When we think of religion what usually comes to mind? A pristine cathedral with bronzed organ pipes reaching high up to the ceiling? Or perhaps a man in funny clothes: a long black robe, a strange collared shirt that literally no one else on earth wears, a strange hat on his head or perhaps sporting the longest and most unkempt beard you’ve ever seen!? Perhaps religion makes you think of the holidays: Christmas and Easter, literally the only time 30% of America attends religious services in any given year? Does the thought of religion bring haunting memories of the private school you attended, where the teachers would smack you on the hands with a ruler if you got out of line? Or does religion remind of something much worse? One of my friends confessed that I was the first person he told ever in his life about his priest touching him in ways a priest should never touch a young boy…
What does the thoughts of religion provoke in you?
For some these thoughts might be much more benign? Maybe thoughts of morality and the rules to keep society together come to your mind? Some may think of a kind and gentle minister who comforted them in a time of sorrow and loss? Many might remember their wedding, a funeral for a loved one or the chaplain who visited them in a hospital when their appendix was being removed as a child? The thought of religion might inspire within you the desire to do better: to quit smoking, to stop drinking or to clean up your act in some way? But the simple fact is, every single one of us on earth is provoked (for the good or the bad) if ever someone brings religion into the conversation, guaranteed.
But what if God never intended religion – what if it wasn’t in His mind when He created everything? Wouldn’t that absolutely change our entire view of God, religion, Christianity and so much of the world around us!? We would perhaps have to rethink many of the foundations of our lives. This is exactly what happened to me throughout 2001 and 2002.
It’s hard to explain how God speaks to us. But He does. Without a doubt, God is alive and is very capable of speaking to us. Late one night in 2002 I awoke by something or someone around 2am and I felt this warm and inviting presence in my bedroom. I thought maybe even someone was there with me! I wasn’t afraid or alarmed, my bedroom even felt somehow holy (and trust me, at 23 years old my bedroom wasn’t known for holiness, Hahaha). I can remember saying out loud, “Lord are you there?” The presence was so real in the room I thought maybe I would audibly hear a voice – but I did not. I laid there in the quiet wondering what was going to happen and feeling so much peace, it was almost like being drugged, but in the best way imaginable. But then, finally, I did hear something!!
I didn’t hear anything with my ears but it was very clear and very easy to understand, the voice said, “Robert, I never started a Religion”. That message came to me with such love and compassion, such confident assurance I couldn’t help but weep a little, overwhelmed with the beauty of the moment. You see, I had such shame and guilt those years. I couldn’t set foot in a church, I wouldn’t, I was so hurt by several religious leaders and offended by the things I saw in Bible College; I basically refused to go to church for several years. And it really really bothered me, I felt very guilty those years for not going. But then in the midst of all that shame and guilt Jesus showed up in my bedroom – in the middle of the night!
“I never started a religion…” Those words practically haunted me for days until I finally picked up the Bible again. I hadn’t read the Bible for probably two or three years but I had to see for myself, ‘religion just has to be in there somewhere!?’ I can remember thinking. Then it was Friday, I went to Barnes and Noble, to the coffee shop with my Bible and began reading it for the first time in, forever. But something had changed! I wasn’t offended anymore by it, I wasn’t bothered anymore by it being religious, I had to see for myself if that was in fact Jesus or some other voice telling me of His intentions… I read the whole New Testament in a weekend trying to find religion in Jesus’ gospels.
But it wasn’t in there!
Of all the things that make-up religion, those simply weren’t in Jesus’ messages at all!! He never created a hierarchy, quite the contrary He told them DO NOT RULE each other like the world rules (Matt 20:25,28; Mark 10:42-45; Luke 22:25-30). Jesus never built a building, He never instructed any of His disciples to build a building or a temple, or a synagogue - quite the contrary He explained, His body as the temple (John 2:19-22). Jesus was actually very light on rules and law but instead focused on doing Good Works, He focused on healing people, convincing them to love each other and that in God’s perfect love we would never break any law. Jesus practically took everything of religion and flipped it upside down! Then He threw over the tables in the temple and boldly judged the religious rulers throughout Israel. It was like I was reading the Bible for the first time ever…. Even after those years in Bible College.
He never wanted all the religious stuff, it’s simply not in His Word! I started to read the Bible like never before and it lasted for many many years. I wanted to understand literally everything written within it – the thirst inside of me for God’s truth was practically unquenchable for nearly a decade or more.
And the funny thing is, I am really not against religion. Religion is what it is, and many people find comfort and a relationship with God thru those doors. But what DOES immensely bother me is when men inject themselves between God and another man’s relationship with his Father – Jesus is the only mediator between man and God. And yet this is very common within religion, for the religious leaders to lord over their people. I have met literally thousands of ministers from every walk of life in some 30 nations throughout my travels. I have also met many men of God who are humble, sometimes even layman, some of the ones who had the biggest impact on my life were never formally ministers. I can remember a homeless man teaching me many new ways to look at life and the Holy Word of God. (You never know who God might use to teach you a thing or two.)
Jesus really didn’t have a lot against religion but He most definitely corrected the religious leaders, and often, as they often came against Him and His Word. Matthew 23 is an entire chapter full of warnings to those who would choose religion as their profession. Jesus was very interested in our Freedom! And religion can easily bind men to dogma’s, temporal rules and hierarchy. Jesus warns us of religion when He teaches, “As the blind leads the blind eventually everyone falls into the ditch.” And we are all blind in a way. None of us see perfectly. Here is a great scripture for you on the subject, “For judgement I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and they which see might be made blind.” (John 9:39-41) In our humility, in our meekness and lowliness we are made to see because we are hungry and open to the Truth, but in our arrogance and haughtiness we are made blind, and brought down.
