Last week: Started a new series - End of Religion
3 weeks - Origin / Evolution / End
Religion come from our tendency to believe the lie that God is far away so we have to "do something" to get close to him. Bridging a gap that’s not really there.
God created us in His image. Amazing, mind boggling. He already had pets, he wanted people who would reflect Him. LIKE himself. We run around with his creative power. - Imagine the damage but also the good. We're broken, and imperfect certainly, but still beautiful being made in the image of God.
Last week: Part of being made in His image is that we are made for relationship. Beauty, also, weakness b/c person, institution, snake could take advantage of that if they wanted to. Insisting that there’s a gap - between us and God where there’s not. The serpent planted this feeling that God was distant.
B/C we need relationship, we immediately began to react out of that separation anxiety and we began to try and bridge that gap that wasn't there. And this wasn't just the 1st sin, it was the 1st environment for sin, which is the sense that God is distant.
So we know that Religion is not the solution to anything. In fact it only makes it worse. The idea that there's a distance that must be bridged is the fertilizer from which failure grows. Dangerous - from the outside in, it can look like genuine spirituality.
Two people side by side here - reading scripture, singing songs, going to church. 1 is doing it because they feel the need to "bridge the gap" between them and God. All out of a sense of panic. The other is immersed in the reality that God has taken care of it all. Might look similar from outside, but from the inside out, one leads to peace, the other to a lot of pressure.
We see it Evolve. We see it become more systematized.
Next chapter. Made it through Genesis 3.
Context - Adam & Eve - made in the image of God, ate from the wrong tree. God exited them from the garden. - Doesn't want them eating from the tree of life, life forever. Act of mercy, the end of this life, a chance to live again in perfection. It's the shape that grace takes in this particular case.
Something happens : People made in God’s image produce more people made in God’s image. From Adam and Eve comes cain. Begin chapter 4 with life happening.
Adam made love to his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, “With the help of the LORD I have brought forth a man.” (Genesis 4:1)
Adam: "uhh hello?"
I love that she doesn't even consider him a baby. “Brought forth a man.” "It's like he a little man!"
And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” (Genesis 3:15)
Theologians call this the "Protoevangelium" - "the first gospel". Preached right after the fall. It’s about how Jesus will come and destroy works devil.
Adam and Eve are there, hear God say this. Nothing in the prophesy that suggests to them that it would be her seeds, seeds, seeds, seeds, seed - Which will ultimately be Jesus. Completely reasonable that Eve would believe it's her seed. Her kid.
If I were to come to you and say “You’re going to have beautiful offspring”, I doubt you’d think they’re talking about someone that comes 4000 years later.
"So she's hearing that her seed will crush the head of the serpent and deliver us all!" So the birth of Cain is a big deal!
Next, Abel, one little mention:
Later she gave birth to his brother Abel. (Genesis 4:2a)
Bible puts the emphasis on Eve's reaction to Cains birth, not Abels.
Have to imagine how these kids grew up, with stories of why they're not in the garden. They're out working on the land. Working the soil. "Well there was fruit, and a snake, and we ate it." - "But God promised that my offspring, my children would make it right."
Imagine: Cain growing up with this sense of calling, purpose. When God didn't receive his offering, how shocked, went crazy - killed his brother.
…Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. (Genesis 4:2b)
No judgement here, just different roles.
In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. (Genesis 4:3)
"Offering" - standard religious sacrifice.
That's amazing, this is the first religious sacrifice.
"Fruit" - same word Gen 3 - "Gonna fix this."
"Fruit" - same word used in genesis 3 with his parents sin. "Gonna fix this. I'm gonna make everything right. I'm gonna give God back his fruit!"
And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, (Genesis 4:4)
but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. (Genesis 4:5)
Theologians struggled with 'why' he accepted abels offering and not cain.
Might be backwards, not why did he reject cain offering, but why did we accept Abels. Up to this point, no one has said anything about offerings. Here's what's amazing: Here we see the first 2 religious sacrifices. Something that God didn't ask for. This wasn't God's idea, this was Cains idea.
It's my speculation, opinion, that the reason that God accepted Abels offering and not Cains in this: Cain was trying to repay something that was done before. AKA paying penance for his parents sin. Abel was just being nice. I love ya, I'm gonna give you something.
God doesn't need it, didn't ask for it, but he doesn't shut it down. Cain feels like this is what God needs to make it be made right. God - not some epic rebuke - just basically says "I don't need that." "I don't need you to make it right"
Then the Lord said to Cain. (Genesis 4:6a)
Here's what we might expect Him to say: Don't you know I require blood and not stupid fruit! My wrath is only satisfied when I see something suffer!"
Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? (Genesis 4:6b-7)
If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?Genesis 4:7
In other words: "Just live well man. Do what is right, that's what I want. You're accepted. This sacrifice thing that you're doing right now isn't necessary."
Cain sees his life purpose crumbling away. Walks away, invites his brother to come to the fields with him, kills him. Goes nuts over this.
People think God invented sacrifice
People will see God as the origin of sacrifice in the bible, but that's not true.
If you jump into the middle of something, you don't understand it.
This is true for a lot of stuff. My wife loves movies. And I like them ok. So we have some movies we watch together, other times she's watching a movie in the living room without me. And if I come into a movie half way through, it's very likely that I'll misunderstand what's happening in the movie.
You think it's Gods idea because He goes with it. Theologians call this the principle of accommodation.
"God accommodates where we're at, because He's committed to working things out together. When we stubbornly choose a course, God will often meet us where we're at, even though it's not His HEART. He does this to lead out us out of our blindness."
"David, you're being weird" - I'm not making this up. It's throughout the bible.
