Why Isn’t My Religion Working for Me?

Your religion wasn’t meant to work, any more than the Jewish faith worked for the Israelites! I know, you probably call your religion faith, but is it really faith or something else? Do you know the difference between Pseudo-Spirituality and True Spirituality? I will guarantee that most people do not know the difference, yet it is vital that you know!

It is not a matter that is often discussed about Jesus, but He lost a great deal of disciples over a particular teaching. The incident is recorded in John 6:25-69. The 70 disciples, not to be confused with the 12, could not understand and, therefore, tolerate the part about eating His flesh and drinking His blood in order to have life. Every time I read this story it is troubling for me, because the 70 lacked spiritual discernment to realize that Jesus was about to radically change their lives and that of the world for the better. I mention this story as a transition—a pause—since I may be about to rock your world. I fully expect most people will struggle with this topic. I am reminded of Paul’s admonition, “Prove all things, hold fast to that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Obviously, an extremely wise practice to follow.

About 25 years ago, I had a faith crisis and it took me 10 years to act on it; and, with that said, I temporarily took the wrong course. So, prepare yourself. If it is truly spirituality, Christ-likeness, you seek, then a tough road lies ahead. I think often of God saying He will “shake what can be shaken … so that what cannot be shaken may remain” (Hebrews 12:27). Sanctification means “to set apart for a holy use.”  We are not called to a life of ease. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, the calling of Christ is an invitation “to come and die.” It is a journey toward suffering, but it is more than that—”the cross means rejection and shame as well as suffering” (The Cost of Discipleship, p. 89). Jesus said, “I want to make this very clear, unless a wheat seed falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone. However, if it should die, it bears much fruit. The one who loves their life loses it, and the one who hates (detests, loathes, abhors, extreme repugnance for) his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (John 12:24, 25, my paraphrase). I can tell you, it is not in our human nature to die; instead, we are about survival, and it is natural for us to resist dying. God doesn’t ask us to die. He asks us to accept by faith that we already are dead in Christ. This concept of death is not understood doctrinally; it can only be realized by faith.

There are barriers to spirituality: the world, close friendships, self, religion, our wealth, and the desire to help God. “At times, it seems we require more grace to lose our wealth then to lose our life” (Watchman Nee, The Spiritual Man, p. 188)! Here is my question for you, Is anything worth more than genuinely walking with God? Our job, our spouse, or our children? All of us possesses an Isaac. I grew up loving team sports. It was in my DNA. Trust me, the older one gets, the easier it is to sit in the recliner and watch spectator sports. I used to be possessed by sports and it was what I predominantly talked about. Sports was one of my gods!

Let me ask you, is anything worth more than your relationship with God? What about your denominational affiliation? Is your religion—your denomination—prohibiting spiritual maturity? I once struggled the most with this question, as I was totally certain it was not. The reason: I did not view denominationalism as a man-made institution; especially mine. Pseudo-spirituality—hypocrisy—thrives under the cover of religion!!! The common denominator of all religions—rules—prevents Christ-likeness. Yes, each religion is distinguished by its own PECULIAR rules or belief system. We generally mistake progress in our religion for spiritual growth, and that is due to not understanding the true definition of what is spiritual. We usually have a distorted view of the Imago Dei (image or view of God) and this completely influences our definition of what is spiritual. I agree 100% with Bonhoeffer, spiritual has nothing to do with anything that is human. Spiritual is “that which is created only by the Holy Spirit, who puts Jesus into our hearts as Lord and Savior” (Life Together, p. 31). This is actually not Bonhoeffer theology, but Pauline.

The biggest barrier to spirituality (the Holy Spirit working within) is the Law. I expect the vast majority will reject this idea. After all, what’s wrong with the law? Nothing!!! In fact, the law is “holy, and just and good” (Romans 7:12). What is wrong is our understanding of the function of the law! The law is intended to reveal our sinfulness and lead us to our great need of a Savior—and that’s it! Read the books of Romans and Galatians and tell me it isn’t so. So, how does the law—what is holy, just, and good—prohibit growth? Because the law was never given to be obeyed, but to reveal to us that it could not be obeyed. As Paul said, “The laws … were added to increase the failure” (Romans 3:20). “Why, then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions” (Galatians 3:19). Paul is TOO CLEAR. If we think the Ten Commandments are still binding, we are under the condemnation of the law, cursed, not living by faith, but living by the flesh. Because, “the law is not of faith” (Galatians 3:12)! We are literally bound up and hemmed in by the law! As a result, the law is preventing spiritual progression, and this was Paul’s problem in Romans 7. Consequently, most confuse religious progression with spiritual progression; and they are radically diametrically opposed! Because of it, the vast majority of religious people are living out of the flesh, and that is why their spiritual life is full of up and down experiences. It is also why they avoid transparency like the plague. Spiritually, they are frauds! They are not living by faith alone in Jesus Christ. They have not a clue how to walk in the Spirit and avoid walking in sin. They are living a pseudo-spiritual existence according to the brand of their own religion. The solution is faith alone, as outlined in the book of Romans. So, here’s the question: Is your spiritual life being directed by man or by the Word of the Lord?



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