When God Ruins Things

Jeff Holy Spirit, KINGDOM 5 Comments

Many years ago, the Lord ruined me. When I was first saved, He ruined me from enjoying all the unlawful pleasures that had defined my life for the decade prior to my conversion. Shortly thereafter, He ruined me in any attempt to draw my satisfaction from temporal pursuits like wealth, fame or power. In 1997, God ruined me from living for myself as He presented me a best friend and beautiful wife named Amy. He commissioned me to learn to die to my bend to make myself the center of my own orbit and, instead, to prioritize my wife. When our children were born to us, God ruined me from living at such a fast pace that I could ever be comfortable being blind to their needs. He gave Amy and I two little people to shape, and that calling always occupies a major space in my mind. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that God is above putting a holy touch of ruin on your life. Of course, He builds up and creates, but He also tears down and destroys. Today I am thankful for the beautifully wise moves of God to remove things from us that occupy those spaces where He wants to plant the better.

By the way, in every increasing depths, God has ruined me for religion. I have learned to hate religion. Let me say it again: I. Hate. Religion.

You should too. With all your spiritual might.

When I use the term religion, it is meant to describe those things that are immeasurably inferior to the nature and activity of the God of the Bible, yet which are propped up by humans to pass as being Him and His activity. Religion in the realm of Christendom is what provokes me the very most. Other world religions do not really upset me because, speaking boldly, those religions are merely nothings representing nothing. Yet, when it comes to my Father, my Savior and my Comforter, I live with a jealousy that He not be misrepresented according to the wisdom and ways of human beings. Religion always magnifies the external while, at most, giving a token nod to the deep matters of the heart. Religion, in contrast to pure Christianity, is typically about conformity to one of many unquestionable christianized systems that somebody has declared to be the best (or only) representation of God’s divine expression of Himself. Every Christian denomination has learned to strut a little. Jesus never strutted.

Religion controls. Religion demands. Religion manipulates. Religion threatens major consequences if there are any infractions to what religion has prescribed. Religion dictates conformity. Religion is typically graceless, low on mercy, unwilling to listen and refusing honest questions from those who commit the sin of thinking for themselves. Christianized religion bends the Word and specializes in cherry-picking bible verses to make it appear that this particular religion has, indeed, been sanctioned by the Almighty Himself. Religion carries Scripture around like some trophy-wife which makes religion itself look impressive, even though religion cares little for Scripture itself. That’s why religion blatantly ignores those portions of Scripture which stare it down and dare it to enter into honest dialogue. Religion is the opposite of everything we read in 1stCorinthians 13:4-8. Maybe take a moment and read those verses again in your bible, and then allow me to take that short passage and substitute the word Religion where we find the word Love, and then allow me to modify the description accordingly. It would read something like this:

“Religion is impatient and harsh; religion is full of envy and regularly exalts itself, it is not humble or selfless. Religion insists on its own way; it is hair-trigger sensitive and fuming; it pounces on those who fail, and is frequently irritated with the truth. Religion is intolerant with infractions, suspicious and judgmental of others, deflates hopes, and quits on you if you step out of line. Religion is only nice to you when you call it Master.”

I have now been a Christian longer than I was an unbeliever. Religion got me pretty early after my conversion and held me tight for a minute, but Jesus was so good to save me after He saved me. Yes, I have been saved twice: once via justification from my sin and the second time through deliverance from the snare of man’s religion. I am personally convinced that multitudes of people have been trained by religious masters to bow at an inferior altar of a religious version of Christianity. Could there be any other explanation for the maddening difference between what we see in those Christian in the book of Acts versus what we see today? A life defined by Jesus Christ and filled by the Holy Spirit will be indelibly marked with elements of other-worldliness. There will be joy. Wisdom will be present. Love will serve as that person’s rudder. Truth will be their anchor. Hope will be that believer’s raised mainsail, catching winds from the Holy Spirit that bring that person from station to station as the Father as ordained. Religion has a zero-tolerance policy for uniqueness in individuals. I sometimes hear the Holy Spirit laughing at the religious notion that all the children of God are to function with next to zero variety among us. Religion manufactures assembly line adherents, whereas the active presence and power of the Holy Spirit moves among us in ways that actually highlight our diversity from one another. A simply reading of 1stCorinthians 12-14 will remind us that God delights in intentionally creating us uniquely as different parts of Christ’s body with different Kingdom purposes assigned to us. Religion frowns upon those who walk out their unique identity in Christ. Grace is a liberator. Religion protests freedom.

