I spend my girlhood days submerged in the life of two small, very tight-knit, very conservative Baptist churches. To say I was churched, is a bit of an understatement. We lived & breathed church and religion and everything that I had believed to be God and faith.
Our lives revolved around the church schedule and our social circle consisted only of those within only the church we attended. That’s just the way that it was, no one questioned it or formed close ties with worldly outsiders. I mean, the Bible clearly states that Christians shouldn’t be friends with the world right? (cough, cough…)
We had it all right. We dressed modestly, we didn’t go to restaurants or grocery stores on the Sabbath, recited the ten commandments incessantly, held all night prayer services and kept ourselves separated from the world – except for the weekly “visitation” times in which we methodically went out into the community to knock on doors and snatch the lost out of the pits of eternal damnation as if their spiritual destiny depended on us alone.
If ever there was a group of people worthy of heaven due to their righteousness, it was us. We were the 44!
….oh yeah that’s right, it’s supposed to be 144,000.
Well, if you had asked us, we couldn’t have told you where on earth the other 100,000 were gonna come from good enough to have earned Heaven. (assuming of course the whole 144,000 thing was really even a true fact – of which it’s not.)
I vividly remember all the time and energy we put into taking prayer requests and praying. And if you couldn’t pray for HOURS, you felt that maybe you just weren’t quite as spiritual as others. We prayed for our nation, needs to be met and healing for the sick.
I didn’t realize it then, but looking back, there were huge problems with our prayers….and our faith. First off, we relied mostly on our own ability to follow rules to make us righteous rather than allowing the righteousness of God to cover us, we didn’t really believe in modern-day miracles, we believed that divine healing was a thing of the past, tongues were of the devil (not kidding) and the Holy Spirit was a topic that remained almost totally unspoken of and untouched.
When I became old enough to piece the pieces of faith puzzle together, they just didn’t connect.
“So why then, did we even bother to pray?”
I guess because it appeared to be the spiritual thing to do and it eased our conscience. But the greatest damage done by this outward facade of righteousness is that it gave us a false sense of connection & relationship with God which robbed us of the real thing. We were, in essence, using very spiritual things to give the appearance of and convince our own selves of a power that we did not understand, recognize or even really allow to operate within our lives.
Although much of what I gained from my girlhood years spend in these churches were indeed positive foundations in my life even today and is a main reason I still have tons of scripture tucked away inside me; still, I’ve spent the last ten years letting God open my eyes and untangle the webs of confusion and contradiction that religion had created in my heart.
Faith without power = religion.
And last time I checked, the world doesn’t need just another religious affiliation to add to the long list of others that are no more effective than licking your bathroom mirror 5 times and touching your right arm three times with toilet water.
Religion feels good for a while. But eventually, when life gets really out of control, doesn’t make any sense and God feels completely absent, religion usually ends up dropping us off, leaving us stranded on side of the road with no where to else to go.
In time, a powerless religion (instead of a true faith) will eventually create a false image of a God who has abandoned us.
Religion in itself, offers us a Jesus that we eventually find to be about as real and powerful as the super-heros my little boy still believes in.
This is THE reason so many “churched” people have walked so far away from anything that resembles religion or reminds them of God.
Somewhere along the road, they realized that what they had wasn’t enough. But the big problem is, it was all they knew… and it failed.
Religion lacks the warmth and love we crave – but mostly, it lacks the power our lives desperately need and are completely unaware of.
So what does religion do when someone you love greatly comes to you and admits that they have a serious addiction that they’ve tried and can’t get out of? And when another comes to you with tears streaming down their face and admits that for years they have been literally and physically tormented by demonic forces?
The “Jesus” of religion runs and hides in the face of things bigger than it and things it can’t rationalize.
But when we sincerely ask God to reveal Himself to us and we mean it enough to be willing to allow Him to open our eyes to things we may even have a hard time wrapping our minds around, He will.
But it will require something of us.
Surrender, Trust & Faith.
These three things open our lives up to a power that is so much greater than anything we’ve ever known or could have imagined on our own.
But it’s the very thing He came to give us. He has not left us weak and defenseless against the dark forces within our world and our personal lives.
He came so that we could walk in freedom and authority, by filling us full of the same power that dwells within Him.
I’ve never met a super-hero who could do that. Maybe it’s time for us to stop believing in super-heroes.
The truth is, the “Jesus” of religion could never compete with this JESUS I have found.
The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name. ”And He said to them, “I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning. “Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will injure you. “Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven.”
At that very time He rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit, and said, “I praise You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight. “All things have been handed over to Me by My Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” – Luke 10:17-22