The Christian faith is focused on the person of Jesus Christ. “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (Heb. 12:2). There is no higher authority than Christ himself and the written authority of Scripture for our lives. My allegiance and loyalty is to Jesus Christ, to His people, and to the Scriptures; not to religious or political organizations. Organizations are fine as long as they do the work of Jesus in the world. But when religious organizations start serving their own interests, pursuing their own agenda, and existing only to serve themselves and preserving their traditions, they are useless to the kingdom of God. We need to return to the simple faith given to us by Jesus, who alone is the way, the truth, and the life.
A small rural town was having a centennial celebration. People who had grown up in that town were coming back for a grand homecoming. As a part of the festivities, they had a worship service planned for Sunday morning. Two men were asked to recite Psalm 23 as part of the service. The first speaker was an elderly man who had been a farmer in the community all his life. The other was a young, prestigious lawyer who had grown up in the town but now lived in a metropolitan city. The two men represented the old and the new generations.
The lawyer made his presentation first. His demeanor was captivating. He was a trained speaker and was used to making a strong presentation as a defense attorney in a court of law. He delivered a flawless presentation of Psalm 23 from memory, eliciting a resounding applause from the audience.
Then, slowly, the old man made his way to the lectern. With a rough, weatherworn voice, he spoke the timeless words of the psalmist from the depths of his soul. “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” Such confidence could be heard in his voice that the audience rested in the assurance of the refrain “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me.” Such peace flooded their hearts as he concluded: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
Silence engulfed the auditorium. The audience sat quietly, deeply moved by the power of God’s Word spoken by a man who believed it. It was an awkward moment in the program. No one knew what to do next and didn’t want to break the sacredness of the moment.
The young lawyer went back to the lectern to address the people. Looking across the faces of the audience, he said, “I want to tell you the difference between our presentations today. I indeed know the psalm. But that man knows the Shepherd.”
That is the difference between being spiritual and being religious. A religious person knows the psalms, the creeds, and the catechism. The spiritual person knows the Shepherd.