Thursday, August 16, 2007



In the Christianization of Jesus there is another huge myth-the myth of being religious. This myth is filled with several sub-myths. Many years ago Fritz Ridenour wrote a book with a classic title, "How To Be A Christian Without Being Religious" on the book of Romans. Even though I wouldn't use that same terminology today, I loved the title and it speaks volumes of truth.

Being religious can really get in the way of simply following Jesus. The basic problem is that being religious will usually be in the name of a given religion or religious entity or church. That's just not good enough. All we as followers of Jesus must be operating under one banner and no other-in the name of Jesus.

Let me illustrate how important the name of Jesus is with the calling of Paul. Paul had a role in life-to persecute the followers of the Way. The Way believed Jesus was the promised Messiah. Paul was a believer in the Messiah and he was looking for the Messiah, the Christ. In a sense, you could call him a Christian-a follower of the Christ, the Messiah. So, since he wasn't buying into the Messiahship of Jesus, he did all he could do to stop the efforts of the Way-the followers of Jesus. He saw this as his role in life and played it very well. In fact, he felt he was quite righteous about what he was doing. BUT JESUS APPREHENDED HIM. When Jesus comes into your life, He takes you out of your role or false-self and brings about a spirit of authenticity to you and your lifestyle. You can't cover up and play a role, when Jesus is leading out.

NOTE the words God spoke to Ananias about Paul. This is significant: "Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear MY NAME before the GENTILES, KINGS, and the SONS OF ISRAEL, for I will show him how much he must suffer for MY NAME'S sake."

Four things stand out here to me: FIRST-It's all about the NAME OF JESUS. This was most important to the Lord-that Paul bear the NAME OF JESUS. This is what is most important for us today! We are not commanded to spread Christianity or any other religious system nor church membership, but only and primarily the NAME OF JESUS.

SECOND-Who was the target of Paul's ministry to be? NOTE it was the Gentiles, kings and the sons of Israel. It is not what is normally taught that Peter was the apostle to the Jews and Paul to the Gentiles. There was a much larger picture going on here where Paul was to take the name of Jesus to the world.

THIRD-The transformation of Paul, the persecutor of the people of Jesus, into Paul, the preacher of Jesus, was very dramatic and obvious. After spending several days with the disciples of Jesus who were in Damascus, he began to proclaim the NAME OF JESUS in the synagogues. Even more than proclaiming Jesus, Paul was confidently proving that Jesus was the Messiah. The people were shocked!

FOURTH-A personal encounter with Jesus will change all that you are and all that you do, even if you are a "Christian".

I believe Jesus apprehended my life nearly 5 years ago as a long-time Christian, seminary graduate and pastor. I had always loved Jesus and taught about Him in the ministry opportunities that were laid out for me. But this time there is a difference:

· Instead of being intent on teaching it properly and effectively, I am more intent on obeying Jesus. · Instead of doing, doing, doing as well as I can do, I am into being, being, being who Jesus has made me to be. · Instead of building the church of Jesus, I am disciplining myself to be the church of Jesus. · Instead of playing a role or wearing the mask that befits a religious position, I am bent on being real and authentic.

· Instead of trying to reach the masses with another "powerful" message, I am now more interested in investing my time with a few. · Instead of exercising my life over what "my" purpose is, I am exercising myself toward loving God with all my heart and loving my neighbors as myself. · Instead of deceiving myself into thinking I have some "messianic" touch to help people, I introduce them to the only one who can change their lives-JESUS. · Instead of just going to church, I am now practicing being the church in every gathering of believers in His name.

· Instead of frantically trying to change the world by Wednesday noon, I now understand that the call of Jesus on my life is a call into His rest. · Instead of making disciples out of Christians, I see that the best potential disciples are made out of non-Christians. · Instead of hanging out with the religious crowd, I am hanging out with revolutionaries.

· Instead of doing life as the Lone Ranger, I am now doing life with a few others. · Instead of counting the variety of churches in the world, I now see there is only one church-the church of Jesus-and it pops up in every culture of the world. · Instead of doing things my way for Jesus, I am now waiting on Jesus to lead out with His orders and opportunities-to do things His way in His time.

I see the lesson here of Paul's encounter with Jesus in this way: When Jesus apprehends you on your way to becoming a righteous Christian, He will transform you into becoming a stubborn follower of Him in order to lift up His NAME.

NOTE that Paul was caught up in doctrinal issues about the Messiah (the Christ), but was not connected to the Person of the Messiah. This is the same problem we encounter today. We spend so much time in doing the "right things" and miss the right Person-Jesus. That is what religion is all about.

But here's the bottom-line that you will continue to see more and more clearly as you walk with Jesus, walk with others and wait on Jesus to lead out: Your relationship with Jesus-walking with Jesus-is the most important relationship of all. You see, I count on those I'm walking with to be working on their relationship with Jesus and they are counting on me for the same thing. Without a relationship with Jesus there is no power or dynamic in walking with others. And, without Jesus there is no need to wait for Jesus to lead out. Being religious will always be empty and unfruitful. Being in relationship with Jesus is the only way to be fulfilled and fruitful.