Friday, August 18, 2006

Religion or Relationship

Matthew 8:10-12 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
10When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, "I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. 11I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

A centurion came to Jesus, asking his help for his servant, lying at home paralyzed and suffering terribly. Jesus was ready to go to and heal the servant, but the centurion's next words astonished him because they showed the centurion's insight into the power of authority of Jesus, an insight that most of the religious leaders lacked. The centurion called Jesus "Lord," and although he was himself a man of considerable personal authority, he demonstrated humility and a staggering faith, for he said, "Just say the word and my servant will be healed."

After acknowledging the centurion's faith, Jesus said that there was no "automatic entry" to the Kingdom of God, that many would come ( as this man had) from east or the west, but those to whom the way to the Kingdom was made known first, would find themselves outside, in great regret and sorrow at missing it.

Contrast the centurion, knowing who Jesus is, believing that he only has to say the word for a miracle to happen, calling him "Lord," with the people who should have received Jesus's words with joy and obedience and who should have recognized in him, their Messiah and their Saviour, but didn't. It's the difference between faith and dead religion.

Any one of us may have friends or family who have lost the reality of their faith. They may even go to church; go through the motions, but it's about religion, or routine, not relationship with Jesus. It's no small thing to think of those we know and love finding themselves outside the Kingdom. How we need to pray for those who have lost their way, that they would find their way back to Jesus.

Prayer: Dear Lord, there are people on my heart and mind as I think about this, people who even have a godly heritage, but who have yet to directly encounter you in a real way. O God, I'm praying that you reveal yourself to them.

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