When I entered into this relationship with God I discovered a peace and joy I’d never experienced before. At times I could feel God with me in a way that I simply can’t describe.
After college graduation I decided to go to seminary. I thought, “Surely I’ll grow a lot closer to God by going to seminary. I’ll study about that relationship full time. What could be better?”
The first seminary I attended focused primarily on two things. First, why the Bible couldn’t be trusted and second how social action was paramount.
It left me feeling bewildered and adrift so I left.
The next seminary I attended focused on the Bible and applying it in personal piety. Sounded great at first but the subtle message became, “Here are the rules. To the degree you follow them God will bless you. To the degree you fail He won’t.”
I became overwhelmed with the tyranny of trying to please God.
Some nights I would wake up in a cold sweat. I’d slip out of bed while my wife slept quietly and go to a spare bedroom to pray.
I told God, “I don’t know why I keep failing but I can’t keep this up much longer.”
After struggling for months I discovered an answer that would revolutionize my life again.
This story of Jesus was one of the keys.
Some religious leaders came to Jesus to condemn him for allowing his disciples to break their religious traditions. The disciples weren’t following the proper religious technique for washing their hands. I know, pretty big. And guys are still the same.
What they really were saying to Jesus was, “See you can’t be the Messiah. Otherwise your disciples would be like ours and follow all our religions rules.”
Jesus answered, “So why do you disobey God’s word to follow your own teachings?”*
In another place I read, “For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on a promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise.”**
Over time I understood.
Following religious rules can never give us a relationship with God. In fact they only show us we can never earn it.
See the only way into that relationship is by asking and believing in the one who offers it.
Then we continue in it in the same way we entered it, by faith.
When I discovered that, I found the relationship I’d lost.
I found again freedom from my failures. I realized I’m forgiven from them all and will be of the ones tomorrow.
I rested again in my acceptance into God’s family as his child.
I felt the comfort knowing that I’ll never stop being his child. No matter what I do or how far I fall I never fall out of the love of my father.
I discovered freedom from manmade religious rules. Freedom from the tyranny of trying to follow rules that are impossible.
Once again I could sense God’s presence. I would hear his quiet voice in my heart. I knew I wasn’t alone.
I felt again that joy and peace deep inside which I’d lost. I felt free to enjoy life to its fullest.
And I felt love again for those around me. Not out of obligation trying to gain something but out of a deep profound gratitude for all I’d been given already.
I never went back to the tyranny of religion. In fact I’ve rebelled against it ever since. I was set free finally and I never gave it up.
Have you ever discovered this?
*Matthew 15: 3
**Galatians 3: 18 (NIV)
Photo Credit: Steve McClanahan; Creative Commons