You have heard the saying to ‘squeeze the life out of something’.
This is what religion does.
Of course in order to sound plausible I need to start by defining ‘religion’.
My plausibility is not the type that involves deception, by the way.
‘Religion’ is a term used – in Christian churches that have experienced the life-giving power of Christ, – to highlight the opposite-experience.
Another word that is used is ‘Legalism’, when describing the opposite to ‘joy unspeakable and full of Glory’.
The Pharisees are usually offered as examples of this negative use of the word ‘Religion’.
They were caught up in the outward appearance of things, they added to the Word of God, with man-made concepts, rules and regulations.
They majored on the minors and minored on the majors.
Jesus speaking of the Pharisees said:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.
Until Jesus completed God’s revelation to man communicating it in His New Covenant – the law stood it’s ground, as it were, as given in the Old Testament.
Jesus didn’t destroy the law – He fulfilled it.
Forgive my analogy but for me (as an artist/painter) I see the Old Testament Law and its demands as the drawing before the colour was added.
I know – not the soundest of analogies.
But Christ came to give us Life and Life more abundant. Whereas many Christians are like the Pharisees who wish to bind folks with heavy burdens.
One gentleman responding to a gospel invitation to become a Christian – was heard to say: ‘No thanks I have enough problems of my own..!’
You see all he heard was an invitation to ‘religious rules’ and a lack-lustre life of asceticism.
Jesus puts it this way, illustrating lifeless drudgery –
For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.
God has His laws – but they are the laws of liberty!’
But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it…
Not religious servitude to a hard taskmaster. But words of life to guide us in our behaviour.
Speaking of the liberty offered to everyone who will believe – God says:
II Corinthians 3/
17 Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
The Holy Spirit is the life-giver and He then feeds us spiritually with His word/law.
None of this makes sense until we meet Him.
But the purpose of this post is to say that ‘religion’ in the negative sense, in the sense that I have just described, and alluded to, will neither satisfy you or set you free from the influence of sin.
Only a living relationship with the Living God will do that.
There is a proper use of the word religion in James 1/27 (If you care to have a look).
As I write this it crosses my mind that I may well have written on this before? Well, I shall do so again.
But it is extremely important that we are not deceived into a Pseudo-version of Christianity.
As you enter the New Year – please search for the real thing!