Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Frustration of Religion Apart from God

By Allen White

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.
Matthew 23:15

You’d think if a conversion made someone a child of hell two times over, they’d be better off unconverted and only a child of hell once over. Eugene Peterson in The Message says they are “double-damned.” From our point of view, we certainly wouldn’t be buying what they’re selling.

But the conversion offered by these religious leaders didn’t bring anyone from death unto life. It really wasn’t conversion at all. This was more of a self-willed reform. They converted ungodly people into folks who worked very hard at being godly, yet still didn’t belong to God.

By changing their ways and conforming to the  religious practices of the Pharisees, these new “converts” had a false sense of security. They thought they belonged to God, yet they didn’t. No one can work himself into Heaven. Yet, to think you’re okay and still not be okay is a precarious spot.

But, we might ask, if they are trying hard and are sincere about following God, why wouldn’t this work? The answer is simple: prideful human effort doesn’t win points with God. In fact, it places our trust in ourselves rather than fully trusting in God.

While I’m not encouraging anyone to become lazy in their Christian walk, we must realize that transformation comes from God’s power, not from our efforts. Now, if we never feel like pursuing the things of God, we do need to question how much transformation has actually taken place.

Pride and self-will got the most beautiful archangel thrown out of Heaven once upon a time. That angel we know as Satan, Lucifer, the Devil. This is why rebellion of any kind is considered satanic. Any time we put ourselves in a position where we think we  know better than God, we enter into this realm.

I believe the most miserable person on this earth is not necessarily the one completely caught up in sin. The most miserable person is actually caught up in religion apart from God. They attend services. They try hard to do the right thing. They judge others. They run out of steam, because they don’t have what it takes to successfully live for God. They don’t
have God.

Conversion is a supernatural transaction that can only take place through God’s power. We can certainly try hard to be godly, yet end up living with a lot of frustration and guilt. Surrender is the pathway to a godly life, not merely hard work. To let go and let God, we have to loosen our grip.

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