I have a confession to make. To some it may sound shocking, especially considering I write faith-based blog posts, but.... I hate religious Christianity. Now, before you think I have gone off the deep end and I'm renouncing my faith - please understand what I mean by religious.
When I say religious, I'm not talking about a denomination, a doctrine or even a box you might check off on some paperwork. No, when I say religious what I am talking about is a belief that that says your performance, your devotion, your practices or your morals makes you right with God. The idea that righteousness is achieved, rather than received.
That kind of belief - that kind of religion - will suck the life out of you. I know from firsthand experience. Thankfully, I now know the truth that God wants us to live in relationship, not religion. Losing your religion may sound like a strange idea so here are 5 reasons that I hope will convince you that you should.
1. Religion Causes You to Condemn Yourself
For years, I lived a life believing that God loved me because of what I did for Him. I looked at my church attendance, my Bible reading, my prayer time and my service as things that kept me on "God's good side" and what "saved" me. The problem with this kind of belief though is that it will enslave you to performing religious duties. The moment you begin to read the Bible less or pray less you will start to feel guilty.
The truth is - you will never be able to pray enough, serve enough or read your Bible enough to earn anything from God. God doesn't love you because of what you've done; God loves you because of what Jesus has done for you. He desires devotion that is inspired by a relationship, not an obligation.
2. Religion Causes You to Judge Others and Live a Life of Comparison
As I've mentioned, if you live a life of religious duty you will eventually condemn yourself because of your inability to be perfect. Along the way though religion will cause you play the comparison game with those around you. You will look down at someone struggling with a drug addiction and at the same time you will look enviously at someone with a more powerful prayer life.
When you start comparing your spiritual life to others if you don't feel like you are doing enough then you will condemn yourself, and if you feel like you are doing more then you will start to condemn others. The only one who you should compare yourself to is Christ. And in that comparison, there is no comparison. Our only option is to accept His grace and allow Him to bridge the gap where we don't measure up.
3. Religion Makes You Feel Like God Owes You
If you buy into the idea that righteousness is something you can achieve then you will ultimately believe that God owes you. Sure, you may not come right out and say it - but you will believe it. This mentality will cause you to question God - because why would God allow something bad to happen to someone who follows His rules?
Bad things happen because we live in a world cursed by sin and the idea that God owes us anything is in complete opposition to the Gospel. The Bible plainly says that no one does good before God and that our salvation is only made possible by grace through faith so that no one may boast. God doesn't owe us anything because He has already given us everything when He died on the cross for our sins.
4. Religion Causes You to Live a Double Life
One of the most crushing aspects of religion is the way that it takes your eyes off of Jesus and puts them onto yourself and those around you. Religion creates pride and because of that pride, you will not want to admit your faults and your issues.
However, the Bible explains that we must confess our sins to one another so that we may be healed. (James 5:16) If you feel that your goodness is made possible by your own power, instead of by God's grace then you will be enslaved by it.
You will be tempted to maintain a public persona that in no way matches the condition of your heart. This is not the life God intended for us. God wants us to live in the freedom of being fully known and fully loved.
5. Religion Focuses on the How Instead of the Who
Religion causes us to focus on the how of everything and everyone around us.
How should the worship music be done? How long should you pray? How much of the Bible should you read? How much money should you give? How should you dress at church?
Asking these kinds of questions, in my opinion, is why there is so much division in the church and why some people feel that Christianity is exhausting. Following Jesus isn't an easy life but it is life-giving, not life-taking. Relationship makes it simple because it focuses on the Who and the only Who that truly matters - Jesus.
Instead of worry about how we perform or how much we pray or how much we read the Bible, in a relationship we are free to just magnify and marvel at the One we worship!
If you are exhausted in your efforts to earn your way onto God's good side then there is good news, because God wants you to come just as you are. He invites you to an abundant life defined by relationship instead of dry, mechanical religion. Religion doesn't save, Jesus does.