“For they loved praise from men more than praise from God.” John 12:43 (NIV)
Religious people struggle with Jesus. You may think this an odd statement, but just look at who followed Jesus and how. Simple fishermen left everything for Jesus. Few religious leaders left anything. “…Many even among the leaders believed in him. But, because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue.”
Many religious people now lay claim to Jesus. But what separated the fishermen from the religious leaders? It is what they gave up in order to follow completely. Church today can and does involve the praise of men. Whatever the conventional wisdom where you worship, it is possible, and actually probable, that religion has reared its head and exalted some teaching or worship form or political viewpoint above its proper place for believers.
Jesus expects followers to truly follow and not merely act religious. Lots of churches with lots of members have lots of religion, but few Jesus followers. This charge will offend many. But true devotion demands honesty and many so-called believers are unwilling to confess their faith in a way that would challenge their religion and its leaders. Jesus did not wrestle with the secular world; He conflicted with the religious one. “Woe to you, [religious leaders], you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.”
What would Jesus say to the bulk of our religious leaders today? Have they left everything for Jesus or are they afraid to upset other religious leaders around them for what it might do to their standing in their own peer circle? American Christians tolerated racial bigotry far too long simply because doing what Jesus demanded required calling out cultural bigotry engrained in their religion and its leaders.
And what about you? Do you spend more time playing to the shared prejudices of your peer group than you do seeking to leave such things behind for the cause of Christ? Following Jesus is never a religious endeavor. It still transforms fishermen into fishers of men and still causes religious leaders to tremble. Seeking the praise of men always sacrifices praise from God.
 Mark 1:18 (NIV)
 John 12:42 (NIV)
 Matthew 24:27 (NIV)