The Religious Spirit…
But first my story…
I grew up in a loving, Christian home. I read my Bible, attended Sunday School and church services whenever the doors were open, prayed, studied the Bible… I attended a Bible college, got involved in mission work, did everything I could to honor and pursue the Lord. My heart was to please the Lord. All good, right?
As the years passed, I began to realize that my life consisted a lot in doing. The Christian life had become a struggle — a struggle to do and trying to be by doing.
“…trying to be by doing.”
I felt more like an onlooker rather than a participant in the realities of the love and power in the “Kingdom” of God.
“…felt more like an onlooker rather than a participant…”
I remember crying out to God for Him to increase my love — to return me to my “first love.”
I knew all of the right things (for the most part), did all of the right things (for the most part), but inwardly, I knew that something was lacking.
God began to reveal to me that I was trying to relate to Him intellectually and through self-righteousness.
Relating to God on an intellectual basis is very easy to do! It’s especially easy if we are more analytical in our approach, more fear-based, only allow what we can understand into our lives, prefer security, prefer predictability, avoid vulnerability, etc…
I am going to step out on a limb here and say that a religious spirit summarizes this pursuit of God by doing.
The religious spirit is a struggle to be enough by doing enough.
It is looking to self and relying on my own actions to measure my worthiness and His approval of me. It is all self-focused.
Intellectualism ties into the religious spirit because it is trying to convince myself, God, and others that I am worthy, spiritual, and have a relationship with God, based on what I know about Him.
I am very thankful for all that I did and still do in my life to seek God and to learn more about Him, but what I was lacking before was knowing Him intimately instead of as an onlooker.
Note: I was a Christian at this point. I was pursuing God and loved Him to the best of what I knew as love. The point is, my love wasn’t very great because I didn’t understand and hadn’t received the fullness of His love for me.
I wasn’t experiencing the full reality of God because I didn’t fully understand His love for me.
I still don’t. It will take me a life-time and an eternity to comprehend the vastness of His love for me because it is infinite — without limits.
What happens though when we have a religious spirit is we truly don’t comprehend that His love is not based on us/me. It’s not given in measures, based on how I perform or don’t perform.
His love for me has nothing to do with how I perform, how I pray, how I worship, how much I know about Him, how much I serve Him.
His love has everything to do with Him!
We define love by our own experiences or the lack thereof. We think that God’s love is like what we have experienced and how we operate: given to those who like us or treat us well or that we like for some reason. This is why we so easily “fall in and out of love.” It’s really not love out all. It’s self-gratification.
Within us all is this longing to be loved like what God offers: unconditional, infinite, lavish.
We want someone to love us — I mean really love us. We want someone to know everything about us: all the good, bad, and ugly — and to love us anyway.
We are tired of trying to be enough by doing enough. We are tired of trying to earn love. What an agonizing struggle! What a sure way to suffer defeat, discouragement, shame, and guilt!
Does that mean there are no actions to our love?
Absolutely not! Authentic love will flow out into actions. It always is seeking to serve, to minister, to heal, to help, to release, to free…
The difference though is the root/heart motivation.
Is what we do motivated by trying to “please God” by doing? What we really mean by this is: “We don’t believe God is pleased with the way we are — that we are enough or loved the way we are — so we are trying to earn His love.”
This doesn’t mean change won’t occur. In fact, real change — real life transformation — occurs when we begin to live from the flow of His love for us and allow it to change the entire reason for the way we live.
Living for God no longer becomes about earning or doing enough to be enough. It becomes about surrendering to Him with full trust because we know He is good because of the reality of His love for us.
People can preach, teach, and tell you a lot about God’s love. You can preach, teach, and define God’s love, but until you have experienced the depths of His love personally, you will always be an onlooker to the realities of the wonder of God and His love for you!!!
As I blogged awhile ago now, Job learned the reality of God in the middle of His sufferings. He was a righteous and faithful man before his sufferings and honored by God, but as he states later in the chapter, it was through his sufferings he experienced the reality of God. His understanding of God was no longer intellectual and from an onlooker’s perspective. He now had a “front-line,” reality of it!
5 “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear,
But now my eye sees You.
What is your reality today?
What is your motivation for living and for what you are pursuing?
Do you really comprehend that God loves you completely just. the. way. you. are?
Do you understand that He wants you for your sake?
Do you understand that His love isn’t constraining or confining? It sets your soul and spirit free to truly soar!
Do you understand that God isn’t interested in what you know about Him? He is interested in you knowing Him.
God doesn’t want you to be a spectator to the realities of His love for you. He wants you to be “reveling” in its bounty, wonder, and overflowing abundance!