Curing a Headache
Text: James 1:21-27
I. When you see a problem, how do you solve it?
A. If you have a headache, how do you get rid of it?
1. I suppose one could get a guillotine. After all no head, no headache
2. Instead, we find a reliever to lessen the pain while simultaneously looking for the cause to stop them
a. It is a slower method. It doesn’t always work.
b. But it doesn’t “throw the baby out with the bath water.”
B. Jefferson Bethke put out a video in January 2012 titled “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus” [http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=1IAhDGYlpqY]
1. It went “viral.” The video was well done. Good photography, smoothly delivered in a rap style, by a young man.
a. It resonates with the youth.
b. It has a message that appeals to many
2. But the reason behind the appeal is because of the poem’s vagueness
a. In any message there are three messages: what the writer said, what the writer meant to say, and what the audience heard
b. When something is written vaguely, people hear what they expect - II Timothy 4:3-4
C. Paul warns that we are to be watchful - II Timothy 4:5
II. The poem slams religion
A. But it doesn’t define what is meant by religion.
1. We can take what religion means in English
a. It comes from the Latin, meaning to re-align; that is, to change your beliefs to align them with another
b. Religion is a set of beliefs, observances, and moral code
c. By what Mr. Bethke said, his target is too large. All religion is not wrong. There is bad and good religion - James 1:26-27
2. The poem doesn’t distinguish the kind of religion being addressed. That leaves the field open for interpretation, and not surprisingly most people assume he means all organized religions that involves other people.
3. The author tried to correct the gap by explaining: “A poem I wrote to highlight the difference between Jesus and false religion. In the scriptures Jesus received the most opposition from the most religious people of his day. At it's core Jesus' gospel and the good news of the Cross is in pure opposition to self-righteousness/self-justification. Religion is man centered, Jesus is God-centered. This poem highlights my journey to discover this truth” [from the video’s description]
4. Even the author realizes he has a communication problem.
a. “In my context, I’m in Seattle — religion, in shorthand, is defined as legalism, self-righteousness, self-justification,” he explained. “Once I put the video out, I realized a lot of people in the nation don’t define it as that.” [http://www.theblaze.com/stories/hate-religion-but-love-jesus-creator-jefferson-bethke-discusses-controversial-viral-video-on-gbtv/]
b. “For the first few years of walking with Jesus (started in ’08) I had a warped/poor paradigm of the church and it didn’t build up, unify, or glorify His wife (the Bride). If I can be brutally honest I didn’t think this video would get much over a couple thousand views maybe, and because of that, my points/theology wasn’t as air-tight as I would’ve liked. If I redid the video tomorrow, I’d keep the overall message, but would articulate, elaborate, and expand on the parts where my words and delivery were chosen poorly.” [http://www.theblaze.com/stories/hate-religion-but-love-jesus-creator-jefferson-bethke-discusses-controversial-viral-video-on-gbtv/]
B. Though not his intention, the problem is that people have run with the broader definition, so let’s address the issues raised because of this.
C. “What if I told you Jesus came to abolish religion?” Mr. Bethke asked.
1. The problem is that Jesus didn’t come to abolish religion, not even the Old Testament Law that he lived under while on earth - Matthew 5:17-20
2. There were problems with the way many of the Jews of that day were keeping that Law, articulated in Matthew 23, but even there Jesus did not say anything of the law was to be abandoned - Matthew 23:3,23
3. Jesus fulfilled the Old Law, bring it to completion, but at the same time established a New Law
a. He built his church - Matthew 16:18
b. Which he loves - Ephesians 5:25
D. “I mean if religion is so great, why has it started so many wars”
1. We’ve discussed this false conception in the past. See: The Immorality of Atheism [http://lavistachurchofchrist.org/LVSermons/ImmoralityOfAtheism.html] Atheism is involved in more wars and more deaths than Chrsitianity.
2. What also is being ignored is that when wars are fought in the name of Christianity, they are condemned by Christians at large.
a. Contrast this to Isalm where war is promoted and cheered.
E. “But in the Old Testament, God actually calls religious people whores.”
1. Take a look at the actual condemnation - Jeremiah 3:6-10
2. These people were religious in the sense that they were worshiping idols.
3. It doesn’t mean all religions are wrong. It is condemning idolatry.
F. “Religion might preach grace, but another thing they practice ... Not realizing religion’s like spraying perfume on a casket.”
