The Thing Week 5: The Bridge?

Sermon Transcript

[Video]

Everybody throughout their lives deals with a thing. It’s there. You can’t always see it, but you can feel it. It never really goes away. You can try to put it on the top shelf, hide it under the bed, throw it in the back of the closet, and yet this thing never seems to disappear. Why is it so hard to move on? Why does it feel like an impossible mountain to climb? Are we destined to be stuck in these recurring nightmares forever? Let’s unpack this together. Let’s find a way forward. What’s your thing?

[End Video]

Well, good morning to everybody and, also, to those who watch via the internet and the mobile app — our mobile app-ritioners. I like that word. Well, we’re glad to have you. Anyway, we’re in a series called “The Thing.” The idea behind this is that when you talk with people in their lives, especially if you’re a pastor and people come talk to you, you realize that as people try to live out their lives, practically, and try to follow Jesus and follow the things that He’s asked us to do, oftentimes you’ll find that somebody will come along and say, “I just have the same thing that I just keep beating my head up against all the time.”

And it may be a number of different things for them. It may be anger. It may be lust. It may be addictions. It may be a number of things. It might be jealousy or envy. There’s a number of things it could be, but it just seems like that’s a recurring thing in their life. What I’ve been trying to submit over the last several weeks is that we, as Christians, often focus on symptoms and we try to deal with symptoms rather than dealing with root causes, which is why the big idea in the series is this: The thing that we think is the thing is usually not the thing.

We’ve talked about that. You know, several weeks ago, we talked about unforgiveness. Unforgiveness is the root cause of so many symptoms in our lives. If we’re shooting at the symptoms, we’re never dealing with the root causes. So, oftentimes, we don’t get better because we’re not dealing with the real thing. We’re dealing with a thing, but not the real thing. We talked about discerning the body. Paul says, in 1 Corinthians 11, “Here are the symptoms when we don’t properly do life together as a church.”

So, that’s the thing that’s behind the thing. So, you’ve got these symptoms and then you’ve got these root causes. Last week, we talked about attitude. We talked about how incredible our attitude is in creating things in our lives. Oftentimes, we have so many bad things in our lives, not because of those symptoms, but because we just have a bad attitude. And we have control over that.

Well, this particular weekend, I’m going to deal with a subject that many of you all may not be familiar with. I mean, you’ll know the term, but you’ll try to go, “I wonder what he means by the term?”

We’re going to define all of that and I’m going to explain all of that. But, I believe this subject will absolutely change your life if you listen to it, because I think it’s something that’s pervasive within the Church, it’s pervasive within people who attend church regularly. And, oftentimes, we don’t see it. But, it is a real cause of a lot of symptoms in our lives. That is religion. We’re going to deal with that today and I’m going to define that for you. Because, oftentimes, when you use the word “religion,” people are like, “Oh. Isn’t that the song? ‘Give me that old time religion?’ Isn’t that a good thing? In James 1, doesn’t it say that pure religion and undefiled is to visit the widows, the orphans and their affliction and all of that?”

Yes. There is a positive side, you could say, to this word. I want to talk about the negative side of this word, because I think that Jesus came to show us that religion is not the way to the Father. In fact, we’re going to sort of talk about that today. And I hope you understand that sacred cows do make the best hamburger meat. Right? You know that, correct? Anyway, I think it’s a little gloomy outside. Before I get into religion here, I think you all just need a joke. I haven’t told this joke in any of the other services. So, this is your joke. It’s not theologically correct. It’s a little edgy in some ways. So, it’s a good way to go into sort of taking a wrecking ball to religion.

So, there was this small church in Tennessee that was having a funeral service. A lady had passed away. There are 60-70 people in the church. They were carrying the casket out. On the way out, they hit the wall with the casket. They heard a moan. They were like, “Really? So, they opened up the casket. Sure enough, she was alive. It’s like, “Whoa, man! This is awesome!”

