Monday, June 15, 2015

Losing My Religion

I'm tired of religion. I'm even more tired of religious people. 

The Pharisees were religious. They were the only people Jesus couldn't reach when his sandals met this dusty Earth. Man, did they tick Jesus off!  And Jesus really ticked them off, too!

The Pharisees are perfect examples of religious people being "right" and still being wrong. The Pharisees were more concerned with being right than they were the people they were trying to reach.  

The Pharisees would leave a hungry man on the side of the road if they thought he was wrong enough. 

The Pharisees taught about God, but they didn't love Him. 

They're the perfect example of religious people believing they are doing good things while sitting in their glass houses and missing God as He walks right up and talks with them.  (Literally)    

....Please God, don't let me miss you. Ever...Please.... 

I'm tired of religious people arguing about things that Jesus didn't argue about or care about or didn't really even seem to notice very much. I know those people because I used to be one of them. 

I'm tired of religion being in the news.  

I'm tired of people expecting the government to spread the Gospel because they're too busy to do it, or too lazy. 

Something about all that fatigue is opening my eyes to something I'm not tired of, though: 

The Cross and Jesus. 

The fuzzier religion gets, the clearer Jesus gets. He gets more lovely and more gracious. 

The farther away I get from religion, the closer I get to the voice that says to me:  "Do not be afraid."  "Love your neighbor as you love yourself".  

The farther I get from religion, the closer I get to the voice that consistently said, "I am willing", even when no one else was. 

The cross is divisive, isn't it?  It's not pretty and sweet, with nice little hymns playing in the background and civilized little cups of grape juice being passed around. 

 The cross causes us to change if we've ever stopped long enough to look at it and see God hanging there in our place.  We either feel humility and repentance call our name or anger and hate and disbelief.  

Some try to explain it away or work really hard to deserve it. God says we are to allow God to bleed out for us and gasp His last breath in our place and accept a gift we simply are not worthy of receiving.  

Religion spends a good bit of time telling people that Sunday from 10am till noon and, possibly, from 6pm till 8:30pm the Holy Spirit will show up at so and so address. Show up. It'll be a fun time!  And God weeps.

Jesus showed up every day of the week, at all hours of the day and night to love on people and serve them and listen to them.  He still does that, even if you haven't stepped foot in a building with a steeple in decades. 

Jesus showed up on the doorsteps of sinners.  He showed up where they were. 

God busted out of meeting in a box more than 2000 years ago when He nailed Himself to a cross so we'd have a chance at redemption.

Religion spends entirely too much time and money on new programs and equipment and fancy pews and fancy buses with graphically designed slogans on the side and big screen TV's and sound systems when all they really need is Jesus and grace.  

When what we all need is nothing more than Jesus and grace. Amazing, sweet grace...

Smaller churches spend a lot of time trying to catch up to the big churches and big churches spend millions to stay big.  I mean, they're reaching people, right?  

I suppose some do, but then the cycle starts over and something is missing in most religious places. It's missing. It's missing because church isn't a building.  It's missing because religion is not Jesus.

I'm tired of religion. 

I want Jesus. 

I want to tell people about Jesus. 

I want them to know that sin is a condition. 

Sin isn't just things that we do, like lying and lusting and cheating and pride. Sin is a condition.  We want what we want when we want it and we'll tell ourselves anything to think we're better than "that guy" or "that girl".  

All of us.  We tell ourselves whatever we need to tell ourselves to avoid the truth that we need Jesus and that is all. That. Is. All.

God doesn't quantify sin, either.  Humans do that.  Lying and pride and gossip are equal to lust and adultery and murder.  Sin is a condition. We all are suffering from that condition equally.

Religion will try it's best to tell you that one is worse than the other because religion has nothing to do with Jesus.  Religion has nothing to do with truth.  

Truth, by its very definition, is exclusive, by the way. 

The compelling truth of the cross will attract all kinds of cynics.  I have no interest in arguing with them.  

The compelling truth of the cross will attract all kinds of mockery and scorn.  I'm OK with that. It's tough and humbling to truly see the hard truth that we aren't in control of our own destiny.  It's hard to stop and look at our own lives and recognize that we are not in control. Of anything. 

Oh, yes....we can make choices or go right or go left, but we have no control of where those choices lead or how they turn out.  If we did, we'd all be blissfully happy all the time with no worries and every choice we'd ever made would have lead us right back to happy and wealthy and healthy and whole.  But, they didn't, because we aren't in control.  And that's a humbling thing. So, bring on the mockery and scorn. 

The cross holds the greatest claim in history and that claim wasn't this:  Religion and rules and laws will save you! God did that first to SHOW you those things didn't work.  Ever. Those things make your sin heavy and real so you know you can't bear it.  You can't bury it. 

You can't live through sin.

The cross holds the greatest claim in history that is THIS:

The greatest claim in history is that God died with your sins strapped around his neck. He died. All the way.  

But, death could not claim Him. He rose. He slew death like a boss.  

The sinLESS wrapped Himself in the sinFUL and He OVERCAME.  

He threw off sin and shame and found joy because He loves His creation. He loves His creation just like it is right now.  

He DIED for His creation just like it is right now.  We aren't surprising Him!  And still...while we were sinners, He loved us.

And He rose. He extended His hand and said, "I love you. Now go and tell the world. It will be hard and it will be scary, but don't be afraid. I've got this. All you have to do is tell them and leave the rest to me."

Jesus said, don't be afraid.  I overcome the world. Now go. Tell them I love them and I'll be back.


...the same way that He loved me...

...the same way that He loved me...

...Do you know all the things I've done, Jesus? Do you know all the horrific things I've thought and said and done?...

...Yes, I do...Every. Single. One.

...And you love me all the way, anyway?...

...Yes...All the way...

The Pharisees talked a lot about being clean and pure and holy.  They talked a lot about laws and religious ceremony.  But, they had no concern for the heart of a person or loving people or showing mercy or grace. 

They were more concerned with the temple than the One the temple housed.

The most religious people of Jesus' day blocked the door to God Himself.  The writer of the Law, the Creator Himself, was not good enough for religious men.

Religion isn't about plays and meetings and even Bible studies with sweet groups of men and women.  It's not about us, at all. 

It's about the cross.  It's about grace and love. It's about accepting a gift and then sharing that priceless gift.

It's about Jesus.

And it's time we said so.  

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