1. What is being talked about is hypocrisy. But is it caused by religion or by the way many people practice religion? - Matthew 23:27-28
2. Hypocrisy in Christianity is condemned - Matthew 7:21
a. But saying it is wrong doesn’t stop people from doing it.
b. Just as a stop light doesn’t keep people from running the red light.
3. The real complaint is about the people, not religion. As the author did say well, “Cause there’s a problem if people only know you’re a Christian by your Facebook.”
G. “Religion says slave, Jesus says son. Religion puts you in bondage, while Jesus sets you free. Religion makes you blind, but Jesus makes you see. And that’s why religion and Jesus are two different clans.”
1. The problem is that it is sin, not religion, makes people slaves and in bondage - Romans 6:12-18
2. It is Satan and sin that blinds people - II Corinthians 4:3-4
H. “So for religion, no I hate it, in fact I literally resent it Because when Jesus said it is finished, I believe he meant it.”
1. This takes the dying words of Jesus and misrepresents them - John 19:30
2. Jesus was not talking about killing off religion, which is what the words claim.
3. Jesus finished his task - John 17:4
4. He did finish the Old Law - Romans 10:14
5. But he also finished establishing the New Law - Hebrews 12:2
6. One could not happen without the other - Romans 7:4
III. The poem claims there is no need to change
A. “See, the problem with religion is it never gets to the core. It’s just behavior modification, like a long list of chores.”
1. The intention is to argue against trying to earn salvation, but again the author’s words don’t express his intentions.
2. Christianity is about behavior modification - Luke 13:3; II Corinthians 7:11
3. Changing behavior is not the enemy. Pretending to change when you don’t, now that’s the problem.
B. “You see this was me too, but no one seemed to be on to me. Acting like a church kid, while addicted to pornography. See on Sunday I’d go to church, but Saturday getting faded, Acting as if I was simply created just to have sex and get wasted. See, I spent my whole life building this facade of neatness, but now that I know Jesus, I boast in my weakness.”
1. That we all sin is a given - Romans 3:23; I John 1:8, 10
2. But that idea of boasting in weakness comes from II Corinthians 12:10
a. The weakness Paul talked about were weakness of physical strength, hardships, and troubles.
b. The weakness Mr. Belthke is boast about is his sin
C. “It’s not a museum for good people, it’s a hospital for the broken, which means I don’t have to hide my failure, I don’t have to hide my sin.”
1. But sin is a shameful thing, even if we are all burdened by it - Romans 6:21
2. The idea of Christianity is curing and burying sin, not putting them on display and boasting about them - James 5:19-20
3. Yes, the church is a hospital for spiritually sick people. But you don’t expect a person who enters a hospital to keep his disease. We go to hospitals to be cured.
D. “Now back to the point, one thing is vital to mention: How Jesus and religion are on opposite spectrum. See, one’s the work of God, but one’s a man-made invention. See, one is the cure, but the other’s the infection.”
1. Religion isn’t the infection. Sin is the disease.
2. It is in Jesus’ religion that we find the cure for sin through his death - I Peter 2:24
a. How do we die to sin? - Romans 6:3-7
b. And with brethren, in religion we find help - James 5:16; Hebrews 12:12-14
IV. It claims that Jesus is not about following rules
A. “Don’t you see, so much better than just following some rules”
1. The author’s intention was man-made rules - Matthew 15:8-9
2. But that isn’t what most people see
B. Having the right attitude toward Christ means you follow his rules - John 14:15, 21, 23-24
1. Perhaps we can draw a better point. There are people who see only the rules. They try to follow them without the change of heart.
2. It is easy to focus on the rules, and they are to be followed.
3. But let’s not lose sight of the fact that if a person really loves Jesus, there would be no argument over whether rules need to be followed, such as attendance (Hebrews 10:23-25).
V. Are there good points in this poem? Sure. But it misses the point Jesus taught about religion, sin, and obedience.
A. You don’t cure a headache by chopping off the head.
B. You don’t cure the problem of hypocrisy and false religions by trashing all religion
C. Because among all the false religions in the world, the true religion of Christ still exists.