Jump in in the middle of the bible you'd think God is all about Kingship.
Go to the beginning, you find out that Kingship is personal rejection of God. There was a time in Israel's life when they're being led by prophets, God's spokespeople. This is God's way of leading Israel personally.
Samuel (prophet) comes to God, "The people don't want me to lead them anymore, they want a King." Like the pagan nations.
Samuel "I don't know why, but I take it personally, it's like they're rejecting me.
God says "Samuel, they aren't rejecting you, by asking for a King, they're rejecting me."
Next thing God says "Let's get them a king." "I'll show you who to anoint. His name is Saul. He'll be the first king of Israel."
And after Saul, let's "David" - "Saul's not really working out. Jerk." "David will do better. Not a lot better, but some better."
If you were to jump into the story here, you'd think he's all about kings.
He gets really into it. He takes kingship super seriously. He even uses kingship to help explain himself. I'm the king of Kings & the Lord of Lords. And even when describing Jesus, God says he will be a 'Son of David'. Saying that he'll come from a Kingly bloodline.
Yeah, at this point in the story, God is involved in Israels kingship. It started out a personal rejection of Him. But he went with it.
God never wanted a temple. God told Israel to make a tent. Called the tabernacle. Specific instructions on how to build this tent. Not a temple.
Who came up with the idea of the temple? David. Ironically KING David.
Comes to God "I live in a palace, these other Kings live in a palace. You live in a smelly tent." "I want you to live in the best house out of everyone! I'm gonna build it for you."
God "Don't need that. I love the tent. I'm really a more outdoorsy diety. It's simple. It's portable. Great symbolism, I'm there wherever you go."
David "Nah. I'm building you a temple."
God "Alright. Actually you won't. You'll design it, your son's gonna build it."
When it's finally done, God shows up with his spirit, blesses it, uses it.
Uses the temple to talk about the church. That we are the temple of the Holy Spirit. Beautiful. But if you join the story half way through, you think "God's all about temples." Actually no. But he works with us where we're at. For a season.
Wait what? If you jump into them middle of the story. Let's say Leviticus, God is drunk on blood. NEEDS STUFF TO DIE! If he's ever gonna consider thinking about forgiving broken, stupid people.
And you might be saying: "He had to no choice!"
Weird but important thought: God is not a diety that is subject to laws outside of himself. If that were true, those laws would be God. He doesn't have to submit to some principle. "I want to forgive you, but I can't until you kill something, that's not how the universe works, sorry."
I want you to consider this: God is capable of forgiveness. You as an image bearer of God, you're capable of forgiveness, right? That someone can do something wrong, you can forgive. And as we've said before, you're never more like God than when you forgive.
So it wasn't God's idea, but we works with it.
Isaiah. First & last chapters - fascinating.
1st chapter. Going w/ sacrificial thing. Reminds us "this isn't my heart and one day this is going to change."
“The multitude of your sacrifices— what are they to me?” says the LORD. “I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. (Isaiah 1:11)
When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? (Isaiah 1:12)
Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations — I cannot bear your worthless assemblies. (Isaiah 1:13)
Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals, I hate with all my being. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. (Isaiah 1:14)
Now let's jump to the last chapter. Now remember the temple. The beautiful palace we insist of building for God."
“Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be? (Isaiah 66:1)
Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?” declares the LORD. “These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word. (Isaiah 66:2)
But whoever sacrifices a bull is like one who kills a person, and whoever offers a lamb is like one who breaks a dog’s neck; whoever makes a grain offering is like one who presents pig’s blood, and whoever burns memorial incense is like one who worships an idol. They have chosen their own ways, and they delight in their abominations; (Isaiah 66:3)
Sacrifice and offering you did not desire— but my ears you have opened — burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require. (Psalm 40:6)
This is a big statement. "Uh… David… Have you ever read leviticus? Here David is saying "I get it. You never asked for any of this."
Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? (Micah 6:7)
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)
Like - to Cain: "Just do what's right."
By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear. (Hebrews 8:13)
God "I've allowed religion to evolve long enough. Ending it with this new covenant. Jesus at last supper "This is the new covenant. MY blood. Beautiful. Speaking their language. "I double dare you to top that." "What more can you add to the blood of God?" - Nothing.
In Matthew 9 Jesus is talking to religious leaders. Who love the idea of having this gap between God and man, and us doing something to bridge the gap.
But go and learn what this means (only time he uses that phrase): ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:13)
He's quoting :
For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings. (Hosea 6:6)
As we close I want to remind you of the what we talked about last week: "Everything we do in the Christian life, we do for CELEBRATION not SALVATION."
Religion is something that for a season, God has tolerated. But it was never his heart. And sending Jesus is the ultimate proof of God's commitment to come and end the separation myth once and for all.
In the end, all God asks is that we say thank you. And live a life filled with gratitude towards Him.
Living in a way that says "I get it. I don't have to do something, to make something happen. I just need to receive the beauty of what God has done for me.
CLOSING STATEMENT: Religion is something that for a season, God has tolerated. Because of His love for us, God relates to us on our terms. He tolerates religious practice that is not his heart. This is the evolution of religion. Relating to God using systems that He never wanted, but we insisted on anyway. But with Jesus, God finally comes down in person to say "Enough. Enough of your absurd record keeping and penance paying. I never asked for it. I don't need it, and I don't want it. Just do what's right. Live a life of gratitude towards me and a life of love towards others. That's what I want”
Know that, whoever you are, God's not sitting around waiting for you to make everything alright.
Jesus has made it right. Now all we have to do is say "thank you." We live a life of appreciation of what He's done.