Jesus Is the End of Every Religion

The Book of Hebrews, one of the most ignored and seldom studied New Testament books, powerfully argues that Jesus is the final destination and the retirement place for every religion, including yours and mine.

The book progressively argues that the entire Old Testament’s religious spectrum, with its beliefs, practices and institutions served only one purpose – to direct human history, its communities, and people to Jesus Christ. Known also as the Old Covenant, with its religion and prophetic mission, laws, tabernacle, priestly duties, sacrifices and festivals, observances, liturgy and rituals – all of those were only a shadow of Jesus destined to vanish once Jesus was revealed. 

The author of the Book of Hebrews illustrates the supremacy of Jesus over religion with precision. In it Jesus stands for – a better Moses (3:2), a better Sabbath (4:9), a better priesthood (7:12.24), a better law (7:12), a better high priest (7:, a better sacrifice (7:27, 9:26, 10:12), a better ministry (8:6), a better hope (7:18), a better promise (8:6.7), a better covenant (7:22, 8:13, 9:13), a better order (9:10.11), a better tabernacle (chapter 9), a better access to the Father (6:19, 10:19-22), a better mediator (9:18). No element of the Old Covenant religion is left untouched. Finally only Jesus remains, seated at the right hand of the Father, as the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, and the only and ultimate authority, object and focus of our adoration.

The New Testament supports the picture of a limited and temporary use of religion. It speaks of the Old Covenant as something that is fading away, disappearing and becoming obsolete in Jesus. Religion is “a veil taken away whenever anyone turns to the Lord”, and a “guardian put in charge to lead us to Christ” (2. Corinthians 3:7-18, Hebrews 8:13, Galatians 3:24). Jesus himself is everything and much more than what any religion can offer. Therefore, Jesus is the end of religion, any religion, yours and mine too.

This was powerfully illustrated by the transfiguration account recorded by Luke (Luke 9:28-36). In the presence of Peter, James and John for a moment Jesus transformed into his glorious nature and met with Moses and Elijah. Shaken, Peter offered to build a shrine in honor to Jesus, Moses and Elijah. “Let us put up three shelters – one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah” (Luke 9:33). At that time Peter and his disciples did not understand the supremacy of Jesus over whatever was considered religiously important up to that point. “He did not know what he was saying”, wrote Luke, so they needed to be corrected. “A voice came from the cloud, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to Him” (Luke 9:35). As if the voice from Heaven was saying: “From now on listen to Him, and to Him alone, because no one else matters any more, not even Moses or Elijah.” Matthew, who later also recorded the event stated at the end of the account: “When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus” (Matthew 17:8).

Following His life, death and resurrection Jesus Christ did not upgrade the old Jewish religion to a new level. He was not a “new patch placed on the old garment”, or “a new wine poured into old wineskins” (Mark 2:21.22).Nowhere does He suggest that He was a founder of a new religion either. The Four Gospels and the rest of the New Testament are uncomfortably quiet about Jesus leaving behind any instruction about how to turn his legacy into a religious system. Instead, He called people to follow and trust Him, suggesting that if we do a new worshiping, caring and serving community will emerge. It is made of people who, having been embraced in Jesus, are embracing each other in love. And thus, this new Kingdom community of his followers will be the light and the salt to the world (Matthew 5:13-16). The New Testament calls this community His church or His body and defines it relationally rather than institutionally. 

I suspect that not much of what many of us today identify as Christian religion was ever intended by Jesus or his immediate followers. I fear that much of our colorful religious heritage, spiritual folklore, including many cherished teachings and beliefs, are nothing more than ancient or more recent accumulation of superstition that is continuously drugging us back into the shadowland of religion outgrown in Jesus. 

The Old Testament religion, or the Old Covenant, with all its religious décor, had only one legitimate purpose: to surrender people, communities, and history to Jesus Christ. This is no less true of any other religion. They are only as useful as they eventually capitulate to the One who transcends them all. And Jesus’ intention was never to return his followers back to religion, but to keep them in His embrace. 

In their book Re-Jesus Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch described the supremacy of Christ, not only in all matters of the Old Testament religion but regarding any religion in the following way: “We cannot deduce anything about Jesus from what we think we know about God; we must deduce everything about God from what we do know about Jesus. We must reinterpret the Old Testament from Jesus’ point of view and try to understand the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the way in which Jesus did. Martin Luther insisted that if we want to truly see God, we need only to look at Jesus, for in Jesus we have received the fullness of God, and we need look no further. It is Jesus who sets Christianity apart from the other two monotheistic faiths, Judaism and Islam. Our understanding of God is now always filtered through the prism of Jesus Christ. We cannot understand God if we don’t engage him through Jesus. He is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:4).” Re-Jesus, Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch, published by Hendrickson Publishers Inc., Massachusetts, 2009.