Well, she lived for 10 years and then she died again. So, they had the funeral there. You know? Sixty people. And they were carrying the casket out, and the husband goes, “Don’t hit the wall!”

So, there you go. I knew you all needed a joke to liven up. Okay. So, let’s talk about religion. I’m going to define it here in a minute, but I want to sort of show you the symptoms of religion. This is the root cause. This is the thing behind the thing. This is what religion will do in a lot of people’s lives: Guilt. It’ll create a lot of guilt. A lot of people feel guilty and they feel like, “I’m trying to do the right thing. I’m trying to do the right thing. I’m trying to the right thing. I never do the right thing. I feel so guilty.”

That’s religion doing that. It doesn’t provide all guilt. Some guilt is good. But, the reality is that religion does create a lot of guilt. Another thing that it creates is what I call “PBA.” I know some of y’all, there in the back, thought that said, “PBR,” and you’re like, “Yeah!”

That’s not what it said. Okay? It’s PBA, which is what I call “Performance Based Acceptance.” And here’s the way we sort of do this. We think, “If I pray and read my Bible this week, God loves me more. I didn’t read my Bible and didn’t pray. God loves me less.”

So, what you do is you get on sort of this hamster wheel of trying to perform for God so that He’ll love you more. And then, when you don’t do the right things, He loves you less. That’s not true. That comes from religion. And a lot of people live there. They live their Christian lives, their whole Christian lives, trying to get God to accept them, when, in fact, He’s already accepted you and me.

Another thing it leads to is good, old-fashioned pride. Sometimes people get religious and they’re like, “I’m right. You’re wrong,” and it creates a lot of pride. And then that pride leads to anger and frustration, and ultimately leads to treating people as the other. Let me tell you: Most wars throughout the history of humanity have come through religion. Religion. Because religion says, “I’m right and you’re wrong. And I’m willing to kill you for that, ultimately.”

Which is crazy, because Jesus said we’re supposed to love our enemies. And when we do, this is what religion does: Religion will get us all fired up and all of this stuff. So, what we want to do is we want to deal with it, but what is religion? So, I want to take a moment here. I’ve got a fairly lengthy definition. I want you to lean in here and listen, because I believe this message can really help you out in your practical life. In fact, I believe it can change your life from this point forward.

So, here we go. Here’s what religion is: Religion is any set of beliefs and/or behaviors. It’s got to have both components. You’ve got a set of beliefs. “I’ve got to believe this, believe this and believe this,” and, “I’ve got to behave this way, behave this way and behave this way, and do these things. Can’t do that. Can’t do this.”

You know, you’ve heard the old thing. I don’t drink, cuss or chew, and I don’t run with those that do. Right? You’ve heard that one before? So, this is any set of beliefs and/or behaviors — listen, this is important here — that we believe bridge the gap between us and God. In other words, this is important. You’ve got a set of beliefs or behaviors — “Do these things, do these things and believe these things. I’ve got to get all this stuff and write the check marks.”

Then what that does is that bridges the gap between us and God, because we did the right things and we believe the right things or we thought the right way, or we did the right behaviors, or we prayed the right prayer, or we did the right thing. And we believe that bridges the gap between us and God that ultimately leads to an us versus them mentality. And it does this in all religions.

“I want to fight about this stuff, because we’re right and you’re wrong. I’ve got the right set of beliefs, and this is the only way to bridge our way to God.”

And it creates the us versus them mentality, thus creating a sense of belonging. You’ve got your tribe. You know who your tribe is. You know what you believe. You know what the deal is. You’ve got the us versus them. This is what good, old-fashioned religion is. Let me explain how we get there. Let me explain how we get to this particular place in our life.

Somewhere along the way, we decide — and it may have been in a mosque, it could’ve been in a synagogue, it could’ve been a tent revival, or it could’ve been at a church. Somewhere along the way, we go, “You know what? There’s got to be something else to life. There’s got to be something else out there.”

