To a casual observer religion and Christianity seem like different words for the very same thing. Jesus would openly disagree.
So often Jesus spoke with the authority of heaven pointing out the difference. For example, who would have been more rigidly religious than the Jewish people of His day. Jesus said, “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20, NIV). What did He mean? He pointed out that religious righteousness which was approved by men and real spiritual righteousness approved by God were totally different in nature.
Paul spoke of “righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ,” which he said brings “glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:11, NIV). Add to that this truth from Scripture, that righteousness is “not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9, NIV).
So then, let’s realize that Jesus taught us that a person can be very religious and even claim a belief in God and yet totally miss heaven! What else do you conclude by these words of Jesus, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven …” (Matthew 7:21, NIV)?
There is a dramatic story that has been told over and again. Yet it might be, that you may not have heard. If you have heard it, a reminder would be timely and stir your soul possibly.
In 1870-1871 there was a war between France and Germany. As the troops from each nation faced each other on Christmas Eve, suddenly a Frenchman boldly stood up from his battlefront trench and started singing the famous Christmas hymn “O Holy Night,” and that’s when the incredible happened! You may recall the words:
“O Holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
The Ukrainian crisis has now gone on over four years with no end in sight, but the evident reality is that recovery will be even harder and take longer. The word “crisis” is the one word that is appropriate.
Never has this nation needed faithful friends like today. The entire Eastern part of Ukraine has been impacted and so much destroyed by the bitter conflict. Thousands of lives have been lost—almost every city has lost someone or even many. It will be, say experts, decades before the region will have fully rebuilt and be operational in a normal way. But the stubborn heartbreak is that nothing in the rebuilding of the infrastructure can start until the dangerous fighting ceases. There is no real sign of that, so the Ukrainian crisis continues unabated.
One Christian spokesman said, “The tragedy is that even Christian aid organizations have grown weary. Some have begun even to totally withdraw—a result of ministry fatigue. It’s a sad reality.”
“but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb … he said, ‘why do you weep?’”
“No more tears—He lives!” said the heavenly angel at the grave site. And Jesus said, “Amen!” as He stood before her alive.
No Christian since the resurrection has a valid reason for tears. Of course, momentarily we may weep occasionally, but if we fully understand the glory of the resurrection, even then, our hearts are filled with joy even with our eyes filled with tears! Tears no more shall control our personalities. Jesus is alive—no more tears!
Jesus himself asked Mary, “why are you crying?”—That is, this is not a time for sobbing but shouting! This is not a time of tears but triumph! This is not a time for weeping but wonder! Because He lives, we have hope for despair, victory for defeat, gain for loss, glad news instead of sad news that the world needs to hear!
A CHRISTMAS SHOUT REQUESTED!
“Rejoice greatly, O my people! Shout with joy! For look—your
King is coming! He is the Righteous One, the Victor!”
Zechariah 9:9 Living Bible
Where have we read anything more full of hope and for overcoming
our dark and depressing world than this verse from the Old
Testament prophet Zechariah?
This is victorious optimism that can only be stirred from God’s great
announcement of this arrival. And we don’t sense or see much of
that real spirit even in this special season of the year.
A newscast closed on a Dallas television with the question asked,
“How do people relieve their typical Christmas shopping stress?”
About 22% did it by drinking more and 18% simply went to bed as
soon as possible. Others said, “They prayed a lot!” But God says we
would do well to give a Christmas shout!
Once, while Winston Churchill was prime minister in Britain, a young Billy Graham was called into 10 Downing Street to meet him. In rather gruff tones Churchill asked him, “Young man, do you have any hope for the human race?” Graham outlined from the Bible his basis of hope. I will do the same.
A great European theologian said what oxygen is to the lungs, hope is to the human soul. Hopelessness is terrible because people cannot live without hope. A famous writer, A. J. Cronin, said, “When you stop hoping, you are on the vestibule of hell, for there is no hope there.”