Previous editions: 2/11/2009, May 22, 2014.

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God Has Not Forgotten Sarajevo

Exactly 30 years ago, in February and March 1993, Tihomir Kukolja paid a month long visit to the besieged city of Sarajevo in a war-torn Bosnia-Herzegovina. Spending the unintended four weeks in a city subjected to a continuing shelling and sniper fire from the surrounding hills had a transformative impact on him. The original version of this article was released first in April 1993.

A sudden burst of sunshine heralds the arrival of a new day. “Who would say this is war?!” says Detlef Riemarzik, a photojournalist from Germany. The two of us are sharing a room in the home of Radomir and Mira Nikolic. Radomir is the director of ADRA (Adventist Development and Relief Agency) in Sarajevo. 

Through the window of our room our eyes scan over the authentic mixture of European and Ottoman buildings, and roofs around us. The last patches of snow are melting, revealing the ugly nakedness of the wounded city. The surrounding hills that hold Sarajevo in a deadly embrace appear cunningly still. It is 8 o’clock in the morning, March 1993 — only a few days before Easter. The rooms and corridors of ADRA’s offices in Sarajevo resemble a beehive. The chief coordinating team is meeting to discuss the priorities of the day. Today 120 volunteers will be busy distributing humanitarian aid, preparing an additional warehouse for the arrival of 30,000 food packages from several European countries. They will also distribute hundreds of letters that have arrived in the city with the latest ADRA convoy. In the first year of the Sarajevo siege ADRA provided the city’s only efficient postal service, delivering close to 50,000 letters to its citizens cut off from the rest of the world.

Detlef checks his cameras, lenses, films. Stepping out of the sheltered ADRA residence into the open is a hazardous adventure. A group of people at the street gate ask for a handful of any kind of food. “Just a potato or two, please,” pleads one of them. Then, suddenly a sharp, metallic, thunder-like sound splits the air. Mortars — one, two, three hit the nearby houses. Heavy machine guns rattle. Sniper bullets shriek through the air. Metal fences and gates ring. Heavy dust rains upon the gardens, houses, streets. Detlef and I hide behind a wall. There, together with another 50 people, we wait for another round of deadly blasts to pass.

An hour later we are visiting Kosevo Hospital — overcrowded with the wounded and dying. Mufita Lazovic, a doctor, takes us around. People who have been disabled are telling us their stories. Hasan and Hana Camdzic were wounded by an air missile while asleep in their bedroom. Hasan has lost both, and Hana one of her legs. 

A tank missile badly wounded Elizabeta Krasni. She may never walk again. “Children suffer the most,” explains the doctor while escorting us out of the hospital. “Not long ago we had to amputate both legs from a 6-year-old boy. After the surgery he begged his parents to give him back his legs.”

Only a few minutes’ walk from the hospital lies Bare Cemetery with no more space to receive the dead. Kosevo Football Stadium has been turned into its extension. In reverence we stand still and observe the thousands of orderly aligned graves. Detlef reluctantly decides that he must take a few pictures — for the record. Next to one grave, three men support a collapsing woman. She is sobbing bitterly. There lies the dead body of her 19-year-old daughter, buried only a few days earlier.

A couple of hours later we arrive at the main ADRA warehouse in the city. Hundreds of people slide patiently toward the entrance that leads to four huge storage rooms packed with thousands of recently arrived humanitarian parcels. It seems as if the endless hours of queuing do not bother people doomed to waiting.

Through the eyes of his cameras, Detlef captures every moment worth remembering: an elderly woman with trembling hands placing her food parcel into something that used to be a baby stroller; two young men loading their received goods onto bicycles; a man immersed in reading the only newspaper published daily in Sarajevo; two women in tears embracing each other; a cat with a broken tail gliding through a jungle of human legs; and a man slowly drifting forward through the long queue, saying “Thank you ADRA!”

In Sarajevo every moment, every movement, and every picture tells another story.

Later in the day I joined Senad Vranic, one of 50 ADRA postmen in Sarajevo. Not long ago one of his colleagues was killed while delivering letters to the homes of people not far from where we are. Although a volunteer, like any professional postman, Senad brings the letters right to the doorsteps of involuntarily separated mothers, fathers, children, grandparents, friends.

