A clergy friend of mine posted the link to an column from the Washington Post about religion.
The title intrigued me so I read it. As I read it, it made me think of what the Spirit has been teaching me over the past 4 years and specifically since September as I have been preaching through Galatians. This author states a conclusion to which he has come: “Religion shouldn’t be this hard.”
Now, while I understand what he is saying in the context of the piece, based upon what I have been taught by the Spirit over the last few months, I must disagree with his conclusion. The opposite is actually true. Religion IS hard.
Here’s why. Religion is all about doing things while not doing other things in an attempt to become acceptable to God. And, as more and more situations come to reality, more and more layers to the rules/regulations/requirements must be added to deal with these new situations. So, in religion, there is an ever increasing complexity which must be navigated and that is hard. In this paradigm, one must answer questions to decide if something is allowed or not allowed. For example, if a rule exists that I’m not supposed to patronize a restaurant that serves alcohol, if that restaurant decides to not serve alcohol on Sundays, am I now allowed to go on Sundays? You get the idea.
Trying to navigate the in’s and out’s of all this type of maze is confusing and paralyzing. And it is HARD. What even makes it harder is when the person who is the “keeper of the rules” decides that you have somehow violated a rule because of part A of sub-paragraph 2 of paragraph 5 of Title 9 and, therefore, you are to be rebuked for said violation. Trying to keep up with each layer of complexity as it is added is hard.
And that is why religion IS hard. Religion is all about keeping the rules and keeping sin in check. Religion is all about sin management.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is all about the Spirit and the nature of Christ which is now the nature that resides in me. And this is exactly why Christianity is EASY. Because I have believed the message of Christ that He faithfully fulfilled all the righteous requirements of the law, revealing Him as THE Faith and Faithful One, I have received the adoption as a son of God and received the Spirit of Christ which God sent forth into my heart. Even the faith I now possess isn’t mine; it’s Christ’s. Faith which originates with me has more holes in it than Swiss cheese. My faith cannot save me, but the faith of the One who is completely faithful and Who is THE Faith can save me. And it has.
The fact that it is THE Faith and Faithful One and His faith by which I now live the life I live in this flesh, living now becomes a natural expression. And what comes natural is easy to do because it doesn’t take thought. And it becomes easier all the time as my realization of my true identity by which God knows me increases as He gives me opportunity. I no longer need to strive or contend to make this happen. Paul stated in 2 Corinthians 5:21 that God “made Him who knew no sin sin for our sake so that in Him, we should become the righteousness of God.” When God sees me, He sees Christ.
The reason why so many view Christianity as being hard is that for so long and in so many ways, there has been a mixture of religion and the gospel. Many throughout the history of the church since Christ have attempted to create this mix and clothe the gospel in the cloak of religion when the two are totally incompatible.
Religion, with all of its rules and regulations, is needed for the flesh and old nature because the flesh and old nature is focused on sin and the management of it. But when the Spirit came, the new creation, the new nature which is Christ, came into existence so that it is now by the Spirit we live and walk. And because of His presence, there is no need for any external rules (religion) because the Spirit indwelling gives the guidance as my new identity is lived out through this body.
And the Spirit don’t need no external rules.
The old nature needed the rules, but God has killed it off for as Paul says in Galatians 2:19, “I have been crucified with Christ.” The old is dead and, therefore, the need for the rules of religion died right alongside it.
It’s now all about the Spirit working through my new identity and nature which is in me and allowing Him to have that expressed as He sees fit, not how some set or system of rules or code have determined. And as the Spirit continues His work, that identity becomes more and more natural, and therefore easier, with each passing day.