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Monday, July 30, 2012

How to Get Past Religion - Romans 8 Part III

If you follow my blog regularly, you probably know I’ve been covering Romans 8 on a bi-weekly basis. I spent an entire month meditating on this chapter, and was so inspired that I wanted to share it with you. I’m looking at it in the Message version, and while some might argue that this is not the most literal translation, there are two things about it I really like. 1) It was translated directly from the Greek and Hebrew by someone who shares our mindset rather than a group of translators in the 16th century. 2) There is a freshness to the translation that really ministers to someone like me who grew up in church.

For my third installment of this series, I’m going to breeze quickly through a bigger chunk of scripture that all deals with the same subject, how get past religion and move onto God.

 5-8Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God's action in them find that God's Spirit is in them—living and breathing God! Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life. Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God. That person ignores who God is and what he is doing. And God isn't pleased at being ignored. 

Here’s the first thing I’ve noticed about religious Christians who are focused on morality and other outward issues rather than on the spiritual world and the spirit of God: They have a lot rules. Exhausting rules, and as we saw in Part II, that is not God’s plan. It’s a dead sort of Christianity. Christ freed us from the curse of the law. Not only do they have a lot of rules for themselves, they have a lot of rules for everyone else, and seem to want to control those around them. They often seem angry and have a chip on their shoulders. I translate it as, “If I have to follow these awful rules, then so do you, darn it!” Although, of course, we all know they would never use the actual word “darn” ;) No wonder the world doesn’t like so many Christians. No wonder so many unbelievers think church is a hypocritical, judgmental sort of place. Christians are putting so much pressure on themselves, that they’re stressed out and upset. And often downright angry and mean.

 9-11But if God himself has taken up residence in your life, you can hardly be thinking more of yourself than of him. Anyone, of course, who has not welcomed this invisible but clearly present God, the Spirit of Christ, won't know what we're talking about. But for you who welcome him, in whom he dwells—even though you still experience all the limitations of sin—you yourself experience life on God's terms. It stands to reason, doesn't it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he'll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself? When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ's! 

There’s a lot of pride and self-centeredness bound up at the heart of religiosity. I have to do it myself. I have to control myself. I have to follow the rules. I…I…I. Where’s God’s place in all of this. He sets the rules and walks away? No, that’s not the point at all. The rules were only ever meant to guide us and point the way to fulfillment and happiness. To set us free to accomplish God’s plans for our lives. If it’s his plan, his will, then he will do the work in us. Our job is to focus on him, to spend time with him, rest in his presence, and allow him to do a deep work in our hearts. God dwelling in us, bringing us fully to life. Take a minute to meditate on that. Imagine what it would look like to become fully alive through God’s spirit. What would that change in your life? Spend some more time to enter into his presence and let him become alive in you.

 12-14So don't you see that we don't owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent. There's nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. God's Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go! 

God’s spirit wants to bring you to life. He has things for you to do and places for you to go. So let go of all that self-centered religion and let God bring you to life today.

What ill effects have you seen from religion-based Christianity? How has it hurt you? How have you seen it hurt others? What can you do to get past religion and move onto God in a deeper way?


  1. Hi ,
    My experience growing up and still living in the bible belt ( Ga) is pretty depressing. To this day the fundamentalist still come around knocking on doors and confronting people with the same attitude a cop would have that's just pulled you over for a traffic stop. Think like we do , or burn forever. I'm left with the impression they want to turn the country into a theocracy .

  2. I know what you mean. Those sort of Christians drive me a little nuts :)