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Different Encounters

“What things?” Jesus asked. “The things that happened to Jesus, the man from Nazareth,” they said. “He was a prophet who did powerful miracles, and he was a mighty teacher in the eyes of God and all the people. But our leading priests and other religious leaders handed him over to be condemned to death, and they crucified him. We had hoped he was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel. This all happened three days ago.” Luke 24:19-21 NLT [19]    

I was recently visiting with a respected elder in the body of Christ. He said that the most difficult things for him to sort out were matters within the church. He had come face to face with the tension the two on the 7-mile walk were experiencing. They were sorting out the actions and choices of their beloved religious leaders and teachers toward Jesus.   

The two on the 7-mile walk thought Jesus was the promised Messiah, but their religious leaders thought otherwise and had Jesus condemned to death and crucified. Put more simply, their encounter with their deeply held religion was very different than their encounter with Jesus. Let that sink in for a minute.  

These religious teachers had taught the meaning of the writings of Moses and the Prophets to so many people since they were children. They were the trusted facilitators of keeping one’s relationship right with God.  

Yet, a few short years with Jesus was a completely different encounter. It stirred the heart and inspired people of what was possible with God in our lives. There was a growing belief that Jesus was the promised Messiah. What Jesus was doing and saying transformed life for those who believed in Him.  

Why would the religion of our youth, that taught about the promised Messiah, reject Jesus in such a brutal way?   

Two very different encounters: Jesus and religion.  

This is a vulnerable subject to write about. It is also an easy subject to “sound off” on. I am not writing to vent. I love Jesus. I love His Church.  

You see, I am a religious leader as an ordained minister of the church. I am also a CEO of a Christian Ministry that prioritizes the work of Christ in our lives. It is sobering to consider the possibility of prioritizing encounters with religious efforts and protocols over life-changing encounters with Jesus Christ. This should drop every one of us religious leaders to our knees in humility, repentance, and prayer.  

To safeguard against religious efforts overshadowing Jesus to the point of rejecting Him altogether. Let’s make sure that Jesus Christ is at the center of everything we do. He is the way, the truth, and the life.  

If we allow our religion to become more important than seeking and following Christ, we will lose our way, just as the religious leaders did during the day of Jesus.  

Here are some questions for your consideration:  

  • What is your story of your encounter with Jesus?  
  • Consider asking God this: “What do You want to say to me about my relationship with You?”  
  • Is Jesus at the center of your religious practices and beliefs?  
  • Are you connected with a group of believers in Christ (Church, the Body of Christ) who consistently seek to lift Christ in everything that is done?  
  • As we draw near to the cross of Christ this Easter, what does it mean to keep the path clear to the cross of Jesus Christ?  

Ed McDowell, C.E.O., Warm Beach Camp Ministries 

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