It's time for religion to let the people of God go.
Religious Leaders, let the people go. Let them go up the mountain and be with their God if that’s what they want. Let them experience Him. Do not bind them to yourselves any longer. Set them free. Let them play. This world is our playground, God gave it to us, it’s ours. Let the people go out and discover Him for themselves. They aren’t afraid anymore, they want to know their God, they want to know their Creator, their Father. We don’t have to live afraid.
Of course there are apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers within the body of Christ - for the perfecting of the saints! Of Course!! But what if those concepts were never supposed to become religious!? What if they were never intended to be “Titles” but instead a description of how God uses people to bless His Church? Look again, none of that long-quoted scripture in Ephesians is capitalized! Don’t you think if God intended those descriptions to be titles, He would have made sure to capitalize them!? We are supposed to be serving each other. Not ruling. Serving. Remember, Jesus washed their feet as our example, He even said, “Do this one to another.” Not just wash each other’s feet but SERVE each other: love, don’t dominate, don’t rule, but love and serve. The word minister literally means servant.
What if God meant it quite literally that He wants to be our Father. Think of that prayer (which has become so religious, the one) we recite so very often, “Our Father in heaven…” Did you know the word used in the Bible for “Father” is the word, “Abba”. The word Abba translates most literally, “Dad” or “Daddy” it’s not a formal way of saying, “Father” but instead, “Our Dad in heaven…” or “Our Daddy who is in heaven… Holy is Your Name…” Sounds pretty different when we pray it that way!? This is how false religion is rooted out of us, when the Truth of God shines its light! “Dad, I want to know you. I want to be with you. Daddy, it hurts living down here sometimes. I get so afraid. I rarely know what to do. I mess up all the time. Help me, Dad. Save me. Save my family. I love them so much but I hurt them sometimes. Daddy, my heart is broken. Save me Dad. I need saving again.”
I’m afraid religion has made a terrible mess of things. It put us in chains when it was supposed to set us free. It made us feel dirty and ashamed when Jesus wanted them to wash us. Religion took so much from us when it was supposed to be generous and giving, kind and loving. The leaders hurt us, they broke our trust and led us astray when they were supposed to be our example of what it looks like to walk with the Living God! But Jesus is here now, even in these words, beaconing us to come back to Him. “That was never me,” He is telling us, “I never wanted that for you all. I wanted to make a way for you to know your God and Father, your Dad. And I did. I made a way. Now you can know Him. He will always receive you in my name. He will never ever turn you away, no matter how terribly you mess up. He loves you. Go to Him. Tell Him everything.”
But the devil loves to get us afraid. He uses fear like a dragon to scare us into subjection. And after living afraid for long enough we just basically give up. After a few decades, subject to fear, in bondage, trapped in a worthless and dead-end life, hope is lost and our hearts seem to shut off. But Jesus brings the dead back to life!! Now, Religion won’t do it. Religion can’t awaken the dead but the power of God is here with us. Jesus said, “I won’t leave you comfortless.” He sent us the power of God, His own Holy Spirit to quicken us to Life when we stray, when we wander and lose hope – His Spirit blows upon our spirit and soul, and suddenly we live again! If you have ever experienced this, it’s quite the miracle!
Go to Him if your heart is heavy. Tell Him everything. He wants to hear from you. He will never turn you away. He wants to hear how it hurts. He wants to hear how afraid you get. He wants to hear how angry you are. He wants to help you. He is the restorer of broken things: broken hearts, broken families, broken nations. Our Creator, Our God, He’s Alive! And He is very capable of doing miracles, to fix everything we have broken. Go to Him. Sit with Him and listen. He will speak. Tell Him the truth, He can handle it. He wants you to be with Him…. He loves you. Forever.
This Bible was never supposed to be religious…
The Bible is God’s love story to us. It’s our Dad writing down story after story to convince us, “I LOVE YOU. I will never leave you, I will never forsake you. Ever. I am here. Even when everyone else has abandoned you. I am with you. Always. Even to the ends of the world.” He tells us over and again thru those true stories, “I will save you. And you will be with me forever. I have a home for you. This world is not your home. It’s broken. Come back to me. I am your home. I’m preparing such an eternity for you. Return to me. I will fix everything.”
These aren’t just nice words. Its my testimony. It’s the testimony of everyone who has actually walked with God. We come to know Him. I have lived this with my Dad, for so many years now. I want you all to know Him too. Your heart will break but not forever. You will shed tears but then one day He will wipe the tears from our eyes and the suffering will be over. He never wanted this for us. We chose this to be our world. We chose to leave Him. He is fighting to win us back! And we must return to Him. He won’t force us. But He gently contends for our souls. And religion often gets in the way. Now, Go back to Him. Seek Him. Don’t worry about everything. Just start spending time with your God and Father. He will start to fix everything. He will lead us back home, to Himself.
Begin at the beginning. Jesus will do the rest…
With all my heart I would try to convince you, we can trust Him
I hope this helps.
Religion has messed a lot up over the years
But that was not God, that was not Jesus, that was broken men
God is not broken. And He wants to be our Dad…
He wants to bring us to Life!
And life more abundantly!
Start your new relationship with Him today.
Talk to Him, Talk to Him tonight!!
He is listening…
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