“There are hazardous days, too! Sudden blasts, snipers! Not a safe place to be! Still, I go because I know how much hope these letters bring to people separated from those they love the most,” explains Senad as we reach the gates of a small house occupied by a young couple. As we enter their home, we hear an exciting welcome: “Our ADRA, our friends have come to us!”

It is getting dark and we are back at the ADRA offices in Tepebasina 7. Hedviga Jirota, a cheerful lady in her 80s, prepared a delicious supper using various donated ingredients: blended cheese from Czechoslovakia; macaroni from Italy; rice and tinned corned beef from England; hot powder milk, enriched with white coffee powder from Germany. She invites Radomir, Mira, Detlef, me and a few others to take our places around the table. Could we ever expect a more delightful feast in an undernourished Sarajevo?

“It is not easy. Many eyes are upon us. They think that ADRA can do what others can’t,” reflects pastor Nikolic at the dinner table. “In fact, we could do more if we only had more trucks,” he adds.

Soon it is almost midnight. Detlef and I are staring again through the window of our room. The engines of the U.N. planes shake the dark sky above the city. They are bound for eastern Bosnia where they will parachute several tons of food into the night. A sudden burst of machine guns echoes through the streets somewhere close by. We hear angry shouts, screams and more firing. A couple of distant explosions break in the night. And then everything is quiet.

The moonlit houses look strange with all the lights out. The city, which appears to have fallen into a deep sleep, with only a few distant and dimmed lights creeping through the blankets stretched over the darkened windows, remind me of the romanticized pictures of Bethlehem the night when Jesus was born.

I wonder if in 1993, in more than a metaphorical way, Jesus walks the streets of an imprisoned and wounded Sarajevo? I cannot help but love those 120 dedicated volunteers of ADRA, Muslims and Christians together, who against all odds fed the hungry, distributed humanitarian aid, delivered the letters and gave medicines to the sick. In their own way they are fulfilling Jesus’ commission: “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” Through them God is sending His message to the besieged people of Sarajevo: “I have not forgotten you.”

All photos taken by Tihomir Kukolja

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Honoring the Life of Our Brother Allen Belton

It saddens our hearts to hear of the passing (Monday, September 26, 2022) of our brother, friend and mentor Rev. Allen A. Belton (1939-2022), a man, counselor and teacher who for many years taught us how to love, forgive, reconcile and build lasting friendships.

Since 2001 one ROM (Renewing Our Minds) generation after another of young people from many countries have been blessed by Allen’s radiating presence, listening ear, patience in counseling, and his faith in Jesus which he passed on to others with ease and so naturally. His teaching, singing, warm smile, humor and patient counseling has had only one purpose – to teach us to love God and embrace each other with all our hearts. 

Two things, among many, will every member of the ROM family of friends remember as long as we live. One was his missional message that “loved people love people”, and the other his personal message which he loved to remind us often about: “You know what? I love you. And, you know what else? You can’t do anything about it even if you try.” 

Today when I think of our brother and friend Allen Belton I remember the life statement of Paul the apostle:  “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” 2. Timothy 4:7.8. Two weeks ago, when we spoke the last time this side of eternity, in a simple way but true to Allen’s character he echoed the assurance of the apostle Paul. He said: “I know where I am going.”

Allen Belton genuinely loved people, and he loved his international ROM family of friends very much. His legacy will continue to live on in our hearts for as long as we live, and will last beyond this moment of temporary departure into and throughout the eternity. 

At this difficult time our prayers are with Allen’s wife Margaret, and his children and the entire family. May the Lord give you comfort, peace and strength which you need at this time.

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They Must Know the Truth

They Must Know the Truth, SALT Feature. Follow the summer 2022 journey of the SALT team in Romania, Moldova and Ukraine. It mattered to our team that we not only deliver a meaningful and helpful content to the Ukrainian refugees, but that we also learn through the process how to serve and empathize better. 

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A Diagram of Hate, Camilla Bocaniala

Camilla Bocaniala speaks in Cluj-Napoca, România

A DIAGRAM OF HATE, An Honest Conversation about Hate and its Alternatives, Camilla Bocaniala, a SALT 2022 presentation, Cluj-Napoca, Romania, July 2022. Delivered also at the ROM – Renewing Our Minds 2022 Gathering, Trebinje, Bosnia-Herzegovina. SALT- Sustainable Action for Leadership and Truth is a multicultural truth and reconciliation initiative. We are dedicated to building a new generation of leaders via the model of leadership through service, as taught by the historical person of Jesus.

