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.