Dead Religion (Luke 11:37 – 12:7)


–          Can you imagine becoming an airline pilot, a doctor, a lawyer and a university professor all before the age of 20? Frank William Abagnale Jr., whose story is shared in the movie “Catch Me If You Can”, accomplished all these things but only through hypocrisy, forgery and fraud. As a teenager, Frank grew up in a broken home which influenced him to do whatever it took to find acceptance from others; even the extent of living a lie. Frank figured out a system of copying and writing false checks which banks were unable to detect in order to cash in. He forged paperwork, made false identities, stole uniforms to pass as an airline pilot enabling him to free flights through Pan-Am airlines. Despite his clever schemes Frank was apprehended inFranceand spent 5 years in jail. He had swindled $2.5 million but later was hired by the FBI to help them detect counterfeits.

–          Hypocrisy is like the little girl who threw a temper tantrum because she was not getting her way. Her mother demanded she sit down several times. It wasn’t until her father threatened to give discipline that she sat down. After she sat she let out a big rush of air and said, “I may be sitting down on the outside but I am standing up on the inside.”

–          Today’s message is about being avoiding hypocrisy and amplifying authenticity as disciples of Jesus Christ. Ultimately, it’s about internal heart change. This message is meant to move you toward internal faith and repentance that results in outward spiritual growth and change.

  • Becoming a Christian
  • Becoming a church member – meaningful membership (against indirect/subtle opposition)
    • Bible Group for every member
    • Ministry service for every member

Secular society is asking the question, “Is religion good?” It seems to produce fanatics, fighting, crusades, divisions, extremists, war, etc. Why would anyone want to be a part of religion? In fact, as you listen to this message in a church it could be asked, “Why are you here today?”

The answer to these concerns and questions is determined by how we view Jesus.

–          Was Jesus just a good moral teacher?

–          Was Jesus a mere traveling story-telling man?

–          Was Jesus divine – the Son of God, King and Lord?

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Who you are speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you are saying.” In other words, people (Jesus included) will judge us more so by our actions than our words.

This is the purpose for studying Luke’s Gospel throughout 2012. We must come face to face with Jesus and decide for ourselves. We cannot put off this decision. We cannot compromise on this decision. We cannot be silent on this decision. Jesus demands a response. Who is Jesus?

EXAMINE               Dead Religion                      Luke 11:37 – 12:7

Luke 11 begins to see an increase of opposition against Jesus. He has attracted great crowds, is likeable and some becoming/considering discipleship. Yet, not everyone is aboard the Jesus-train. A growing resistance and rebellion is forming against Jesus and mostly from religious leaders.

Martin Luther said of Jesus’ ministry “With the wolves you cannot be too severe. With the weak sheep you cannot be too gentle.” In this passage we see Jesus speaking the truth but in love; compassionate but without compromise.

Jesus seeks revolutionary heart transformation and not just religious external activity.

Luke 11:37-40

A Pharisee invited Jesus to lunch, which Jesus obliged. Jesus spent time with both reprobate & religious people.  In this case it was a religious person. Good Pharisees practiced ritual purity and ceremonial cleansing of hands before a meal (an extra-biblical command). They would pour water over their hands to symbolize the removal of contact with the ways of a sinful world. However, Jesus did not follow the ritual practice which upset the Pharisee – literally the Pharisee was astonished.

Jesus’ response noted that external cleansing does not remove internal stain. No amount of ritual washing or religious actions can cleanse the heart. In another Gospel, Jesus says, “This people honors me with their lips but their heart is far from me” (Matt 15:8; Isa 29:13).

Imagine a child does something wrong and instead of disciplining them and teaching them right from wrong, the parent simply tells the child to go take a bath and make sure they use soap & shampoo. Cleaning the outside of the body does not change what is going on inside the heart and mind.

Jesus wasn’t seeking external change only. If he were, he would have created a military in Jerusalem and overthrown Rome. But Jesus’ kingdom was not of this world. Jesus wanted his base of operations not to be headquartered in Rome, nor in today’s Oval Office but in our hearts. His message was entirely different than every other religious teaching. Other religions command external obedience to receive divine acceptance. Jesus offers divine acceptance based on grace knowing that if He truly has our hearts then obedience follows naturally. Does Jesus have your heart?

The Bible says we have sin-sick hearts.

Ephesians 2:1, 4:18-19 “And you were dead in the trespasses and sin…[with] callous and corrupt [hearts]”

Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick”

We need new or clean hearts (Psalm 51:10, 17; Jeremiah 24:7; Ezekiel 11:19, 36:26)

1 Samuel 16:7 “for man sees what is visible, but the Lord sees the heart”

 ð     You can have a new heart and life by repenting of sin and trusting Jesus Christ. He does that! God can change you and will accept you and work in your life. Come as you are… “though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool” (Isaiah 1:18)

Luke 11:42-44

The Pharisees had a great respect for the Law (all 613 commands, plus additional ones they created). They tithed to God even out of their spices. They were fair and exact in their obedience but not so much in the way they treated others. Their zeal for the Law caused them to be condemning and judgmental toward others. They puffed and prided themselves and disparaged others.

Of course, Jesus called this dead religion – as they were a walking grave or white-washed tomb.

ð     Caution to make preferences become priorities. Religious people often do this and it creates great conflict. Personal styles, opinions and preferences become the standard and when there is a difference of such, it gets ugly.

  • Style of Worship music
  • C&B
  • etc…

SPBC core values: God’s glory not our own.  

Luke 11:45-54

The experts of the law were insulted by Jesus’ condemnation of the Pharisees. So, likewise, Jesus condemned their emphasis on external obedience over an internal faith that was authentic. This hypocritical spirit would be characteristic ofIsraelas a whole, throughout the Old Testament. This attitude would be the cause of God sending the prophets, from Abel to Zechariah – of whom were murdered. And the same would happen to Jesus, the Great Prophet. The role of these lawyers were to open the understanding and treasures of the Scriptures yet they were actually keeping them closed (11:52).

*3 streams of religion:

  • Legalism: Arrogant and prideful obedience to the law; external to expense of internal
  • Licentious: Arrogant and prideful disobedience to the law; sin more so grace increases
  • Lifted: Humble reliance upon God to lift one up by mercy and grace

READ Luke 18:9-14

ð     Which are you? Are you opening understanding of the Bible, the gospel and of Jesus or are you closing it to others by a hypocritical lifestyle?

  • Again, this message is not judgmental – where is the Holy Spirit bringing conviction to mind? Repent and receive grace and then go and live that out and point others to find this grace
    2Corinthians 3:4-6 “Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills but the Spirit gives life.”


Luke 12:1-7

When we look at religion we often view it as hypocritical. We fear and avoid religious people. Consequently, this also shapes our view of God. We fear Him that we turn away from Him. Yet, Jesus says we should not fear people but fear God rightly. And this fear of God should drive us to a humble dependence on the goodness and grace of God. Such as a God who feeds sparrows, a God who created humanity in His image and He intimately knows the number of hairs on our head. Jesus points us to a God of holy relationship. It’s not a trite relationship – we must fear God; but it is authentic when we approach Him by faith through grace.

Paul, a religious Pharisee said…

1Timothy 1:15-17 “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost [sinner], Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in Him for eternal life. To the king of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”

ð     Is your religion getting in the way of your relationship with God?

ð     Are you merely playing church rather than being an authentic disciple?


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