Hate religion? Good. So did Jesus.

re·li·gious
rəˈlijəs/
adjective
  1. 1.
    relating to or believing in a religion.

One of my least favourite things is being called “religious”.  I know it’s done with good intentions usually, so it doesn’t make me angry, but I don’t like being associated with religion in any way.  I always reply with “I’m not religious.  Jesus hated religion.”

See, the main reason I don’t care for that title is because the definition above just doesn’t fit; I don’t believe in a religion.  I believe in a man named Jesus who died for me to have an abundant life.

Religion is man-made; Jesus was God-made.

The other, more important reason I really don’t like being labelled with this term, is because religious people were the ones who worked against Jesus.  They were the ones who were more concerned with how they looked on the outside than the true motives on the inside (Matt. 23:25-26), they were the ones who beaked from the sidelines when Jesus performed healings and deliverances (Matt. 12:9-14 is one of many instances), and they were the ones who tried to control him and make him conform to their man-made rules and traditions.  Jesus’ freedom ticked them right off, and they eventually put him on the cross for it.

Jesus and religion are not synonymous.  In fact, they are quite opposite.

A religious spirit is obsessed with appearance and rule-abiding; a Jesus spirit is concerned with the condition of the heart.

A religious spirit boasts about his maturity in Christ; a Jesus spirit quietly lives out maturity in Christ because he is always seeking more truth.  

A religious spirit takes pride in his doctrine and his knowledge of Scripture; a Jesus spirit humbly lives out the truth of what he has read.  

A religious spirit believes he knows all there is to know; a Jesus spirit is always willing to admit there is room to grow and learn.  

A religious spirit puts emphasis on doing, performing, and following rules; a Jesus spirit puts emphasis on what is already done, and is led not by rules but by the voice of the Shepherd.

A religious spirit speaks out against the works of Christ (healing, delivering, setting people free); a Jesus spirit believes God meant it when He said “these signs will follow those who believe” (Mark 16) and then walks in it.  

A religious spirit will skip around from church to church, because he is seeking power and control and church is about him; a Jesus spirit follows God’s leading about where he should be planted and then stays until God directs him differently.  

A religious spirit looks at a circumstance and then determines God’s will; a Jesus spirit looks at God’s will, and then determines what the circumstance should be.

A religious spirit is offended if he thinks you are saying he doesn’t have enough faith; a Jesus spirit will freely admit a lack of faith and take it as an opportunity to cry out, “Lord, increase our faith!” as the disciples did when Jesus rebuked them (Luke 17:5), or to declare, “I do believe!  Help me overcome my unbelief!” as the father of the sick boy did (Mark 9:24).  

A religious spirit condemns sin and makes you try harder; a Jesus spirit gives grace which empowers you to conquer sin for good.

A religious spirit repels the unbeliever; a Jesus spirit attracts him.

A religious spirit knows Scripture; a Jesus spirit believes Scripture and lives it out.

A religious spirit fears man; a Jesus spirit fears God.

A religious spirit binds people; a Jesus spirit sets people FREE!

Jesus really did not like religion.  And if he didn’t, then we shouldn’t either.

Think about it – Jesus rebuked the Pharisees, but hung out and showed grace and forgiveness to an adultress.  Jesus (and John the Baptist) called the Pharisees and Sadduccees “broods of vipers” on multiple occasions, yet he told a condemned man hanging on the cross beside him that he would join him in paradise that day.  The only group of people he consistently rebuked, and even turned his back on, were the religious. No wonder they hated him.  (Keep in mind, it was the spirit working inside of them that he rebuked, and he still loved them.  So should we.)

So if the thought of religion repels you – GOOD.  It should.  It is not a true representation of God’s heart.  He didn’t die on a cross so he could obsess over our behaviour, keep us powerless against the evil in this world, and keep us thinking we’re just lowly little sinners.  NO!  He came and made us the “righteousness of God in Christ” (2 Cor. 5:21) and “more than conquerors” (Romans 8:27).  He came so we could do what he told us to do (Mark 16) and be a solution to a sick and hurting world.

Religious Christians do not truly believe and live out the call to be imitators of God (Eph. 5:1-2) and to follow his example (1 Cor. 1:11).  If we all did, then we wouldn’t have a problem with healing.  We wouldn’t have a problem with casting out demons.  We wouldn’t have a problem walking alongside society’s “worst”.  Religion has a problem with those things, but Jesus didn’t.  Jesus DID those things, and then told us to do them too.  In fact, he not only told us to do the same works he did, but that we would do “even greater works” after he went to be with the Father (John 14:12).  (Religious spirits really hate that one!  Good thing I didn’t author that – so don’t take it up with me!)  Religion keeps us arguing over the theology of such statements, but the spirit of Jesus at work within a person has them going out and doing them.

So, you see, it’s not about being good.  It’s not about rule-following and wearing a suit to church on Sunday and not drinking alcohol; it’s about being clean on the inside.  It’s not about memorizing Scripture and spouting off theology, it’s about allowing the truth of Scripture to change you from the inside out.  It’s not about knowing who Jesus was, it’s about knowing Jesus and then continuing His work to grow His Kingdom.  To help people.  To bring light to the darkness around us.

This world is dark, friend.  It doesn’t need more religion.  It doesn’t need more Christians arguing and fighting over theology.  It needs more Jesus.  It needs believers who will believe and obey His unadulterated Word, and who will then go do the works He called us to do.

I don’t want to be religious.  I want to be like Jesus.

 

 

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