Is there any value to the religious life? By religion I mean the Christian religion. I recognize there are other sincere religions, but of those other religions I quote from Tennyson, “They are broken lights of thee, and thou, O Lord, art more than they.”
I was motivated to ask this question after looking at the life of John the Baptist this week. John was born into a godly family, and trained from childhood for the ministry. As a young man he took the Nazirite Vow, which means he lived a life solely dedicated to the Lord. The consequences of the vow was he renounced the world and its pleasures, and lived solely unto the Lord. What gave rise to the question was not the ascetic life he lived, but what happen to him because of his training, service, and sacrifice for God. John’s life resulted in a long imprisonment that ended in an ignoble execution brought on by the whims of a spoiled young girl, a conniving woman, and a hedonistic king. Thus the question, is there value in the religious life?
When you read the New Testament it seems that time and again God wastes his saint in their service to him. However time after time the resounding answer is, “Yes, there is great value in the religious life,” for it is in yielding and serving God in one’s life that the human life is lifted, ennobled, glorified, and brought into what it was originally meant to be.
Matthew 13 is titled, “Jesus Sermon of Parables,” and that is because there are eight parables in the chapter. As Jesus was concluding his points he asked the disciples, “Have you understood all these things,” (51). What was Jesus asking them that they understood? He was asking them if they understood how the Kingdom of Heaven begins, what it is like, and how the present age would end. They simply replied “Yes.”
I think Jesus at this moment showed a remarkable amount of patience with his disciples, for he knew the truth; they really didn’t understand. What Jesus did know was He had planted the concepts of the kingdom in their minds. He knew that after His resurrection the Holy Spirit would come and bring those parables to their remembrance, and then their true meanings and understandings would explode in their minds and hearts revealing the truths of the kingdom.
As Jesus had patience with the disciples, he has patience with us, and thus we need not to be impatient with others. Always remember how Jesus dealt with you – with patience and gentleness. I’m not suggesting that we are to water down the truth of God. Let it have its way as Jesus did, and never apologize for it. Remember Jesus said, “Go and make disciples.” He did not say make converts to your own thoughts and opinions.
When Adam sinned he broke his fellowship with God for himself and his descendants. The first family was cast out of fellowship with God, and “Cherubim and a flaming sword guarded their way back” (Gen 3:24). Since then man has groped in the darkness after God. The ministry of Jesus has opened the spiritual world again to man. He has given us a way back into fellowship with God.
Yes, Jesus has opened the spiritual world again to man, but we still have sorrow, but not as those who have no hope. Because of Jesus we laugh at the terror of the tomb, for we know, “Absent from the body, present with the Lord,” (Paraphrased 2Cor 5:8).We know that when Christ appears again, those who we cry for, because they are gone, will appear with Him in glory. G. Campbell Morgan put it this way, “He has not killed the capacity for sorrow; but he has gilded the teardrop with His smile.” If we follow this king we no longer stumble in darkness, for we are now citizen of his kingdom that is to come. “When the end comes, the followers of this Christ, this king, will look into the face of the rider upon the pale horse, and hail as friend rather than foe,” (Ibid)
This king’s kingdom is over all things that are material, mental, moral, and spiritual, and for that we rejoice, we wait with great expectation, and say in all circumstances of our life, “Your will be done O Lord!”
You may have notice I often conclude our service or our prayer circle with the comment, “North Valley Christian Church now leaves the building.” I do that to affirm Jesus’ desire for us, his followers, to take His gospel to the community we live that is in need of good news. As Christ’s church may we not just hear the Word of God, and understand it, but may we also understand the seriousness of what Jesus charges us to do with that word. Jesus puts on his followers the obligation to share His Word with others.
As followers of Christ we must not just hear the Word, but we must receive into ourselves and grow it. We must not just hear the Word, but we must obey what Jesus taught, and apply it to our lives. We must not just hear the word, but we must share the light of Jesus to those in darkness around us. We must not just hear the word, but we must preserve it. Thus everyone who receives His Word becomes a sower, everyone becomes a lamp on a table, and everyone becomes salt. We are to become the sower, the lamp, and salt to the community that we reside in.
It is a solemn thing to hear God’s Word, for with hearing comes the responsibility of receiving, sharing, obeying, and preserving, for in so doing we produce fruit, not for ourselves, but for the glory of our King – Jesus Christ.
You Should Tell Someone,