Jesus hates religion, the senior pastor of a Southern California megachurch says.
Pastor Kenton Beshore of Mariners Church has been telling his congregation of more than 10,000 attendees for the past few weeks to move beyond the acting and the empty rituals and into a real relationship with Christ.
"That's what religion is. It's all external," he said in a sermon on Sunday. "Religion is rituals and regulations and beliefs, ... saying God, I'm doing what you say. This is then making me righteous and you're pleased with what I do."
He defined religion as people working to close the gap between God and them.
Though there are good things about religion, ultimately, religion does not lead to God, Beshore emphasized.
And that's why Jesus came – to do what religion can't, and that is, to transform a person from the inside.
Jesus, Beshore explained, saw religion as worthless, as a false promise that doesn't transform one's life. Moreover, it "contaminates everything with hypocrisy."
The Pharisees, as illustrated in the Bible, were rebuked for their hypocrisy – or acting and pretending. They performed religious acts such as tithing, praying and fasting in public to demonstrate their righteousness.
Beshore pointed out, "Every actor needs a script and an audience."
Christians may follow a religious script, but a lot of times their hearts are full of wickedness, greed or selfishness.
The Mariners pastor exhorted congregants to stop playing the game and to change their audience.
"The secret to not being an actor is to make God your audience," he stressed.
The "Why Jesus Hates Religion" series kicked off last month. Beshore is the latest among several megachurch pastors who have challenged hypocrisy and the external religious practices that a lot of times get in the way of an authentic relationship with Jesus.