. Imagine a circle. God commanded that no one was to go into that circle…that was God’s Law. The Pharisees decided that to keep anyone from ever going into that circle…they would put another circle of their own around it and make it a law that no one could ever go into that circle. That way…no one would ever even come close to going into the circle that God had made…because they would first have to go through the circle that they had made. But just in case, just to be careful…they made ten more circles…each one outside of the next…and all of them around God’s circle. Now, to get to God’s circle…you had to go through 11 of their circles. Now, that sounds like a good thing. They were being unbelievably careful to not go into God’s circle, to not break God’s Law. But here was the problem. In the meantime, they were mistreating people, and lying, and stealing, and…well, they were not living like God had commanded them to do. But boy…they were great at not going into God’s circle.
Jesus told them that while they looked good on the outside…because everybody knew that they never, ever, ever broke God’s Law and went into the circle…in reality, they were rotten on the inside, because they were not living as God has commanded them to. They had become more concerned about not breaking their own laws to not go into their circles…than they were concerned with living like God had commanded them to do. Like the trees…while they looked good on the outside…they were rotten to the core, on the inside.
People often get two things confused. They think that if they just look good on the outside (do the right things, say the right things, act the right way)…that they are good on the inside. Jesus says that that is wrong. You see, it’s not the outside that determines the inside…but exactly the opposite. What you are on the inside, determines what you are on the outside. Your relationship with God…determines the kind of person you are.
So, if you want to stand strong and be able to survive storms and hurricanes when they blow through your life…you need to have a healthy relationship with God. When you have that, then your spiritual roots will grow deep. Nothing will be able to blow you over. Nothing will be able to destroy you.
Love you more than bunches and bunches,