Lose Your Religion
Wow, what an Easter weekend! We had well over 5,000 attend our New Life Celebration on Saturday. The Baptist and Lutheran churches next to us graciously allowed us to fill their parking lots! We had 5,605 people attend Easter services and 90 people were baptized to begin a new life. And, we invited everyone who attended to join us for the new series we are beginning this Sunday – Lose Your Religion. Here’s what we’ll be talking about:
Religion, and our broken sinful humanity, is responsible for wars and hate, bigotry and exclusion. Religion is known for being superstitious, hypocritical, judgmental, power hungry and more. But even worse, it misses God and who he really is and what he is all about. Religion is man’s attempt to be good by following rules and rituals. Once we get into a religious system and religious way of thinking (regardless of the exact religion), we are tempted to use our “right” beliefs and “right” practices to judge others as to whether they are in the “right” place. Religion tempts us to judge rather than love. Religion steers us away from the the heart of God, who is love. Only Jesus can change our heart and move us from rules, arrogance and judgment to love and relationship. Jesus didn’t come to found a religion. He came to free us from religion, to love God and love like God.
I’ll be unpacking this more over the next several weeks. You don’t want to miss this series. You see, I love the church (not just Pantano, but God’s Church). I am painfully aware of the bad things that happen in churches and the painful things that happen to people by religious church people. I want the church to rediscover who she is and what she is supposed to be. The church is you and me – those who follow Jesus. I am committed to helping the church rediscover what it has lost. That is the heart of what this series is about. I’ll also be revealing my heart. So, this series isn’t about fixing an organization. It is about you and me figuring out how to faithfully follow Jesus and love like Jesus.
Here’s the critical spiritual foundation that we’ll unpack and discover over the next few weeks. Love is the center of it all. And that’s not just my opinion. It is what the Bible tells us. It all starts with God. The very core essential nature of God is this: God is love. It is found in 1 John 4:7-9,11-12 – 7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love….11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
God is love. Jesus says all the Bible is summed up in this: Love God with your whole being and love your neighbor as yourself. Paul says The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love (Galatians 5:6). It is my prayer and hope that over the next few weeks we’ll be able to lose our religion and find a deeper relationship with Jesus, to let love flow freely to a world in desperate need of love.