So, at that point, somewhere along the way, we realize that there’s a need for us to do something to close the gap between us and God. Keyword here is that we do something to close that gap between us and God. And somebody comes along in that moment, wherever we were at, and they provide us and they present us a set of beliefs, creeds, prayers, rules and/or regulations, whatever it may be, and they go, “Here it is.”

It’s like, here’s the game. You open the game up. Here’s the game of religion. And there’s a bunch of different games you can play. You open up that game. Here’s the rule book. If you do these things and say these things and belief these things and do this stuff, then, all of a sudden, you are in and everybody else is out. And here’s what it leads to: It ultimately manifests itself in an us versus them mentality that leads to spiritual pride. There’s no way around it. It just does this.

And Jesus knew this. Jesus knew about religion, because the people that were the most religious people of Jesus’ day were the Pharisees. I mean, they went to church, they sang all the right hymns, they believed all the right things, they could recite Scripture, they just weren’t close to God at all, even though they thought that they were. Jesus tells a parable to a group of Pharisees, and He says, “Hey, a tax collector went up to pray and a Pharisee went up to pray.”

And He turns it on its head and says, “The tax collector was the one that was more righteous when they left.”

Here’s the way Luke starts that parable: “He told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt.”

Now, see, we don’t go around telling everybody that we treat others with contempt, but when you’ve got good, old-fashioned religion flowing through your veins, you do.

“I can’t believe they do that. I can’t believe they live that way. I️ got it right. I’m on the right side. They’re on the wrong side.”

And, before long, you’re just as religious as can be, because religion does this to us. And here’s what religion does: Religion gives us our security by comparison. We look at other people like, “I don’t do that. I don’t act like that. I don’t live that lifestyle. I got it right. I’ve got the right set of beliefs, the right set of stuff.”

But, before long, there’s this contempt and this looking down upon other people. And we don’t say it. We do the, “Oh, no. Yeah, God loves everybody,” but we don’t really believe that deep down inside, because they’re the other. And not only that, but we learn real quickly to profess other sins rather than confessing our own.

“Oh, those sinners. They’re doing that.”

Not realizing that we have some issues within as well. So, what is religion? It’s any set of beliefs and/or behaviors that we believe bridge the gap between us and God, that ultimately leads to an us versus them mentality, thus creating a sense of belonging. There’s 40,000 denominations in the United States. Forty-thousand. People who go, “That’s my tribe.”

And they fight about stuff. I mean, they’ll fight about crazy stuff. Like, crazy stuff. Like, things that you wouldn’t even believe. Like, “Seriously? You want to die on that hill for that?”

“Absolutely, because that’s the right set of beliefs and behaviors, and if I don’t get that right, then I’m not bridging the gap between me and God. And then I don’t know that I’m in.”

And it’s really bad when you’ve got religion, because it’s like half the time you’re not really even doing the set of beliefs and behaviors that you believe keep you in, but you can’t tell everybody that you’re not doing them. Because, if they tell you you’re not doing them, then you’re a “them” and not an “us,” you know what I’m talking about? So, you’ve got to put on the whole show here.

Let me tell you something in no uncertain terms: Jesus came to send a wrecking ball to that type of thinking in our lives. I’m going to show you how He did it, and I think we’re going to have some really good fun. But, before that, I want to make sure that everybody’s on the same page here, and understands this.

If you and I had developed a product, whatever the product is, and we were going to launch it, we would sit down, and we would go, “Where are we going to launch it? Where’s the place that we’re going to launch this? Who are the people that we’re going to have that will be spokesmen? What television? Radio? Advertising?”

Because, you only get one chance to make a first impression, right? Okay. It’s like when they run for office, politicians. They choose the venue where they’re going to run. There’s significance to it. There’s usually historical significance to it. I mean, there’s a reason why they do what they do. There’s a reason why they launch where they launch, because they know when they launch that first thing, that’s the communication everybody’s going to know about them.

