Are You Tired Of Pursuing God? If So, Good!

Text: Zechariah 9:9-12

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

If you have ever found yourself in a church, reading a religious book, or having a spiritual conversation where you are encouraged to 'pursue God,' ask yourself this, "Did you pursue God enough to obtain Him? And once you obtained God, were you able to keep Him by your pursuing?"  

Dear friends, tragically, there are many corrupt churches and religious hustlers in America that have set up what we can only call a 'carrot on the stick religion.' Actually, we could be a bit more specific and call it a 'chasing a carrot on a stick while running on a hamster wheel religion.' That is right; in the name of Christianity, religious hustlers have thousands of well-intentioned Christians running on hamster wheels while chasing a carrot on a stick - the carrot obviously being the pursuit of a so-called good life in God.  

Now, we must keep in mind that the average Christians that attend these churches and follow this kind of theology are rather oblivious to what is really going on. They listen to the preacher-man, they see the carrot, and they know that they need to be spiritually busy to obtain the carrot. So, they get busy running, pursuing, and chasing the good life with God. To make things worse, though, these well-intentioned Christians look at everyone else in these churches and see them being extremely active in their pursuit of God. And so, they say to themselves,  

"Wow, this church is on fire! Look at all this religious zeal and energy! People are really serious about their faith. They are really pursuing God."   

However, there is a catch. There is always a catch. What they do not realize is that the religious hustler – the Pastor – has all the church members running on hamster wheels while chasing a carrot on a stick. The church, Pastor, and members have the appearance of being very spiritual as they all pursue God but are not accomplishing much of anything except for making a lot of noise.  

Tragically, what people do not realize is that the religious hustlers always keep God at a distance from poor, na├»ve, and well-intentioned Christians. Keep in mind that a near-God would ruin their whole corrupt system and destroy the incentive to pursue God. A naer-God (or a God that comes towards us) would perhaps get these poor Christians off the hamster wheel. Tragically, in these kinds of corrupt religious systems, God must always be kept at a distance. 

So, the church members must always be encouraged to pursue God on the hamster wheel – that is how the church stays in business. That is how the leaders maintain their authority. Put Christians on the hamster wheel and dangle a carrot in front of them, and the church can keep them coming back for more and more and more. All the religious leader has to do is move the carrot a little closer each week to give the impression that they are getting closer. 

And if they want to give up, all the religious hustler needs to do is shake the carrot on the stick and encourage them on with more Law – run harder, reach higher, dig deeper, pray harder, commit more, and soon you will get to the joys of God.    

Not only is this kind of theology crooked, heretical, and manipulative, but also it is the exact opposite of what we hear in our readings. As we heard in our reading from the Old Testament, we are to behold what the Prophet Zechariah states, 

"Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he."  

Now, did you hear that? ‘The King is coming to you!’  

Oh, dear friends, you must realize that Christianity is not about your climbing, pursuing, huffing, or puffing to obtain a distant God. God is neither distant nor missing nor running away from you, as if you need to keep up with Him.  

Consider our Gospel reading from today as well. What is Christ doing in our reading? Well, He is entering Jerusalem – traveling to the cross.  

And later in the week, what does Christ do? He takes the cross and carries it up to Mt. Calvary to suffer, bleed, and die for you and in your place. 

In other words, in the reading from the Gospel of Matthew, we do not see all the people of Jerusalem going off to some far distant land on some major pursuit and expedition. People were not busy gathering up crosses and then leaving Jerusalem to bring the cross upon Jesus. No, it was quite the opposite. Jesus was on His own pursuit to the cross, as He rode into Jerusalem that Palm Sunday long ago.  

If you are tired of pursuing God - good!  Stop and listen! Your Jesus is no ordinary King, and this Christian faith is no ordinary religion. You do not grab hold of a cross and seek out Jesus, but Jesus grabs hold of you and seeks out the cross. You do not find Jesus, He finds you. You do not bleed for Jesus, but He bleeds for you. You do not ascend to Jesus, but He descends to you.  

Furthermore, mark this, the Gospel comes from Christ, not from you. Your faith comes from Christ, not from you. Your works come from Christ, not from you. You get the picture!

Perhaps one of the most powerful stories that I have ever heard on this subject was from a pastor who was teaching confirmation. The Pastor put a drawing on the old chalkboard. As he drew, the Pastor talked about how at the beginning of creation, everything was great. He drew a line with a stick man and the name God on the same line. But then, as he talked about how sin entered the world, he erased the solid line and made a big chasm between God and man. Sin separates mankind from God. Then the Pastor asked what God did to remedy the great chasm of sin. The kids said, 

"He sent Jesus, and the cross became a bridge between God and man." 

The Pastor smiled, snapped his fingers, and said, 

"Right on, kids!" 

The Pastor then proceeded to draw a big cross in the place of the chasm to show that the cross creates a bridge between God and man.  

After drawing the cross and putting God and man on the same line again, the Pastor said, 

"Now, what happens next?"  

Several of the students' hands went up, and they began to respond, 

"After God gives us a bridge we walk across." 

The Pastor was about to erase the chalkboard and move on. However, one of his girls was in a wheelchair with some physical and mental handicaps. She raised her hand and said, 

"Pastor, you are wrong. We don't walk across, oh no we don't, for Jesus comes across and picks us up and carries us home." 

The Pastor in the story said that he encountered one of the greatest theologians that he had ever seen, a 13-year-old mentally and physically handicap girl. … we do not cross the bridge on our own, but Jesus comes across, picks us up, and carries us home.  

Blessed Baptized Saints, any time you find yourself drifting into religious thought that has you seeking but never finding, chasing but never catching, climbing but never reaching…. you have permission to simply stop. You have permission to get off the wheel and drop the carrot stick. You do not pursue Christ, but He pursues you!  

And if you have friends that are trapped on this wretched and horrible religious scheme, you can tell them that they can drop the carrot stick and throw the hamster wheel to the curb too. If their church has them chasing carrots on a hamster wheel, especially during Holy Week – well… they are not in a Christian church but a pagan church – and perhaps have a religious hustler as their Pastor.  

Hear this loud and clear: the story of Palm Sunday and Holy Week are not about you and me pursuing the cross, forgiving sin, bleeding, dying, and rising. But rather, it is about Jesus pursuing, forgiving, bleeding, dying, and rising – for you and me. 

This is the whole nature of the Christian faith. Christ rode towards the cross, and He rides towards you today, not upon a donkey but in, with, and under the bread and the wine to do what you cannot do – forgive sins. 

Yes, right here and right now, Christ is pursuing you – reaching out to you. He gives you His Word in absolution. He pours His assurance into your ears in the Word. He lays His Body and Blood upon your tongues. He grants you faith, assurance, and hope. He does this for you because He is not distant or missing but is your ever-present help.  

Get off the wheel! Drop the stick! Escape the wretched theology of religious hustlers! Christ pursued the cross that Palm Sunday long ago, and He pursues you today and every day. He is like the Good Shepherd who seeks out the lost sheep. He is like the woman who seeks out the lost coin. He is like the Father who runs out to his prodigal son. He is the Lord who rides to Jerusalem to pursue the atonement of our sins and the resurrection of life. 

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

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