Rules and Religion

The religions of the world have at least one thing in common – rules. Rules, laws, and regulations all provide a neat system of things we ought to do and things we ought to avoid. They help keep everybody on the same page and moving towards a shared goal. A common rule fosters unity. And when we speak of improving our lives and becoming better people, it is easiest to follow a set of rules. So often we want to boil it down to identifying exactly where the line is that we must not cross. When it comes to religion, rules are king. 

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The Testimony of John the Baptist

John the Baptist was a herald. He was designated to run ahead and proclaim the One who was coming. Most obviously, John accomplished his task by preaching about repentance and baptizing people. And when Jesus stepped onto the stage, John stepped up to the crowd, pointed to Jesus, and announced his presence. Yet, even in his death, John was a herald of the kind of death that Jesus would die. 

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Death in the Face of Life

When I was in my mid-teens I heard a sermon on the story of Jesus healing the demon-possessed man in the region of the Gerasenes. I think I remember two or three sermons from that time in my life, so it is striking that this sermon stuck with me. I do not know exactly what it was about the sermon that made it so memorable, but I think it had something to do with the way it captured my imagination. If I am correct, the sermon was titled “D-Day at the Decapolis” and the preacher drew parallels between the Allied forces invading the beaches of Normandy and Jesus invading the beaches of the Decapolis. 

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The Parable of the Seed

We are familiar with the parable of the sower, which is in fact about the soil, but Jesus also told a parable about the seed. In Mark’s gospel we read:

 “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”

Mark 4:26-29
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At the Sinners Table

The teachers of the law couldn’t believe it. As they were passing by Levi’s house, they noticed a crowd had gathered inside and were sharing a meal together. It was a crowd of “those people” – tax collectors, thieves, prostitutes and the like. Habitual sinners who had abandoned loyalty to the nation of Israel and were ignorant of the religious laws. The teachers of the law shook their heads in disapproval and were about to continue on their way when they noticed some of Jesus’ disciples mixed in among those crowded around Levi’s table. When they did a double take, they caught sight of Jesus himself, sitting next to the tax collector. Their eyes grew as wide as dinner plates and they looked at one another in disbelief. What was Rabbi Jesus doing in the company of sinners? Didn’t he care about his reputation? Didn’t he realize these people were spiritually unclean?

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Why Is Jesus Taking So Long?

I’d rather not wait for the return of Jesus Christ. When Christ returns, he promises to make all things new – perfect and without defect. That means I’ll never have to fight against my own sin ever again. I’ll have a new, perfectly functioning body. It means there will be no more poverty, no more abuse, no more weapons of war, no more pollution, no more sin. I don’t want to wait for that.

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The Coming Flood

In his second letter, Peter spends considerable time refuting false teachings within the church. Peter is concerned for the health of the church and wants to see Christians growing in faith and godliness. False teachers are a threat because they distort the truth, which in turn leads to faulty thinking and ungodly behavior. One of the lies the false teachers were propagating was the thinking that Christ would not return as he had promised. They pointed out that Christ had said he was coming soon, and soon had already passed.

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Destructive Untruth

The gospel story of which Pete is writing about is true – it’s based on historical facts, eyewitness accounts, and fulfilled prophecies. Peter wants his readers to be firmly planted in this truth and understand why it is true. This is so because he knows people will come into the church with lies and made-up stories. Their teachings will contradict the truth of the gospel and threaten to destroy the unity and witness of God’s people. With this in mind, Peter gives his readers a clear and urgent warning against these false teachings.

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