February 22 "Jesus said to him, 'Rise, take up your bed and walk.' And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked. And that day was the Sabbath." John 5:8-9 It was the Sabbath... vs 10: "The Jews therefore said to him who was cured, 'It is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your bed.'” This is what religion does to a person. There is no place in the Scriptures which says that it is not lawful to heal someone on the Sabbath. The Lord commanded only that they remember and keep the Sabbath rest, but the religious men had added many, many restrictions to the command, placing an almost impossible burden on the people. This they did for all of God's commandments. As Jesus walked among the people, he did nothing but healing them, setting them free, teaching them God's ways, encouraging them ...yet ...the one and only setting in which we see him rebuking people in anger was when speaking to the religious leaders among them, the Rabbis. Religion had become so stringent that they could not perceive the glory of God when Christ set people free from years of suffering and bondage. This needs to be a lesson to us. We are not called to a set of rules and regulations. We are not to practice the rites of religion. At the core of those rites and rituals and commands is the effort of men to be righteous before God. They take every command of the Scriptures and put, as it were, fences around them, adding all sorts of demands upon the people. This is not the work of God, it is the work of religion which is a stench in the nostrils of God. God is not interested in the works we do to satisfy religious demands. NOT AT ALL, because he knows that people who are stringent with religious demands are seeking salvation through fulfilling those demands to make themselves "righteous." No, God is looking on the heart. He is looking for obedience – obedience not to rites but to HIM. In fact, in many cases he might even lead people out of the dead religion they grew up with. Religion is a terrible thing because it focuses the people on performance and that is NOT what God is looking for. He is looking for a surrender of heart in a person who he will draw to walk by faith. Observing rites and rituals is NOT faith. Far from it. "...faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." Romans 10:17 There are at least two Greek words for "word." One is logos, the written word. The other is rhema, the spoken Word of God, and in this passage the word is rhema. In order to walk by faith one must respond to the rhema, the Word God gives in any situation in the believer's life. "My sheep HEAR my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." John 10:27 This does not and cannot come from religion. Our direction must come from hearing the voice of God. The religious leaders accused Jesus of violating the Sabbath by healing a man. How ridiculous! They demanded that Jesus "keep" the Sabbath by staying within the confines they had decreed concerning the Sabbath, and they were SO wrong. They entirely missed the point. Jesus walked by faith, responding to the leading of the Father, and that is what the Father wants from us as well. That will necessitate daily prayer, daily communication with the Father to discern his voice, his directions, his teaching, which can only come to us by hearing the Word of God. Friends, put away your rituals and your traditions. They are useless. God is not impressed by your performing rituals. Instead, spend time in his presence. Come before him daily with a surrendered heart and pray. Seek his direction. Seek to know his will. And that can only come by spending time with him.