Religious Games

From Open Up Your Heart by Jeff Syverson

April 6

Religious Games

Today’s Scripture Readings:

Psalm 49:1-13 | Deuteronomy 29:1-30:20 | Luke 11:37-12:7 | Proverbs 12:19-20

Today’s Scripture Focus: Luke 11:37-12:7

Then the Lord said to him, “Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? (Luke 11:39-40 NIV).

When it comes to religion, there are some who play the game better than others. They come dressed in their Sunday best. They never miss a service. They are there every time the church door is open. They work hard making sure that everything looks good on the outside. They never admit failure. They try to do all their “religious acts” out in the open so everyone can see. Scrupulous about the details of their performance; every “t” is crossed—every “i” is dotted.

Then Jesus shows up and tells the people in the lead that they are playing by the wrong rulebook. They are playing “charades” and doing quite well—but they are supposed to be playing “hearts.”  Play-acting might be fine for charades, but Jesus isn’t concerned about the external performance. He wants to deal with issues of the heart.

The Scribes and Pharisees had play-acting down. The other name for it, of course, is hypocrisy. It is never a pretty thing: Trying hard to impress others; using our privileged position to manipulate the rules in our favor; looking down our noses at others who haven’t learned the secrets of the insiders; working hard at keeping things looking good on the outside, all the while neglecting the more difficult work of dealing with our heart.

Jesus called the Scribes and Pharisees to come clean—to deal with the internal mess of their lives. Only then is it possible to “play the game” as it was meant to be played. Only then do we see the mess we are in and cry out to God for his forgiveness and grace—only then do we turn in repentance and faith.

Open your heart to Jesus. No holding back. No religious games. Authenticity is the road to life lived to the full.

Father, search me and know me, see if there be any wicked way in me. Then purify my heart and make it new. Cleanse me. Root out any hypocrisy. Let my words and actions flow from a pure heart that desires to follow you wholeheartedly and please you in every way. Amen.

About pastorjeffsneighborhood

Born and raised in Minnesota, I have served in churches in Minnesota, Ohio, Oregon and California. I am a graduate of Crown College (MN) and George Fox Evangelical Seminary (OR). I have also done additional graduate studies in New Testament Studies at the Center for Advanced Theological Studies at Fuller Theological Seminary (CA). I am also a graduate of the College of Prayer. Having served as the Academic Dean and Program Director at Horizon Institute of Los Angeles for several years, I have returned to the pastorate and serve as Pastor of Big Trees Community Bible Church in Arnold, CA.
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