Well, Jesus, we’re told, launched with a first sign. That first sign was all about who He was. John tells us that. John tells us, “This is the first of His signs that Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.”

In other words, whatever happens in verses John 2:1-10, which we’re going to look at, is His inaugural sign. His, “This is what I came to do.”

And you might be thinking, “Is this where He’s going to heal people?”

Nope.

“Is this where He’s going to feed a lot of people?”

Nope. What does He do? Well, let’s look at it and let’s see, because this is the inaugural sign that Jesus gives to everybody about why He came. The first one. You can’t go back and do the first one again. The first one is absolutely imperative. And John tells us this is the first sign that Jesus did. Here’s the way it reads.

“On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.”

Some of y’all really like to hear some cool Bible facts and trivia. So, I don’t want to keep anybody from getting a real cool revelation. John starts of his Gospel. John 1:1 says, “In the beginning.”

Now, if you’ve read the Bible before, even if you probably haven’t read the Bible, you’ve probably opened it up to the book of Genesis one time, even as a kid, and saw, “In the beginning.”

So, John uses the same language as Genesis uses to start of his Gospel. Genesis, as you know, if you read, “In the beginning,” what happens? Well, there’s the seven days of creation. There’s the light and darkness and all of that stuff that goes on. Well, John employs the same thing. He gives us seven straight chronological days as he opens up his Gospel, which is really cool because he’s comparing the two in doing that. It’s the only time in the Gospel where we get seven straight days. So, he’s writing very, very specifically.

What’s cool is that this is a third day event, which is really cool because the third day is really significant for Christians. But, it also happens to be the final day of His seven days. So, it’s the third day, but it’s also the seventh day, as you calculate through, which is cool. Because, if Jesus wouldn’t have risen from the dead on the third day, we wouldn’t have the seventh day Sabbath rest. Follow me? Pretty cool stuff.

So, anyway.

“On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.”

We don’t know why she was there. We’re not told why she was there. It’s only speculation, but some people say, “Oh, it’s because she was running the wedding,” or whatever. We don’t know. We just know that she was there. And then we also learn this:

“Jesus was also invited to the wedding with his disciples.”

And this would’ve been about four or five of them, because He hasn’t gotten all twelve at this point. He’s got four or five disciples. He’s showing up at a wedding. Now, if you understand the big, this is pregnant. Because, in the Old Testament, the Messiah, when He came, was going to throw a great wedding feast for everybody. So, Jesus, when He comes and starts eating with the outcasts and the sinners at tables, He’s inaugurating that great Messianic banquet that He’s going to do, which, ultimately, we see in conclusion in the book of Revelation with the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.

So, He’s at a wedding. This is the first of His miracles. Let’s pay attention here and see what’s going on.

“When the wine ran out,”

That’s huge. For us, today, if you have a wedding, you normally say, “Okay. We’re going to spend X amount of money on the bar.”

And you spend it. And when the bar’s done, it’s done. It’s like cut off. We actually have a sign in America for this. It says, “Cut off.”

And they need to do more of that at the Cheesecake Factory around noon with that diverging diamond. Can I get an amen? Anyway, in Jesus’ day, weddings were different. You had a long, long, long engagement deal where the groom would go set up the house and get everything prepared so then he could come and get the bridge and they could consummate the marriage. And then there would be two to three days, up to a week, of celebration after that. That’s why when Jesus says, in John 14, “I’m going to go prepare a place for you,” that’s within a wedding theme. He’s going to prepare the house and then come get the bride to consummate the marriage.

So, all that stuff is pregnant in the understanding of the Bible. So, Jesus, here, is at this wedding, and the wine has run out. In the first century, especially if you were a Jew and you had a wedding, if you didn’t have enough wine, believe it or not, the people at the wedding ceremony could sue you. That’s how serious. You talk about a real bad social no-no, to run out of stuff at the wedding. I mean, this is an honor and shame society, not like ours. Honor and shame is completely different. This is a bad, bad, bad day for the groom if he runs out of wine.

