How was everyone’s Easter? In preparation for Easter, I’ve been meditating on the 7 sayings of Jesus on the cross. If you get a chance to study those, I highly encourage you to do so! As I was doing the Good Friday thing, a question popped into my head — do I know the real Jesus? Everyone claims to know Jesus — he has long hair, he wears sandals, he loves a lot, he carries lambs on his shoulders, he loves children. More than these common portraits of Jesus that we hear and read about, do I know the real Jesus personally? Can I perceive it when he is speaking to me? Or am I just practicing religion? It’s not an easy thing to distinguish sometimes.
I don’t know if you feel this way when you open up your Bible or you listen to a Bible study and you are there, you are reading these words or you are hearing the words but instead of piercing your heart, they remain simply as nice insights, some good information, nothing more. Do you know what I mean? This is God’s problem with his people throughout Isaiah. Instead of a vibrant personal relationship with God, they are practicing empty religion. Just going through the motions.
I want each one of us here to know what it means to be in a vibrant relationship with Jesus because once you get a taste for it, you will never settle for empty religion. It’s like the old Coke commercial – their motto was “Coca Cola, it’s the real thing.” That’s what we are after, Jesus, the real thing. Not a substitute, not a portrait, not a children’s story, not someone else telling me about their personal encounter with Jesus. But Jesus, the real Jesus, to know him for myself.
I think we often settle for very little Jesus and a lot of institutional religion because we simply have not tasted much of the real Jesus. I am no expert, but I’ve tasted the real Jesus over the years enough times to discern when I am no longer connecting with Jesus and have become a mere practitioner of religious principles and moral platitudes.
It’s like my kids. If they could have it their way, they would eat chicken nuggets, french fries and kraft’s mac and cheese everyday for the rest of their lives. But as a father, I want to introduce them to steak and seafood and korean spicy stews. Because there is a whole range of flavors that they don’t know about. And I can’t blame them for setting the bar for food so low. But as they grow older and they refine their palate, they will be able to distinguish between food that you eat to survive and fill your stomach vs. real food that you crave.
I think spiritual life is no different. I am at an age and a stage of life that programs and dynamics and events are insufficient. They were fine when I was in college, but those are not enough to get me excited about being a Christian. I have tasted the real thing, the real Jesus, and I am not ready to settle for cheap substitutes. And as I am speaking to you today, if I cannot speak out of a personal, dynamic walk with Jesus that I am experiencing each day, not 10 years ago, then I better just be quiet and save my breath.