I Want Jesus But I Can't Stomach Religion...
I actually started writing the thoughts in this post last year, but I never completed it. I am not sure if I ever intended on publishing it, but I found it in my notes and was moved to finish and publish it. I am a "deconstructing" follower of Christ; who has been for at least the last decade prayerfully reconstructing a Spirit-led theology that is Christ centered, justice oriented, and founded in Love. I guess you can think of me as a reconstructionist.
My goal is never to tear people down, but it has been and will continue to be necessary to tear down the "strongholds" of false, toxic, and unfruitful religious thought and practice that have so often hindered people from being able to find union with God in Christ. These stumbling blocks must be removed so that people can see the true Jesus. To see Him is to desire to know Him. Only when people are able to see Jesus for who He really is, can we generate authentic building blocks of faith that lead to a fully connected relationship with God through His Son Jesus. With this in mind, I hope the thoughts I have shared below will resonate with you...
I want Jesus...but I can’t stomach religion.
I’m not disparaging religion nor religious people. I’m not even claiming that I’m not religious. I think I have always been to varying degrees. I think everyone is religious to some degree.
Religion is not just about sects, beliefs, and lifestyles and views about the nature of God. Religion is humanity’s attempt to decide for themselves what is good and what is evil, while placing God’s name (and authority) on top like a cherry. And again, religion is humanity’s endeavor to experience unity or equality with the Divine, without the input, intervention, or invitation from the Divine. Religion has had some beautiful expressions of discipline, piety, and goodwill toward mankind...as well as some toxic, cancerous and destructive expressions. Of course it is commonly known that religion is often used to control, abuse, murder, and oppress people. Christianity is no exception, and it is also not unique to Christianity. The non-religious like to often point this out (they are absolutely correct), and then make their escape by claiming to be non-religious...yet they go on to create their own set of rules about what is good and evil, and how people should relate to the divine (if at all, which in some cases, means to them God does not exist, or they decide to be their own god).
Most people, whether they believe in a god or not, have their own personal take on spirituality (even if that take boils down to naturalism). In my opinion, whatever part of the spectrum of belief one finds oneself on, people are generally quite religious. And this tendency for people to make up the rules for themselves, aside from the counsel of God, is the same thing God warned Adam and Eve about in the garden (At this point in my life, I’m pretty convinced that it wasn’t about a piece of fruit 😂). The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is the principle by which most of the world and human race has chosen to govern itself....and it has led to mass death and destruction. This way of governing the earth (and yes- God has a way of governing the earth) was not God’s way or purpose.
The reason why religion fails to connect people to God in authenticity, is because it is the very model that God told us to stay away from. It doesn’t matter what religion you choose, or even “no religion”, they all have requirements that you can’t live up to. A life of religion is just as much a life of bondage as a life of sin....but what makes it worse is that religious people tend to be plagued with religious pride (this with all certainty includes the proudly “non-religious”).
But what is the alternative???
Enter Jesus... who calls BS on all of it, starting with the very tradition He was born into. I say this cautiously because I realize that Jesus was devout and obedient to everything within Judaism that lined up with the nature of His Father. But he also challenged the status quo interpretations of His tradition of origin in some ways, and was an outright maverick in other ways.
He forgave sins (not allowed unless you are God); He healed the sick miraculously and performed other miraculous works- real ones, not that pharaoh mess LOL (again, God stuff); Jesus preached to crowds of people about their “Father in Heaven” (why was He doing that when nobody said the “sinner's prayer” yet, nor had he even died and risen yet? 🤔); and worst of all.... in addition to the over 600 rules that already existed within Judaism (not including other required traditions to be observed), Jesus had the nerve to make up a new rule”...
“Love one another as I have loved you”
The New Testament is full of the words and teachings of Jesus. Yet if you mark His behavior and the ultimate summation of His teachings, I think you will find two major things... 1. Total dependence and constant fellowship with Father God and 2. Being an expression of love to every other part of creation, no matter what their station in life.
I mean....That doesn’t sound very religious to me, I mean, supposing that God is real, and that He’s not you or me. (Hint...He’s not me LOL....almost fooled ya there.)