And it says, “The mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’”

I can tell you that she’s not the only person walking around the wedding going, “They have no wine.”

I mean, everybody’s going, “Can you believe they ran out of wine? Can you believe it? What are we going to do? What are we going to do? This is terrible.”

Especially if it’s a family member. It’s like, “What are we going to do? They have no wine. Can we do anything about this? This is terrible. There’s no wine.”

So, she goes to Jesus and says, “They have no wine.”

She’s not going to Jesus saying, “Can you do a miracle?”

He hasn’t even done one yet. This is His first one. She’s just saying, “They don’t have any wine. What are we going to do?”

Just like when the disciples walk up to Jesus and go, “We ain’t got no food, man. There are 5,000 people. Do you want us to go buy something?”

They’re not even thinking about miracles. They’re just saying, “What do we do?”

Jesus’ response is interesting. He says, “‘Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.’”

We read that and we’re like, “Man, that’s pretty tough. That’s His mom.”

Okay. Well, don’t try that at home. “Woman.” That’s right. Yeah. Some cold coffee. This is going to be ugly. But, in the first century, the word “woman” was not a derogatory term. He said it to the woman at the well. “Woman.” But, He’s definitely not embracing His mom and mom, because there’s starting to be a distance now between Jesus and His mother. She’s going to have to come to Him, just like everybody else does, for salvation.

He says, “What does this have to do with me? This isn’t my wedding. My hour has not yet come. It’s not my time yet.”

Now, she has no idea what He’s saying, but He’s saying, “This is not the time here to be doing the whole festive wedding and wine thing, because there will be an hour where I die, and I rise from the dead and all this stuff. My hour will come. What does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.”

“His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’”

Jesus’ father is dead by now. He’s the one who’s taking care of the family. She’s come to him, probably as many other people have come to their sons around there, because this is a real bad embarrassment that the wine has ran out. She doesn’t know what to do. She doesn’t understand what “my hour has not yet come” means. We read that and understand, 2,000 years later, more of what that means. But, in the moment, she would not have understood what that meant.

She goes, “I guess just do whatever He says.”

Now, the next verse is huge. Because, whenever you’re reading Scripture and you’re reading something with a lot of detail that you have no idea what you’re reading about, that’s the time to really focus in as to what’s going on.

John says, “There were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.”

What’s that? Six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites? Okay. This held the holy water. This is where you wash yourself to ritually clean your hands before you eat and throw some water on you. It’s holy water. That’s what it was. It’s holy water. And it’s in six stone water jars? That’s interesting six is one number less than seven; completion. This is the religious tradition of Judaism. And each holding twenty or thirty gallons. So, we’re told that. That’s important.

“Jesus said to the servants, ‘Fill the jars with water.’ And they filled them to the brim.”

I mean, they understand. This is their holy water. It’d be like walking into a liturgical church and saying, “Fill up the holy water,” and you could fill it all the way to the brim. Because they’re thinking, “Okay. I guess they ran out of wine. Jesus is probably going to do something religious here. Maybe we’re all going to wash again in holy water. Who knows?”

So, they fill it up to the top. They’re like, “We’ll fill it to the top. It sounds like an okay thing or some sort of religious thing going on.”

And then Jesus says, “Here’s what I want you to do. Go draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.”

“So they took it.”

Now, they’re thinking along the way, “Why in the world would we take a cup out of holy water to give it to the master of the feast?”

I mean, it’d be like showing up at a Catholic church, walking up in the middle of communion and grabbing the holy water thing and doing a waterfall. Everybody in the church would be like, “What?”

So, He goes, “Take some out to the master of the feast,” and they take it to him.

“When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine,”

It’s wine. Now, he doesn’t know where it came from.

