Have you ever been involved in a relationship with someone for months, years, or even decades, only to discover at the end of it all that you had very little to show for it?
This was my personal experience after spending almost forty-years in a major denominational church. Thankfully, they knew the way to heaven, but offered very little hope or practical help of navigating life’s potholes and roadblocks down here where we must “do life”.
I’m sure some of you can relate to what I just said. You may be stuck in that religious rut right now and you don’t know which direction to go to get out.
Jesus talked about this very thing in Matthew 11:28, 30. The Jewish law had so many rules people had to keep that it was virtually impossible to maintain it. He said, “Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest…for My yoke is easy and My burden is light (NKJV).”
Jesus wants us to come to Him because He is not about rules and regulations, He is ALL about relationship! He knows what makes us tick, what makes us happy and what makes us sad. He doesn’t want to see us bent over under the weight of a bunch of rules that “we think” we always have to keep in order to please Him. Keeping rules is what religion is all about and that’s not how Jesus thinks.
When a person is involved in acts of dead tradition or working their fingers to the bone just to please God, they’re missing out on the greatest gift of all; intimacy with a compassionate, loving, forgiving Creator. Many times, this type of behavior happens because of wrong teaching. In other words, salvation based on works or human effort to try and please God instead of receiving the gift of grace through faith, which Jesus has already provided.
It’s my personal conviction that we as the church should focus more on the truth that we can have a personal, daily, intimate, loving relationship with the God Who created us. If we do this, we may be able to birth more disciples who have learned to hear the Holy Spirit for themselves through relationship and not so many rules.
This may seem like a topic that is not worth mentioning with so many evangelical churches in existence today. However, it’s also obvious that the spiritual pendulum still swings from one extreme to other— from sloppy grace to cold, harsh, restrictive legalism.
God absolutely deserves our respect, awe and obedience. And there is accountability even with grace and unconditional love. But condemnation never comes from God. And there should rarely be guilt…unless you know you’re living with unconfessed sin. If you are, confess it quickly, repent (go the other way) and get back where you belong.
Whenever Jesus had a problem with anyone in the Gospels, it was generally with the religious sect—the ones who knew and obeyed the letter of the law but had hearts that were cold as ice. That’s interesting isn’t it? He came down hard on them, yet he had no problem hanging out with prostitutes, tax collectors, thieves, and the like. He told them the truth and they still loved Him.
I really like the passage in John 5:37-40, Jesus was raking the religious leaders of that day over the coals. He said,
“And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form. But you do not have His word abiding in you, because whom He sent, Him you do not believe. You search the Scriptures, for in them “you think” you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. 40 But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.”
This is an awesome passage because Jesus read these guy’s mail that day. They probably thought they’d trip Him up again, but it didn’t happen. They knew the Torah (the law) forwards and backwards. But what they didn’t realize or probably didn’t understand, was that Jesus was full of the Holy Spirit and could see inside that they were dead; even though they were spiritually well-educated.
It’s so simple to move from being dead with no joy or purpose for living, to being alive with the same life that Jesus had and has given to us. I challenge you to move from dead religious works today and into a life that just keeps getting better and better, even in the midst of your circumstances.
For believers that need to move out of dead works into a vital living relationship, simply ask the Lord’s forgiveness and ask Him to open your eyes and ears to hear the truth of a new way of living.
For those of you who don’t have a personal relationship with the Lord, please know that He’s waiting and ready for you right now. It’s so simple and John 3:17 says that God never sent Jesus to condemn “anybody” for any reason.
Instead, He came instead to save the entire world. He’s already taken care of all your sins and mistakes of the past, present, and future. You only need to believe that He died and was raised from the dead for you personally. Then simply ask Him to be your Lord in your own words and follow Him the best you can. He’ll work with you.
Serving You Truth,