I need more than religion.

This week's devotional is from Pastor Jeff Mazzariello.

ENCOUNTER:  Read Matthew 5:17-20 and Galatians 5:16-25

"...Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven."  Matt. 5:20

Having "true" righteousness is required to enter the kingdom of God.  And TRUE righteousness is WAY beyond religious effort such as good morals, good deeds, or pietistic attitudes.  True righteousness is acquired by receiving Jesus and by walking with Jesus. (For more, see my sermon from 11/15/2015.)

This "walking with Jesus" piece is often spoken of and hoped for, but when it comes down to reality, most people would admit they find it hard to hear the Spirit of God prompt them, speak to them, and direct them.  Or at least they find it hard to be SURE that it is the Spirit that is speaking.

The thing is, though, we can't afford to sort of let it go and think, "Well, I guess that is a huge mystery.  Apparently some people hear Jesus clearly, but I must not be one of them..."  We can't afford to say that or live like that because, then, what are we left with? A religion?  Some moral standards that define what a Christian is?  Some intellectual and theological tenets that we abstractly ascribe to?  I need more than that.  I need a living savior who leads me, transforms me, heals me.  A King.  Who speaks. To me.

BE REFLECTIVE:

In what kinds of ways do the people in the scriptures hear from God?  In what ways do Christians you know and respect say that they are able to hear from God?  Is there anything you can learn by piecing together the experiences of others?

In what ways do you seek God's voice?  And in what ways are you listening?  Sometimes I find that I ask God for a bunch of stuff, including his leading, but if I am really honest, I can't identify any steps on my part that would constitute a listening posture.

What might listening for God look like for you today?

BE A BLESSING:

Here is a hint as to what you will find if you search the scriptures or if you interview people who have walked with God intimately:  Jesus speaks to those who are sacrificially investing themselves in LOVING others.  In other words, when we submit ourselves and our lives to the King and step out to serve him by loving others, we find that God shows up in our lives much more evidently.  We were designed to see God and hear from him, not when we are engaged in self-centered fretting, but when we are engaged with dying.  For others.  Like Jesus.

Who can you love and serve today in a self-sacrificial way? 

Jesus said:  "Whoever loses his life for my sake will find it..."

BE TOGETHER:

If I had a nickel for every time I've said this... :  "We believe you grow best in your spiritual journey with Jesus when you are connected in a small-er group."  Being with others in deep and authentic relationships (in the word and in prayer with each other), helps us discern where Jesus is showing up and what he is saying to us in all the ins and outs of our real lives.

With whom are you connecting?  Can you schedule a time this week to have a conversation with someone you respect about hearing from God?  (I just set up a bike ride and cheeseburger appointment with my friend Scott.)  I'd love to hear what you are going to do :).