“(Though the servants who had drawn the water knew),”

They’re like, “Dude, that water we just filled up is wine. Whoa. This is crazy.”

Well, the master of the feast doesn’t know that the water pots have turned into wine. He doesn’t know any of that stuff. He calls the bridegroom and he says, “You sly dog. You acted like the wine ran out, but it really hadn’t. You talk about really redeeming yourself. I mean, this was a bad deal. This was really ugly. The embarrassment was big. But, man, you sly dog.”

“‘Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine.’”

He’s like, “You get a couple of good glasses in, your taste buds are a little bit devalued at that point, and the bad stuff doesn’t taste that bad anymore.”

The truth of the matter is the more you drink, you probably don’t have any idea what it’s tasting like. You know?

He goes, “‘But you have kept the good wine until now.’”

He’s like, “Man. Talking about a redemption. There was a lot of shame and embarrassment. Man, you have redeemed yourself big.”

And then John says, “This was the first sign that Jesus did to display His glory.”

Well, what did He do? What’s the big reveal here? What’s going on? Well, first of all, we need to take a moment here and realize. I call these “things to chew on.” We need to think about this for a second. Number one: In turning water into wine, Jesus, in some sense, devalues their religious tradition. I️ guess the best way I could explain it so that you could understand is if we’ve done communion today and I would’ve put beer in those cups. Some of you’d be like, “Man, that’d be cool, man. I’m going to come back to this church.”

But, many of us would be like, “Eh, that’s a little edgy. That’s a little much right there. I wonder what they’re thinking.”

When Jesus takes the stone water pots of holy water and fills it with wine, that, in no uncertain terms, is a complete devaluation of that whole enterprise. It’s almost as if He’s saying, “Those stone pots can’t do anything for you. All they can do is remind you of your sin every time you wash.”

And He just takes that whole enterprise and changes it into something new. In one sense, we have to see that. The second thing that we need to see — and this is huge — is that if you wanted to have a good party, you invited Jesus. That’s the truth right here. That’ll get religion out of here really quickly. Jesus showed up at parties. And let me show you the extravagance here of what He does, because this is huge.

This groom is absolutely shamed and embarrassed. By Jesus providing the wine, He took away the groom’s shame. Not only that, but if you remember, there were six pots of water, and they held twenty to thirty gallons a piece.

So, somewhere between 120 and 180 gallons of water is now wine. But not just wine, good wine; expensive wine. They didn’t drink all of that 120 to 180 gallons. It wouldn’t have happened. What Jesus has done is not only take away the groom’s shame, but He has provided for their needs. They can sell that wine and pay for everything back that they’ve spent on their wedding, and probably have years of income out of that wine. So, what has Jesus done? He’s taken away their shame and He’s provided for them with an extravagant abundance.

This, the first sign that Jesus does. What’s He want us to see? He wants us to see, “Hey, that religion stuff ain’t going to get you anywhere. I am.”

See, Jesus didn’t come so that we could have a set of creeds or beliefs that we could go, “That’s what I believe in. A bunch of behaviors.”

He brought Himself. The difference between Jesus and religion is religion has a set of beliefs and creeds and things. The difference in Christianity is that we believe in a person. Jesus brought Himself. That’s who we believe in. Christianity is a person. It’s an engagement. And we’ve got to believe that this person, He’s the one that shows up and takes away the shame and the guilt. He’s the one that provides for us abundantly. This is the very first thing that He wants to make sure everybody understands about Him. He is there to give life and to give life more abundantly, and to take away shame and embarrassment from our lives and give us all the wine that we need.

It’s beautiful. So, here’s what I want to do here. Take-homes. These take-homes are questions. I want you to take these questions home and I want you to seriously — this is what I’m asking everybody in this church to do — pray about this this week. I want you to ask God about this this week. There are four questions that I’ve got for you.

