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?

 

 

Loving By Worldly Standards?

Traveling, reading books, PC language—ALL products of human engineering—do not cause us to love others. Suffering and experiencing God–more of God, less of self—transforms the heart into viewing people through God’s lens of compassion. Yes, reading and traveling contribute to understanding the plight of humanity, but political correctness ONLY reveals that we are attempting to live by culture’s fake standard! ONLY GOD CAN MAKE US SELFLESS LOVERS! Transformation is not a human achievement—IT IS ONLY SPIRIT—ACHIEVED!

Where Do We Go From Here?

The last US Presidential election had the nastiest tone of any in this writer’s memory. Personally, the election caused me to lose focus in my spiritual priorities. Oddly enough, this election had moral and spiritual components, and I was not about to be complacent about it. I am not sure, retrospectively, to what degree I should have been speaking out about the election. I just know that I became obsessed with it and I lost perspective. Really, it’s all about balance, isn’t it? Both of the major party candidates were polarizing characters, and myself and many other American’s were separated into Never ________ camps. Still, many have not accepted the election results. Two news organizations have referred to US as the Divided States of America. It is not the intention of this blog to attempt to enter into this political debate. It’s time to move on, otherwise we remain stuck—deadlocked in our opinions.

This morning I turned on the TV to get a weather update, as the Portland, Oregon area received fresh snow overnight. Generally, any amount of snow shuts the Portland roads down. To my surprise, the weather was not dominating the TV channel. Instead, NBC news was embroiled with the topic of Russian hacking and tampering with the election, and the moderators were speculating how Trump was going to dodge the bullet in his impending news conference. (I have not listened to the news—intentionally—for about a month. I did it for the sake of my health. I thought the Russian accusation was over, but I was mistaken.) There was a strong innuendo on NBC news that the intelligence community had exposed Trump and he was dead in the water. During the news conference, Trump exposed that the Michael Cohen accused of meeting with the Kremlin in Prague was not his attorney—and the passport of his Michael Cohen confirmed he had never been to Prague. When will the witch hunt end? When will we, as American’s, move on? It appears that American politics is so dead in the water that it has to have some on-going soap opera conspiracy! So, where do we go from here?

I’d like to suggest that it is in our best interest to do a 180. I have found from experience that when Jesus is my main focus, everything else pale’s in significance. In Philippians 3:7-14, Paul shares the importance of considering everything worthless for the sake of knowing Christ. He infers that there are things that can interfere with and disrupt our walk with God. Explicitly, Paul did not want anything to interfere with daily dying and the resurrection experience. We are not here to be sidetracked by any issue; instead, we are here to know Him better—to FULLY enter into His death.

We are not called to follow a man, Jesus Christ, and live however we so choose. We are called to die! That’s why Paul said that “I might participate in His sufferings.” Spirit-walking is a life walk through a death experience. Becoming too engaged in political debate does not help me to die to self in order to live and suffer for God. On the contrary, Paul warned Timothy (1 Tim. 6) of entering into needless debates. Timothy was admonished to flee these things and pursue godliness.

I admitted earlier that I became sidetracked by the election. Now, there is THE NEED to regain focus on what really matters. I need to know Christ—intimately—and enter into his sufferings. Suffering doesn’t come easy for me, or anyone else for that matter. I only know that suffering makes me more compassionate, more loving, more Christ-like. I cannot know the power of His resurrection if I am not suffering and dying for Him. I cannot walk in the Spirit if I am not visiting Calvary. I may only know His resurrection life as, by faith, I am dying to sin, the world, and to self. Notice: I can’t even die—no one can! Jesus is the only One who ever did it. That’s why it is by faith, and that’s why it is a walk in the Spirit and not a work of the flesh.

 

New Resolutions

I am assuming by now that most of us have chosen and already initiated working on our new year resolutions. Generally, our resolutions coincide with legitimate, individual, needs. I’d like to suggest a spiritual goal that is applicable to most anyone. Whether you believe in new year resolutions or not, Spirit-walking is a good habit to put into practice any time of the year. My blog is about Spirit-walking, and it is also my suggestion for the new year. Spirit-walking is a mystical experience. It is not something that I will be able to explain in a few paragraphs and neither is it an experience easily understood by the human intellect. This is a faith experience that exceeds the boundaries of the intellect. The Apostle Paul devoted one book—Romans—to explaining how to walk in the Spirit. Spirit-walking is not something that someone may grasp by merely reading the book of Romans. Although Spirit-walking is biblical, it is not a very well-known Christian belief. It was actually abandoned in the first Century A.D., along with many other beliefs. Unfortunately, Christianity, as a whole, has not adopted it again. Instead, some have relegated it to a one-time experience known as “born again.” Spirit-walking begins with being born again, and this is why born again is often referred to as “the new birth.” The new birth is an entry point to walking in the Spirit. It is like a general contractor who begins with the pouring of the foundation—only, the foundation is the initial phase—there is a structure that follows. Anyone who has been born again knows that what comes next is similar to a roller coaster ride (to be explained in another blog). As well, a builder knows the foundation is the easy part; along with the structure comes unexpected encounters. So, I am not merely inviting you to take a thrill-ride but a journey—an unforgettable and unregrettable journey.

First blog post

This is the excerpt for your very first post.

We have Facebook but nothing equaling its popularity as a public domain for discussing faith in God and nurturing the spirit. Actually, I have not found Facebook to contribute to my spiritual experience, but to be a distraction from it. Consequently, Facebook has been an addiction to a sharing of finite rather than infinite matters. Perhaps that problem is only unique for me or others can also identify. C.S. Lewis said, “All that is not eternal is eternally useless.” So, if it does not have lasting value, there’s no value in it. I am not suggesting that Facebook is immoral; merely recognizing that I have been overly indulgent in my time with it. After all, it really is about finding balance, eh? So, it is my intention to make this my positive contribution to Facebook. Politics is not my genre of expertise, anyway. Instead, ultimately, it has been a detour down a dead-end road. And, I intend that to apply to me and to me only. Some are only too aware that the majority of my Facebook posts have been political and, at times, controversial. During the recent U.S. Presidential election cycle, I lost some friends and, perhaps, created enemies. So, this is a matter of intentionality for me to regain focus, reengage my expertise, and encourage the spirits of others. Just as an addendum, I will be gingerly determining to what degree I become involved with Facebook in the future. It is my hope to remain vigilant about “encouraging one another while there is still time.”