Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’
Matthew 7: 22-23
What would you think of a man’s relationship with God who said things like this?
“I wish I was never born. I want to die.”(3:1)
“Oh that my grief were fully weighed and my calamity laid with it on the scales.” (6:1)
Suppose he said,
“I will complain in the bitterness of my soul“(7:11),
What if he asked God in a group prayer,
“Does it please you (God) to oppress me while you smile on the schemes of the wicked?“ (10:3).
What if he claimed God was responsible for his problems and said,
“All was well with me, but [God] shattered me; he seized me by the neck and crushed me. He has made me his target“ (16:12). “
What if he believed God had wronged him…
“Though I cry, ’I’ve been wronged!’ I get no response; though I call for help, there is no justice“ (19:6—7).
If you told them to be patient and they responded:
“Why should I not be impatient?“ (21:4).
What would you think of a man talking to God like that?
They would have to be somebody with a lousy relationship to God, right?
But, this can be deceiving.
The man who said those things was closer to God than anyone else of his time? Would you believe that the man who grumbled, “Why should I not be impatient?“ has a reputation to this day as one of the most patient men who ever lived? His very name is a buzzword for patience.
Thousands of years after this man lived, it is common to speak of “the patience of Job.“ But we know from reading the story that God was close to Job and He sided with Job when Job’s friends tried to “straightened him out” about his religion and understanding of the great Creator.
On the other hand, what would you think of the relationship with God who said things like this:
Those who sow trouble reap the same (4:9)
Can a mortal be more righteous than God? Can a man be more pure than his Maker?(4:17)
As for me, I would seek God, And to God I would commit my cause. (5:9)
Behold, happy is the man whom God corrects (5:17)
“Your sons have sinned against Him…that is why they died. He has cast them away for their transgression. (8:4).
Isn’t this verse supported by scripture?
“Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor shall children be put to death for their fathers; a person shall be put to death for his own sin.
What if a friend tried to scare him into repentance and said,
“The memory of him perishes from the earth,
And he has no name among the renowned.
He is driven from light into darkness,
And chased out of the world. (18:8)
Can you search out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limits of the Almighty? (11:7)
Does not the friends of Job have it right about God and Job is just a depressed doubtful religious person?
These friends did not “speak what was right.” (42:7) Their theology sounded right…it is scriptural, but something was not right with their religion. They are good at it, but something was not right.
God said to them,
“My wrath is aroused against you and your two friends for you have not spoken of Me what is rights as My servant Job has.”
What can we learn from the book of Job and the impatience of Job?
As mentioned, Job spoke what was right and his friends did not. But it sounds like Job is struggling in his relationship while his friends are prospering and have all their needs filled.
The one thing Job needed the most during his ordeal was his family and friends to give him comfort and empathy.
“I have heard many such things’ Miserable comforters are you all! Shall words of wind have no end?” (16: 2,3)
“Though I speak, my grief is not relieved”
His “friends” did not comfort him, but rather sermonized and blame Job for getting what he deserved. They even blamed the sin of his sons for their own death
Your sons have sinned against Him…that is why they died. He has cast them away for their transgression. (8:4).
Let us not be too quick to condemn the friends of Job, because if we are honest with our selves, we often look upon some calamity or death as the result of the “judgment of God.”
We cannot put such events in a nice box by grouping bad things with God’s judgment and good things with God’s favor. To do so is to be disappointed and discouraged when bad things happen to us.
There are many cases cited in the Bible of people who were “good at religion.”
The Scribes and the Pharisees had religion down pat.
Jesus identified these great religious leaders of the church as hypocrites in Matthew 23. They say one thing, but do another. They could preach it and teach it, but they could not live it. Their interest was in saving their religion and pompous life style
Jesus said these things about them and their religion:
“that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do.” V.3
they “shut up the kingdom of heaven against men” V.13
they “devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers.”
they “travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, (they) make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.
They made up their own rules, but Jesus said,
“Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple, he is obliged to perform it.’
They followed the letter of the law, but not the spirit:
For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith.
Notice at the end of this verse, Jesus does not release them from the act of tithing:
These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.