The first one is this one: What are my stone pots that need the new wine of Jesus? What are they? What are the dead things of religion in my life that aren’t giving me any life? They’re just creating guilt, confusion, problems and building all kinds of problems with me, God, people and all of that. What are the stone pots that I need the new wine of Jesus in? You know, this here of Ezekiel. When Ezekiel, in the valley of dry bones, is looking out on the valley, God says, “Ezekiel, do you believe these bones can live?”

Ezekiel answers the way we probably all would: “God, only You know. I don’t know.”

God says to Ezekiel, “Speak to the bones and tell them to live.”

What dry bones in your life do you need to speak to right now in the name of Jesus and say, “I want the new wine in those old, dead water pots of religion. I want some new wine in my life.”

I don’t know what it is in your life, but I’m asking you to go home and say, “God, what are the water pots of religion in my life that I need Your new wine in?”

And believe that He can give that new wine and He can do it more exceedingly abundantly than you could ever ask or think. We’re talking about 180 gallons worth of really, really, really good wine. Do you believe God can do that?

Second: Will I allow Jesus to critique the religious belief systems that I cherish and defend? See, we don’t like that about Jesus. Jesus comes and just stomps all over things. You know, when Jesus does this, when He puts the wine in that water pot, do you know what He does? He forever marches Himself toward the cross that the religious people would want to put Him on. See, religion does that to us. It makes us hold onto things. It makes us get mad at people. It makes us get angry. And we don’t want to tell anybody that we’re doing that. We don’t want to really reveal what’s going on on the inside, but that’s what religion does.

And the question is, will you let Jesus come put wine in your water pots? Because He will. Let me tell you. He will do it in spades. Because Jesus didn’t come to bring religion, folks. He came to bring a revolution. And that revolution was that you could have a relationship with God not based on anything that you have done, but based on what He has done for you and me. Will you allow Him? Because that was a tough gig for them. I can tell you that right now. I mean, you put wine in the holy water pots? Jesus says, “That’s not where your life’s coming from, folks. Your life’s coming from me, not that religion. All that religion does is create death, anger, frustration and garbage for you, but I’ve come to give you life and life more abundantly.”

Will you allow Him to critique some of those things? Third thing, and this is huge. Will we once and for all embrace that religion never builds the bridge we so desperately want it to? See, we want so bad to be able to go, “Okay. Here’s the rules. Here’s the stuff. Now I’ve got the bridge and the bridge is there.”

Let me tell you something: Whenever it’s about what you and I do, whenever it’s about performance, it never, ever, ever builds a bridge. It builds walls. It builds walls between you and God, and it builds walls between you and others. The two things God wants for you and me, love God and love others, religion will always build walls. It puts walls between us and God, because we can’t do it, we can’t do it, we try to do it, we want to do it, we can’t do it, we can’t do it, we try to run the hill. And all we do is live in guilt and shame and we never experience all the fullness of God, because we’re trying to build that bridge that we can never build.

And then what it does is it builds walls between other people. Religion will never, ever, ever build the bridge that you want it to, because here’s the truth of the Gospel: Jesus is the bridge. He’s the bridge. You and I don’t go do something, get something right, believe something right so that we can force our way or move our way closer to God. That’s why Jesus came in the first place. He came because we can’t do it. You can’t pray enough. You can’t give enough. You can’t serve enough. You can’t love enough. You can’t do any of that. If it were up to performance, none of us are going to make it to heaven. Period. End of story.

Jesus is the bridge. He said, “I put the bridge between you and me, and all you have to do is walk over it.”

We go, “Yeah, but, but,” No. See? That’s where religion comes in. Religion is the but, but, but, but, but. In Acts 16, when the Philippian Jailer says, “What do I have to do to be saved?”

Paul doesn’t say, “Well, hold on. Let me get my book out here. I’ve got all these things you’ve got to do.”

He says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus and you’ll be saved.”

You go, “Yeah, but, but,” No. The thief on the cross? “Hey, I want to be with You in paradise.”

