Robert Griffith | 18 March 2023
Robert Griffith
18 March 2023


There’s one prayer I have prayed a number of times over the years: “Lord, break my heart with the things that break Your heart.” It’s a really brave prayer to pray because if the Lord does what I ask, it will be very painful and I may even find myself implicated in that which breaks His heart. As we grapple with what God reveals in answer to this prayer, we often have to make some hard choices if we want to bless the heart of our Heavenly Father and not break it.

One of the things which I know really breaks God’s heart is the Church – His redeemed, reconciled, regenerated children who are called to walk in the unity of His Spirit, as we embrace the mission of Christ in the world today. During this past week, I felt God’s breaking heart once again as I was reminded how easy it is for us to frustrate and even sabotage the mighty Church which Jesus promised to build. From the wickedness of our fallen hearts flow many desires and actions.

Our need to control people and especially people within the Church is one of the things which really does break God’s heart. It cost Jesus everything to secure our freedom and reconcile us to our Heavenly Father, but rather than celebrating  and living in His grace and the freedom that is ours in Christ, we continually find ways to limit that freedom and rob people of the true power of the Gospel.

Sinful, broken people have been falling short of God’s creative intent since the beginning of the human race, so I doubt that our failings are a surprise to God. However it would be very wrong to say that just because God already knows our shortcomings in advance that He is somehow less impacted when we miss the mark or when we sabotage the very Church Jesus is trying to build. Just as Jesus wept over Jerusalem in the final days of His life on earth, so too our God weeps over the Church when we get things so wrong.

As Jesus descended from the Mount of Olives into the Valley of Kidron in His final journey to Jerusalem, He had a magnificent panoramic view of the entire city. But as He looked down on the city, He burst into tears. Now this cry wasn’t a normal cry that we think of. The Greek word for weeping here is klaio which means an intense, gut-wrenching sobbing. It is the kind of weeping which suddenly seizes you and you lose control and cry out loud. Luke 19:37 tells us that many people were there to witness Jesus sobbing and I’m sure they were confused that in the midst of all the cheers would come tears of sorrow from the King Himself.

When God incarnate walked among us as Jesus of Nazareth, we were able to see His heart so clearly by watching how Jesus lived, how He prayed, how He talked and how He treated the outcasts and sinners in society. We got to see what made Him smile, what made Him angry and what made Him weep. So why did Jesus weep over the people He loved? The simple answer is because He already knew they were about to reject their God and all that He desired to do for them, in them and through them.

Worse still, He knew that the very people who were meant to be the leaders, mentors and shepherds of God’s people and custodians of God’s Word would be the ones who helped orchestrate His brutal murder. The Pharisees were effectively the Senior Pastors of the people of God in Jesus’ day and if you read Matthew 23 you will see how scathing Jesus was in His criticism of these ‘leaders’ who were supposed to be role-models for God’s people.

Whilst the actual Pharisees of Jesus’ day are no longer with us in the Church, the spirit of the Pharisee is ever-present and just as destructive to the mission of Christ and the spiritual health and growth of God’s children. In fact, the ‘Pharisees’ among us today are harder to identify at first because they are not a separate and distinct group of people. Today’s Pharisees are part of the fabric of the Church and many of them end up in positions of great influence and authority (in worldly terms) and can therefore inflict great damage to the cause of Christ and severely wound God’s children in ways which can impact them for life.

The Apostle Paul said it clearly, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.” (Acts 16:31). To believe in Jesus means we believe that His spotless life, His atoning death and His glorious and permanent resurrection are all ours by His grace. There are no other hoops to jump through. There is no other criteria for membership in the Body of Christ. We can enjoy or endure many theological debates about all manner of doctrines and beliefs, but we are accepted, adopted and reconciled to God forever by believing in the Lord Jesus.

Any man-made rules, codes or requirements which divide God’s people so that some qualify for God’s higher purposes and some don’t, is the work of Pharisees and must be exposed and rejected. This is, I believe, part of the demonic teaching Paul said would infiltrate the Church in the last days. (see 1 Timothy 4:1)

The Apostle Paul also declared boldly that, “It is for freedom that Christ has set you free.” (Galatians 5:1). Pharisees don’t accept that. They don’t want people set free and guided by God’s Spirit because then they cannot control them. So they develop rules and qualification criterion for those who wish to become part of the group they oversee.

Just like the Pharisees in Jesus day developed hundreds of rules and regulations so they could control the people under their watch, so too the Pharisees of today prepare Constitutions, Codes of Ethics, prescriptive statements of belief, policy documents etc. and then demand that God’s people affirm such statements if they want to be accepted into the fold of whatever group they are controlling. Any attempt to relate to God through our personal behaviour or by subscribing to a set of beliefs laid out by those who think they are the source of all truth and the defenders doctrinal purity – is religion and God hates religion! **

Religion is our feeble attempt to establish and maintain a relationship with God through every means possible other than that which He ordained, provides and empowers. Christianity is not and never has been a religion. At the heart of the Christian faith there is relationship – our restored relationship with God, secured by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus; our ongoing daily walk with God in Christ, as guided by His Holy Spirit; and our repaired relationships with each other as we are united by the Holy Spirit through our shared belief in Jesus Christ.

>  Jesus and Jesus alone is the gospel.
>  Jesus and Jesus alone is our justification.
>  Jesus and Jesus alone is our salvation.
>  Jesus and Jesus alone is the One in Whom we live and move and have our being.
>  Jesus and Jesus alone is the author and finisher of our faith.

Jesus Himself made it crystal clear when He said, “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.” (John 5:24) We fully experience the freedom we have in Christ when we look to Christ alone, not just for our salvation, but for our ongoing walk in the Christian life, depending on Him in all things. Our response is love and gratitude for all He has done for us. God is enough and He wants us to live freely in His love and grace, free from the power and penalty of sin, free from all guilt and shame and free from all religious expectation and rule-keeping.

Yes, I know it can get a little messy at times if you don’t have all the rules and regulations, but it is for freedom that Christ has set us free and He has promised to be with us every step of the way through His guiding Spirit. When we truly decide to give the Church back to God and give the ministry back to all the people, not just the elite few, then maybe we will see what Jesus saw when He promised to build His Church – a Church so mighty that it will prevail over hell itself. A Church which would bless, not break, the heart of our Heavenly Father.

That’s what I am longing for and working towards, how about you?

** You may be interested in this sermon:  God hates religion!