There is nothing wrong with obeying the law, but to obey the law of God without the spirit that displays itself in justice and mercy is being religious and not real.
The Scribes and Pharisees were very exacting in parts of their experience, but very loose in others:
Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!
Their appearance was great! They dressed nice and had the appearance of being righteous.
For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of deadmen’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
V. 27, 28
They try to make others think they are very committed to the cause:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, and say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.
V. 29, 30
Yes, these leaders were good at religion. There is very little difference today. It has been said, “Going to church does not make you a Christian any more than going to a garage makes you a mechanic.”
Today’s society has made religion about a 1 day event for a few hours in a building. But a real relationship with Jesus changes the heart of an individual. They are born again. They are different. Obedience to God’s word comes from a heart experience and not a religious experience. Jesus said,
“If you love Me, keep My commandments.”
While the 10 commandments and any other commandments of Jesus have not been eliminated, the old idea of obedience in order to be identified with Jesus and be saved has passed away.
What does an experience that is real look like?
Jesus tells us in Matthew 7 (Our opening verse)
Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’
Matthew 25: 34-36
If our experience is about 1 or 2 hours on the weekend and not about others during the week, then we might be in danger of being “good at religion.”
Like Jesus, we are called to serve and not be served.
There are many people out there hurting and need the basics of life rather than sermonizing. No doubt, they need to hear truth from God’s word, but before that, they need to see it in action. They need to hear the words, “We are going to help you.” Then they need to see it happen.
Empathy is what the three friends of Job lacked. The same for the Scribes and the Pharisees. Empathy is different from sympathy. Empathy is to feel and understand someone’s pain. Sympathy is to merely feel sorry for the person’s pain.
In 1967, Sargent Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album by the Beatles was released. There is a haunting song on this popular vinyl entitled “A Day In The Life.” The main verses of the song are Lennon’s work, a rather gloomy first-person narrative of going through the motions and observing, in a detached manner, the cruelties and absurdities of the everyday world.
The song came to mind today as I watched CBS news after a hard day at work. John’s read the news was about:
“a man who blew his mind out in a car. He didn’t notice that the light had changed.” He “had to laugh although the news was rather sad.”
“A crowd of people turned away, but I just had to look.”
As I watch the day’s events on the TV, I am overwhelmed. Today, I realized the news was about me.
Today, I died from a poisonous gas attack in Syria. I was only 3 years old.
Today, as a father from Australia, my grieve was so strong that it sucked every ounce of energy from my soul as I fell to the ground… and wept over the body of my 22 year old son who was shot to death while jogging in Oklahoma. Three evil people were bored and wanted to kill someone. They chose my son who loved baseball.
Today, I couldn’t find work for the 12th month. My small retirement account has all been spent and the bills are not getting paid next month because my job was exported overseas.
Today, I am a single mom and my little girl had nothing to take for lunch because I have no money and live in my car. What can I find her for supper tonight? There is a restaurant nearby that throws out perfectly good food every night.
Today, I am a small business owner who will have to lay off some of my employees because the government is forcing me to provide health care.
Today, I lay in my living room unable to get up because I so depressed, all I want to do is sleep. I have no energy.
Today, my family was murdered by ISIS. I am only 35 years old and Muslim.
A bomb blast took away my ability to walk and run the Boston Marathon. I am a female in my 20’s.
Today, I am Egyptian, Black, White, Syrian, Australian, English, and American….I am everyone.
“Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for me.”
Religion is strong, but empathy, compassion, and involvement is dead in many of our churches and in our experience with Jesus.
We are living in the last days, when our consciences are numb.
“…speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron.”
1 Timothy 4:2
Truly it has come to pass:
“But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come:
For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power.”
II Timothy 3:1-5
What will CBS report about me tomorrow?
Are you willing to turn from being good at religion and become real for the kingdom of God?
If you are, join me in this prayer,
Father, forgive me for being good at religion and not real for your kingdom. Please change my mind, my heart, my thoughts and shape it into your will. Give me a ministry to help those in need of food, clothing, comfort, and fellowship. This I ask in Your Son’s name. Amen.