He says, “You’re in.”

We go, “Yeah, but that’s not enough. There’s got to be more.”

No. It is enough. There’s nothing you and I can do to bridge that gap. It is what Jesus has done for you and me. Period. John Calvin says it great: “The Son of God became the Son of Man, so the sons of men might become the sons of God.”

Jesus is that bridge. Jesus is your bridge. That’s why everything we do around this church is trying to create a bridge. Everything we do. First Fridays. Christmas on Main. We’re just trying to build bridges to get people to Jesus. Just build a bridge. Not a wall, but a bridge. In everything that we do, a bridge. How can we do that? Because that’s what Jesus does. Jesus does a bridge. He bridged for you and me what we can’t do.

And the last thing I’ll say is this: Will I embrace that religion tries to tell us how to live, but only Jesus can give us life? So, you go to places and they’ll tell you all of these things you’ve got to do and all of the things you can’t do. And then everybody’s trying to figure out how to do it, and none of us do it really that good in the first place, but we don’t want to tell anybody that we’re not doing it that good, because that comes with consequences. Right? Because you go, “Well, I’m not really doing this stuff,” then they look on you and go, “Oh, you’re one of them,” but they’re one of them too because they ain’t doing it either. And then that just creates a whole problem in church. And everybody’s fake and everybody’s doing this stuff. And guess what? The world sees that. Because religion doesn’t work.

Jesus came to give us life. He didn’t say, “I’m a way. I’m a truth. I’m a life.”

He said, “I am the way, I am the truth and I am the life.”

John 14:6. Let this resonate in your heart. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing. It is a gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. It’s a gift of God. See, when you get religion, it just kills you. When you get Jesus, it gives you life. I can just tell you, you may say, “Man, you’re passionate about this. I can sense it.”

Yeah. I am. Because, at 17 years old, in Tampa, Florida, in my mom’s Honda Accord, I pulled over and got in the back of the car, got on my knees as cars are going by on Dale Mabry Highway, I put my elbows on the back of that bumper, and I said, “God, I need You in my life. Will You please forgive me?”

That changed everything. And do you know what? The next 30 years haven’t been how great I’ve been or how faithful I’ve been. It’s been how faithful God was to His son that day, at 17 years old, and how He has continued to work in my life. Because it’s not what I have done, it’s what Jesus has done for me that made the difference.

Don’t live another day in religion. Let it go. Let it go. Embrace Jesus. Jesus is your life.

Let’s pray.

Dear Heavenly Father, I thank You for the wonderful people here at Grace. I thank You for what You’re doing here in our midst. I thank You, Lord, for the countless lives that have been changed as a result, Lord, of Your good news. Lord, it’s such good news. It’s good news because there’s nothing we can do to earn it. All we have to do is walk across the bridge.

Lord, I pray, today, that if anybody’s in here struggling with religion, struggling with acceptance, struggling with their relationship with You, Lord, I pray in Jesus’ name that You would let some dry bones live. Lord, that You would start to attach together an army of passionate people who want to talk about Jesus. Not about religion, not about issues, but about Jesus. Lord, You are the one that can change our lives. You have forever put a wrecking ball to religion. You brought us a relationship. Lord, we want to live in that relationship, Lord. We don’t want to run around telling everybody their sins. We want to look internally, Lord, and say, “Deal with me. Help me to become all that You want me to be. Help me to be a light for You in everything that I do.”

And help this church be a light for You in everything that we do. So, Lord, I pray that as we walk out of here today, that You would watch over us and protect us, that You would lead and guide us, and that You would continue, Lord, to make us into the church that You’ve called us to be, which is to reach the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ. Lord, help us reflect Jesus in everything that we do, for Your glory and for Your honor.

Lord, we love You for it. In Jesus’ name, and everybody said, “Amen.”

Give the Lord a big hand clap. Tell Him you love Him. God bless everybody. See you soon.

John Flowerree