Remove Those Fig Leaves (The Problem Of Religion In Relationships)

Listen to the message

Series: The Body of Christ; Relationships

19 August 2012 – Kobus Swart

John 15:15, Matthew 6:9-10; Matt. 21:18-32; Matt.  23:13-28; (Eph. 4:16); (1 John 1:7);

(Isa. 66:2); (2 Sam. 6:6-8)

The Kingdom of God expresses itself through relationships; it is not some lofty thing leaving most of God’s people uninformed and disconnected. Relationships are critically important if you are part of the Body of Christ. The Body of Christ should learn to function in the same way the physical body does; not as isolated individuals, institutions or organisations. Until this happens we are going to experience delays in reaching the full potential. It is the responsibility of every spiritual father or shepherd of a local group to ensure that relationships function correctly; that every joint is “oiled”. A joint is where two bones meet and the Bible says, “every joint will supply” (Eph. 4:16).

Let’s look at the word “earth” from a different angle. “…Thy kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven” True spirituality is earthy; it is not spooky or disconnected from the earth. We have different views on what that means. Often we envision the ground, the soil and the planet. There is nothing wrong with this but there is more. It can also be viewed as bringing the kingdom from the invisible unseen realm to that which is earthy, which can be felt, smelled and tasted right here amongst us, including in friendships.

The Tabernacle of Moses had strict codes in its functioning, and especially when it came to entering the Holy of Holies. Only the High Priest could enter once a year. The Ark of the Covenant represented many things but was never to be touched. When Uzzah with the best of intentions touched it to stop the Ark from falling, God killed him (2 Sam. 6:6-8). All of this changed with the Tent of David on Mt Zion. What was God saying when the Ark of the Covenant ended up under a tent on Mount Zion? When we read the story of David, we see he was a very earthy man. He was not a holy saint as we sometimes believe. He even lost his temper with God when He killed Uzzah! Religion taught us to wear masks. We know how to feign things; we are not real, we know how to slip behind a mask. The Ark of the Covenant was placed under a tent with the flaps rolled up; access was given Was it less spiritual? No, it was more spiritual.

Adam and Eve enjoyed life in the garden of Eden. We don’t know how long they were in the garden before they were tempted by the serpent. Then the fall came and they realized they were naked. So they took fig leaves and covered themselves, and here we find the birth of religion. The day that we overcome religion and get rid of religion in our relationships, we will be ‘naked’ before each other again.

We must find out what “fig leaves” we sew together to protect ourselves and keep us at a distance when it comes to covenant friendships. In Matthew 21:18 Jesus approaches a fig tree: “…Seeing a lone fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it except leaves only; and He said to it, ‘No longer shall there ever be any fruit from you.’ And at once the fig tree withered”. Leaves were on the fig tree but no fruit and as a result Jesus cursed the tree. Religion is man’s effort to hide and cover up the nakedness of his own spirit. Religion can never produce the fruit of quality covenantal friendships.

Why do people hide and put ‘leaves’ on, maybe a sense of pride or self righteousness. Let us be open and transparent with each other; do not parade as being perfect; let it all hang out! If we walk in the light, as He is in the light then we have fellowship and the blood of Jesus continues to cleanse us from all sin (1 John 1:7).

Many of us walk with unforgiveness, which is not a good thing. Unforgiveness will affect transparency in relationships. It is important to forgive quickly; if we allow it to fester it is more difficult to get rid of it later. Forgive, free your spirit of the burden. The key ingredient is brokenness. Brokenness does not mean we go around crying all the time; it is hard to describe, but God will look to those who are broken and contrite of spirit (Isa. 66:2). Religion makes you arrogant and proud and you refuse to bow. What we are talking about here are some of the ingredients for Kingdom covenantal relationships. That is what will make a local household powerful second to none, because they stand as one unit. They are joined through their relationships as a testimony to the community.

Jesus had a beautiful compassion towards sinners, but was not impressed by the religious order. But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in (Matt. 23:13). By being religious, false, super spiritual and self-righteous we block those who are trying to enter the Kingdom of God. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. (Matt. 23:25-28). Jesus speaks like this to the religious order but then turns and in a gentle voice addresses the sinner with love and compassion; this is a very great contrast.

Note the story of the man who had two sons. “But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go work today in the vineyard.’ And he answered, ‘I will not’; but afterward he regretted it and went. The man came to the second and said the same thing; and he answered, ‘I will, sir’; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you that the tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him; but the tax collectors and prostitutes did believe him; and you, seeing this, did not even feel remorse afterward so as to believe him (Matt. 21:28-32)There is an invitation to everyone to press into the Kingdom. Why does Jesus say the tax gatherers and harlots will get into the Kingdom before you? Do you see the importance of dropping religious masks? Be your real self! We must help each other, joints must supply; relationships must work. Meeting once a week is not (enough to build) a relationship, it goes further than that, get together in the week and build strong transparent covenantal friendships, but more than that, learn to make friends with sinners. Make sure it serves its purpose. Jesus called us to be fishers of men!

Help us Lord to realize who we are and live accordingly.