The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?
An old “Dallas Morning News” headline reads: “Riding Herd On The Cowboys: Jerry Jones Creates Department To Train Players To Behave Properly Off The Field.” The article described the owner’s desire to transform the badly tarnished image of America’s team by hiring managers in the areas of security, player development, psychology, and religion to reform some of the erring players. It was a worthy goal, but it ended up being a dismal failure. While I commend Jerry Jones for wanting to change people’s behavior, the fact is all human behavior comes from the human heart. And no amount of self-effort can change a human heart.
This is an important spiritual truth not only for owners of football teams–leaders in religion need to hear that message as well. Religion is just as incapable of changing a person’s behavior as self-effort. A lot of religion today centers on rules and regulations. They say if you just follow these rituals, you can have a different kind of behavior. Religion is bankrupt of the power to change behavior. Throughout history, man has attempted with zero success to use religious ritual and external symbols to solve what is an internal problem. Yet many people still place their faith in religious rituals, rules, and symbols rather than in the truth those symbols represent.
For example, consider baptism. Baptism is very important. In fact, when you look in the Bible from Acts 2 through the book of Revelation, you cannot find one example of a believer who was not baptized. Every true believer in Christ is to be baptized. Yet some Christians are so centered on baptism that they teach somehow there is something magical in the water that can wash away our sins. No, baptism is a symbol of an important truth–our rebirth in Christ. We do not worship the symbol. We worship the substance, the truth behind that symbol.
As another example, consider the Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper is an important symbol of the body and blood of Christ, but some Christians are so focused on that symbol that they have created a mythology around it that somehow that wafer and juice become the body and blood of Christ and that somehow the grace of God is transmitted through those physical elements. No, the Lord’s Supper is a shadow of an important truth, not the truth itself.
Other people in Christianity worship traditions. Some people teach that the King James Bible is the only Bible version that is blessed by God. They believe that you are not really reading God’s Word unless you read the King James Version. They say, “If it was good enough for Jesus, it is good enough for me!” Of course, the King James Version was not written until many centuries after Jesus lived, and it was based on the original Hebrew and Greek texts.
Another example of a religious tradition that Christians focus on is worship style. They think there is only one kind of music that is acceptable to God. There are people who worship traditional music over contemporary and those who worship contemporary music over traditional. Let me tell you something: God does not care. It is a matter of preference. But people have so gotten involved in their tradition that they forget the truth behind the tradition. Why do we do that? Because frankly, it is much easier to put our faith in symbols and traditions that we can see and keep than it is to put our faith in that which is unseen.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “A Memo To Jerry Jones” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2018.
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.