So, I make no apologies today for telling religion to go to hell. I mean it. Religion needs to return to the one who originated it: Satan. Religion needs to go to hell which is its actual eternal resting place. When we step into the vibrancy of life in Jesus Christ, religion holds nothing for us anymore. Honestly, I concluded a decade ago that I could not do church anymore. Many others have decided that same thing but, unfortunately, their answer was to walk away from the local church. Bad move. Religious move. Why not stay and foster reformation and help to remedy the problem instead of religiously protesting it and walking away in a presumed spiritual strut? We love the Church and love to gather with believers in homes, in retreats, in Sunday services. We love to serve others from the origination point of joy and selflessness, not guilt and fear. Investing financially into Kingdom works becomes an adventure for us, not a burdensome duty. Sharing the message of Jesus with those who do not know Him is not some religious mandate for which we are being graded. No, when religion is exchanged for life in the Spirit, we talk about Jesus effortlessly because we love Him supremely and find it hard not to speak of Him. Prayer also takes on a new dimension because religion’s clipboard and scoresheet have been replaced with our heads resting on the infinite chest of God’s Son as we share with Him from our dependent hearts.

There is a difference, friends. Welcome Him today to come fully into your life with an omniscient eye and omnipotent hand to take down any and all false monuments. Be brave and ask Him to begin to clear the fields of your heart – welcome Him to expose what religious roots might exist therein. Tell Him that you have a suspicion that the former harvests from your life have now molded and that you ache for new seed, new sprouts and a new season.

Pray to Him that He will ruin you in this season. On the other side of that ruin is your revival.

 

 

Comments 5

  1. Bro. Jeff when I first got Saved out of the world, I knew the Word of God written in the Bible was the only true life I could live by. Till this day I have never had a religion and the only denomination I have, even though I attend a Baptist church in a small town in Alabama is, “Jesus Christ and him crucified.” God bless my brother.

  2. Give us a Top 10 of what you mean / hate about ‘Religion’? People hear a lot about breaking the ‘spirit of religion’ without much info of what people mean by ‘Religion’. Thanks

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      Chris, my Top-10 is unique to my own experience so my list will definitely not be exhaustive – possibly not even balanced. Some people over use the term “religious spirit” to describe anything that might infringe upon their presumed autonomy to do whatever they want as a believer. I think that the best general description of “religion” is any man-made attempt to secure a right standing with God. This manifests itself in tradition or legalism in most cases. In the other direction, religion could also refer to any broad, undefined expression of God’s nature, God’s ways, or God’s will that is not rooted in the revelation of Scripture. Having said that, here’s the Top-10 from my own experience:

      10. The subtle use of undefined measuring sticks to grade others in their commitments to God.

      9. The use of guilt and shame to produce desired behaviors in others.

      8. Laws, rules and demands in the utter absence of love, grace and patience. This is the ugliness of religion.

      7. People who are pre-occupied with what others may be lacking or doing while failing to place the same intense scrutiny upon their own souls. This is the essence of what Jesus taught in Matthew 7:3-5.

      6. Cherry-picking the Scriptures and emphatically declaring “Thus saith the Lord!” on some portions while completely ignoring other portions.

      5. Personal or denominational expectations/preferences being enforced in order to have spiritual fellowship with another (ex. bible translation preferences, musical preferences, modes of baptism, even the way people dress for church). This potential list of expectations/preferences is endless and without any objective standard.

      4. Enforcing cultural expectations upon people as if they were biblical expectations (my denominational history consistently proclaimed that the Bible said that having any alcohol was a sin. Clearly the Scriptures never state that, but most in our congregation believed it was a biblical prohibition. That expectation is also stronger in the Bible Belt than anywhere else)

      3. Twisting the Scriptures in order make them speak more emphatically on any subject than they actually do – religious pastors do this often in order to produce desired results in the lives of those whom they lead.

      2. Moral/behavioral expectations communicated/enforced which are not sourced in the Scriptures. This type of religious behavior demands outward conformity with little regard to the condition of people’s hearts.

      1. The discouraging of Christians to learn how to think for themselves, ask honest questions and operate in the freedom to disagree when they reach alternative conclusions base don their understanding of what Scripture reveals.

  3. I do not ascribe to any religion. However, my belief is that putting the Word to paper was a religious activity. The monks and other clerics whom I think were Catholic put Word to paper and, eventually, gave it to the people. Which brings up another question, since early Catholics put Word to paper isn’t it logical to assume that they put a religious slant on it? I’ve been trying for years to sort that out.

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      Leona, you are dipping your toe into the deep waters of the doctrine of canonicity as you ask this very good question. It would be impossible for me to fully answer your question here, but let me give you a link to an article that will help you from someone who took the time to write a condensed response. I will say that we can have all the necessary confidence to trust the 66 books of the Bible which we currently have. Check out https://www.gotquestions.org/canonicity-scriptural.html

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