When Jesus came to live among us, the condition of the church (synagogue) was far from the heart of God. The Pharisees, Scribes and Lawyers were legalistic bullies that ruled by fear and intimidation. For the most part they were corrupt and godless with little, if any, demonstration of the love of God. When confronted with the love and power of God in Jesus they were threatened and offended that someone, anyone, would dare demonstrate to the people anything different than their religious tradition. It seems obvious that these religious leaders were unaware that they were a stench in the nostrils of God! Their angry and violent response to Jesus is evidence that their sin of religion was a wall of separation between them and the heart of their Heavenly Father. They did not have eyes to see or ears to hear or a heart of love to receive the awesome gift of love the Father had sent to mankind. When Father sent Jesus to earth, He, the Father, changed the spiritual atmosphere, the spiritual dynamics, the spiritual condition of our existence on planet Earth. Not having a relationship with God, the religious leaders were completely clueless that there was any change. They were busy protecting their traditions, their positions in society and the rules they required the people to live by. Father sent Jesus to show them a better way. Jesus demonstrated the love of His Father in kindness, goodness and forgiveness. He demonstrated Father’s love by meeting peoples’ desperate needs, something religion was unable to do. Jesus openly demonstrated the love of His Father by confronting sin and exposing Godless leadership. The people for the most part responded well to Father’s offering of love and forgiveness. Jesus offered them hope and freedom from religious bondage. Many accepted the gift and followed Jesus on a pathway to know their Heavenly Father.
Because the religious leaders refused to be moved by Father’s offering of love and relationship, but instead chose to remain in the deadness and darkness of their religion, Jesus began to confront them publicly, exposing their sin publicly. He, Jesus, warned the people to beware of the teaching of church leadership. Now consider that for a moment. The synagogue and the church leadership and the rules and religion were all these people knew. They lived with the darkness, the oppression, the bondage and the fear that their religion produced, but suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, came the bright light of hope in Jesus.
Many people believed Jesus and the message He brought from the Father. They saw the miraculous demonstrated. The miracles supported the words that Jesus spoke to them. He sparked hope and faith and excitement about a completely new way of living with God. Jesus drew the people out of and away from the organized religion of His day and offered them freedom to live and love in relationship with God. Wow! Jesus had the courage to entice the people out of the organized church and lead them into a personal relationship with Father.
Now in reality what is the sin of religion? In some ways it is pretty simple. Religion becomes a substitute for a personal relationship with God. Thus it becomes a barrier to the fulfillment of a person’s purpose and destiny in God! Rules and performance take the place of a developed love relationship with Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In essence, religion is idolatry, a substitute for the real thing. The people became trapped in powerless darkness, a dead end road to nowhere. They were not aware of their pathetic condition until Jesus showed up and showed out and threatened their status quo. Isn’t it interesting that those who were most threatened by Father’s invasion were the church leaders! To the contrary, those most receptive to Jesus and His message were the people who were most oppressed by their religion.
These early believers, those first born again after Jesus’ resurrection, carried the life giving, life changing message of Jesus to the known world of their time with awesome success. Their lives were dramatically changed from the sin and bondage of organized religion to a life of love and intimate relationship with God and each other.
Now we know because of recorded history that the darkness and bondage of religion eventually invaded and attempted to destroy the new life in Jesus that Father had established. Father has graciously and continually fought back offering mankind the choice between a personal relationship with Him where there is the miraculous experience of love and powerful demonstration of His presence, and the hopeless darkness of performance and rules to appease an angry God that doesn’t exist. We are in one of those times of His love and grace. He is once again challenging our religious status quo. He is fighting back against our religious traditions and once again offering a personal, life giving intimate relationship with Him instead of the deadness of organized religion. Are we, have we been living in the sin of religion? Are we, like the people of Jesus day, in some way bound by religious traditions yet unaware that we are in bondage, unaware that we are substituting religion for a life giving, life changing personal, intimate relationship with Father, Son and Holy Spirit? Is it possible we are blind to our sinful condition?
Is it possible that Father has once again changed the spiritual season of the church? Is it possible He is moving in a different direction than our tradition of today has room for? Are we for or against Father’s transition? Or are we willing to even accept the possibility that He might be doing something different today than He did yesterday? Would He dare challenge our religious comfort zone? Would He dare ask more of His born again children than our religion allows? Hopefully you will see that the answers are yes, yes and yes! Always yes to more of Him and less of me; always more relationship and less religion; always more living in the Spirit with Him and less living in our flesh.
For the last 10 to 12 years, Father has been personally confronting our religion, asking us to change our religious habits, sacrificing what had become comfortable with that which was more rewarding and fulfilling; namely pressing into Him for a greater love experience and that personal, intimate love experience resulting in greater faith and trust in Him. We, like the people of Jesus day, didn’t realize that we were religious. So agreeing with and following Father’s instructions to separate ourselves from our religious traditions was a challenge to say the least; not only internally within ourselves, but also externally by brothers and sisters in Jesus who were not yet being challenged with their religion. The results of Father’s challenge to us have been life changing and life giving. We are truly grateful to Him for drawing us out of bondage we didn’t realize we were in, and into a new life of liberty to be more in Him and less in the bondage of our religious beliefs that were a hindrance to our walk with the God we were attempting to serve.
Are you brave enough to consider that you also might have religious traditions operating in your life that might be hindering your potential for a deeper, richer and more powerful relationship with your Heavenly Father? Are you willing to consider that you may need to repent for your sin of religion? Are you willing to ask Father if He has changed the spiritual season of the church? If so, are you willing to go with Him and leave behind the traditions of the old season and let Father reveal to you and infuse in you the power of what He is doing in the new season? Each of us must decide for ourselves where our priorities lie. Choose today whom and what you will serve. A powerful new life of love is available to all who will pursue Him and yield all we are and all we have in exchange for achieving our purpose and destiny in God. We pray Father will bless you with the courage to choose righteously and surprise you with the power of His loving presence!
P.S. If you do not yet have a conversational relationship with your Heavenly Father, why not start one now? Speak to Him directly and ask:
1) Lord do You love me?
2) Lord how do You see me?
3) Lord what do You want to say to me?
Make sure you are prepared to write down what He says as He answers these questions. You will be glad you did and so will He because He loves you dearly.