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Are We Following Jesus, or Christianity?

I was recently reading a book by the teacher and writer Mike Erre, who was sharing an experience he had at a conference.

“The focus [of the conference] was Jesus -- not Christianity, but Jesus, and the speaker talked about how Jesus loved people and how Jesus engaged the culture around him.

“He talked about how Jesus hated empty religion and loved to see expressions of simple faith in him… Jesus was much more interesting than I had been led to believe.

I realized I had not been following Jesus; I had been a follower of Christianity -- an organized set of rules and beliefs substituted in his place.

“That [realization] changed everything: it changed how I taught, how I pastored, how I loved my wife, how I saw my job, and how I viewed people who [did not go to church.]”

How about you?

Have you ever had a realization that you are not so much following Jesus, but Christianity?

Or let’s back up a bit and ask, have you ever had a spiritual realization of any sort that “changed everything”?

Is there any aspect of your faith – your participation in church or your daily spiritual practices – that transform?

Does your faith – does your attendance at church on Sunday mornings or your spiritual practices – change how you see your job, love your spouse, and view people?

If not, then ask yourself: are you following Jesus, or a set of rules and beliefs substituted in his place?

Next Sunday (May 23) will be Pentecost, the day the Holy Spirit came to the disciples and empowered them to carry on Jesus’ work in the world.

This Sunday, and for at least the next couple weeks, the readings and sermons have to do with the Holy Spirit.

We’ll be exploring who, or what, the Holy Spirit is. And one thing I hope we’ll be showing is that one of the roles of the Holy Spirit is to help the church, and you and I, the individual Christians within it, to recover its “communal, subversive, confrontational, counter-cultural truth-telling mission of incarnating ‘the upside-down way of the kingdom of God.’”

Should be an exciting ride!

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