A third element of the work of Jesus that may trip people up, is His identity, (and the consequent significance of His death and resurrection.) The Divinity of Jesus has been disputed throughout various eras of the church, with controversial clashes among the religious elite, but I ain’t in the mood to dig into that right now- google that for yourself, mmmkay LOL).
But what were some of the things Jesus shared about Himself?
*He told people to follow Him
*He told people to “learn of Him”
*He told the woman at the well that He was Messiah (cue debate about the ancient Jewish beliefs about whether or not the Messiah would have the divine nature or not- again hit up google or your favorite bible scholar LOL)
*He forgave sins...not just minor personal offenses that people committed against Him. He forgave people’s most egregious sins against Almighty God.
*John the Baptist said that Jesus was the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, and Jesus did not correct Him. He praised John as the greatest prophet that ever lived.
*Jesus told His disciples “You believe in God, believe also in Me.
*Jesus told people that the work of God was to “believe in the One that He has sent.
*Jesus said “I and My Father are One” (He wasn’t talking about Joseph LOL
*Jesus once told the Pharisees, “before Abraham was, I Am.” (They got pretty mad about that and tried to attack and kill him, if I remember correctly. They understood that He was claiming divinity, and to them that was blasphemy).
You may want to point out that Jesus never came out and said....”Ey yall, been meaning to tell you this....I’m God in the flesh....yeah I know, I know...it’s an awkward topic and I didn’t know how to bring it up. But I think that given what we know now, you should all bow down and worship Me.”
Nope, that’s not His style.
So many people say that since Jesus didn’t come out and make an explicit statement, then we shouldn’t conclude that He is God. But this is because we miss a VERY IMPORTANT aspect of God’s nature.... humility.
God doesn’t have to tell people He is God. All God has to do is BE, and those who have eyes to see and ears to hear will see Him for who He is. He creates the world, adorns the galaxies in glory, He encodes the complexities of the natural world and leaves humankind to discover them. He humbles Himself to His creation and loves them, listens to them (especially those considered the “outcasts”, “the sinners”- He shows special favor to these people). He speaks in riddle-like parables and refuses to explain them, He hides himself at nearly disastrous weddings and replenished the booze, he cries when His best friend dies, he gets angry when people try to sell silly sacrifices, demons literally scream in agony when he is anywhere in their vicinity- He doesn’t even judge the demons (not until the appointed time), He just drives them out, because to Him, people deserve to live in peace and in their right mind, he receives insults and doesn’t return them, He tells jokes that go over everyone’s head (for centuries on end, I might add), tries to tell people how simple it is to Love God and other people, and despite that most people don’t believe Him. And to top it all off, He ends up being majorly rejected by His people, betrayed and executed by the state. I mean, He's God. His ultimate flex is that He doesn't have to flex. He can let His enemy completely defeat Him, and still emerge victorious. That's what happened when God raised Jesus from the dead.
This is not the story of a man who came to start a new religion.
He came to proclaim a Kingdom, a Dominion, a Rulership, to lay claim on a Jurisdiction.
Jesus came to reclaim what was always rightfully His-
the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory.
The entire Universe, Cosmos, and any and everything that was ever created…It was all created for Him, to be ruled and governed by Him.
He laid down His life (no one took it from Him) for this purpose- the restoration of all things.
This is not a religion.
This is the very meaning of our existence.
This is the purpose of life.
When this is revealed to you (as only God knows how to reveal it), you cannot be the same. The way you fundamentally think and function will never be normal again, because you have the unshakeable realization that Jesus is in fact, Lord. And until the entire creation comes into alignment and under subjection to this eternal reality, your heart will yearn and groan for it. You will not look at the world the same. You will cry out to God for His Kingdom to come and His will to be done. You will no longer be able to stomach religion. You will yearn for the life that is in Christ. This is how life is supposed to be for those of us who are awaiting His return.
This is why I want Jesus, and need Him more and more daily.
To know Him is the highest goal and desire of any person to whom He has been revealed. He is the most Precious Treasure in Life. He is the Kingdom and He is the King. Our union with Him, our life in Him, and the continued spread of His Kingdom is the highest purpose of Life.
Seek Him for yourself and you will see.
God is not looking to convert you to a religion.
He wants to give you so much more…
Something so much greater…
Something that religion could never have the power or ability to attain.
He wants to give you Himself.