Camilla Bocaniala serves as the SALT Strategy Director. Camilla’s experience with applying and organizing ideas turns conceptual into an organized program. She makes sure that the various program ideas and elements flow purposefully and seamlessly. Camilla is emerging motivational speaker with a message that makes a difference. With her husband Liviu Bocaniala they represent a team of artists, and they are cofounders and leaders of a leadership development organization Polylogos Association. You would not want to miss her latest presentation

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Healing Through Hospitality

Violeta Altmann

HEALING THROUGH HOSPITALITY, Violeta Altmann, a SALT ( Sustainable Action for Leadership and Truth) 2022 presentation, Cluj-Napoca, Romania, July 2022.

Violeta Altmann delivered an opening message at the SALT 2022 Gathering in Cluj-Napoca, Romania. Having become an adoptive mother Violeta has also experienced a new dimension of openness towards refugees.  At the beginning of her presentation Violeta shares a letter written by a Ukrainian refugee stationed in Romania: “You are a nation with a huge heart!.. Now we will carry our stories about such a great country as Romania through the generations!.. Romania will go down in history as a country that saved many children’s souls, and this was not done by aid funds, not by the government, but by you – the Romanian People… Thank you for everything you are doing for us!” Listen, watch, recommend. Read more

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Introducing SALT – Sustainable Action for Leadership and Truth

Dear Friends,

Let me introduce the SALT – Sustainable Action for Leadership and Truth initiative. 

SALT is a multicultural truth and reconciliation initiative. We are dedicated to building a new generation of leaders via the model of leadership through service, as taught by the historical person of Jesus. SALT focuses on Eastern and Central Europe as an ideologically segregated, ethnically and politically turbulent, but culturally and historically rich region.

SALT isn’t just an acronym for us. It’s life. Salt brings flavor, preserves and creates thirst. We strive to apply this metaphor to our program by introducing new perspectives from real life instead of theory and conjecture. In that way, we can prove the effectiveness of a broader world-view when applied to leadership scenarios.

We welcome you to meet our team and get us know a little bit better, as we are about to share some highlights of our mission in Romania, Moldova and Ukraine at this time. Let this video serve as an introduction. Also visit our website

Tihomir Kukolja, Director

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How Should We Pray for Ukraine?

After 100 days of brutal Russian aggression Andrew Nedelchev and Tihomir Kukolja are engaging in a tough, honest, vulnerable and timely conversation – HOW SHOULD WE PRAY FOR UKRAINE? Why are some Christians not recognizing evil when they see it? What does a Bonhoeffer moment mean to you in the light of the Russian aggression? Why are some Christian communities divided over the war in Ukraine, some even approving of the aggression? Watch, think, share with friends. Produced by Focus Conversation.

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Leadership Focus International presents a Focus Conversation


Thursday, March 10, 2022 at 7GMT

The Russian aggression against Ukraine has risen a threat to global democracy to a completely new level. One sovereign country has attacked another sovereign country in an act of unprovoked war, determined to crush its government and its people. 

An international group of panelists from Romania, Norway, Bulgaria, Ukraine, UK and the US, includes artists, social and community activists, mentors, political advisers and humanitarian activists. Panelists will analyze the current situation in Ukraine and the state of democracy in the world, and try to respond to questions such as: 

What are some of the main challenges facing democracy in Europe, US and the world today? What to expect when the social contract within and between nations that makes democracy possible gets violated? Is the aggression on Ukraine an attack on democracy also?  How come some Christians are denying the reality and gravity of aggression, and are gladly embracing authoritarian leaders and dictators? When we pray for peace in Ukraine how should we pray so that we do not trivialize the tragedy and suffering of the Ukrainian people even further? How to build a sound Christian response to the assaults on democracy?

Our panelists are – Anya Bazilo (Ukraine), Liviu Bocaniala (Romania), Camilla Bocaniala (Norway), Jyl Hall (US), Andrew Nedelchev (Bulgaria), and Heather Staff (UK). Moderator: Tihomir Kukolja. 

Watch now

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A Message from Ukraine, Day 10

Two Ukrainian sisters, Viktoriya and Iryna Kravchenko share their accounts of the first ten days of Russian aggression against Ukraine, and their trust in God amidst fear and uncertainty. Iryna said: “We were always expecting something to happen. We would go to the basement, and then after a while we would go out. At night it was horrible, and we couldn’t sleep. Maybe we managed to get some sleep for a  couple of hours.” Viktoriya said: “When we finally came to the railway station and it was overcrowded. We just didn’t believe we could get on that train. We went to the last carriage and it was overcrowded. So was the one in front. And finally we reached the first carriage and we managed to get in. God took care of us at every step.”  Interview recorded on Saturday, March 5, 2022.

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