Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Why I Gave Up on Religion

"He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God." John 8:47

Okay, before you hit “delete,” let’s put this verse into context. Jesus is speaking these harsh words to the Pharisees. Just a few verses before the Pharisees were employing their status as “Abraham’s descendents” to justify their religious position. They didn’t need to repent. They didn’t need to change. The system they had was working great. Jesus just needed to shut up.

Jesus told them that by their words and actions the Pharisees revealed who their true father was. Their father was the devil (John 8:44). Now before you take away the wrong impression, here’s the deal: Jesus loved the Pharisees just as much as He loved His disciples. God loves all people equally. Love is God’s nature. He couldn’t be any other way.

The Pharisees refused to see how their humanly controlled religious system had substituted itself for an actual relationship with God. They were calm. They were in control. Jesus upset all of that. Again, Jesus didn’t intervene because He hated them, but because He loved them. Jesus won’t allow any human being to settle for less than what God intends for them. The most miserable people on the planet are the ones who resist the Father’s voice.

I don’t know that any of you reading this devotional have reached the level of stubbornness and religious regulation of the Pharisees. But, what we have to be sensitive to is any checklist that we find ourselves depending on. The checklist goes “if I attend church on Sunday, give to charity, recycle my garbage, and read a Bible story to my children, I’m in good shape with God.” None of those things are bad. But, our dependence on any list undermines our relationship with God.

Think about it this way. Let’s say that you want to become the best spouse/parent/friend that you possibly can be. You consult all of the experts. You read every book you can lay your hands on. You arrive at what you believe is the correct way to be the best spouse/parent/friend. The reality is that you can do all of the “right” things according to the expert and still fail to have a successful relationship. Relationships are not something that we do to people.

Religion is something that we do to God, but religion lacks relationship. In a relationship with God, we learn to hear His voice.

How easy or difficult is it for you to hear God’s voice? If you’re not sure about the things that you feel or experience, the safest place to start is with God’s Word. We are certain of God’s voice through His Word. Then, pay attention to other things that you’re “hearing” that sound like the Word.

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