Here I am, asking Jesus to fix it again. This blog is about spiritual awareness. I decided to write this when I was talking to my husband the other day, as I go through this phase of spiritual awareness in my life. The first phase was many years ago when my religious naiveté wore off and I realized that everyone who called themselves a bible believing, born again, hymnal-carrying “church of God” Christians was not one. Back then, I was comforted by the Lord when he encouraged me to focus on Him alone. I realized that you can’t make other people do right, you’re only responsible for your own life in Christ.
Since our religion prided itself on producing pristine Christian specimens it was actually a shock that so MANY were not what they claimed, and the additional shock (cue the angelic choir–the 2nd awakening moment!) that despite our strong claims of bringing down the judgements of almighty God and keeping the church clean, some folks were allowed to run amuck and still hold their church hymnal on their chest. Imagine that!
I could have jumped ship.
But I had to grow up and realize that despite these problems and unintentional gaffs, at least in my circles, there were more good people than bad and I did deeply believe the teachings on salvation, and living a holy life and any church I can walk into on this planet will have problems.
So as the Lord walks me through this phase, He seems have pointed out one thing. Religion can be an Addiction. Like crack, alcohol or any other substance abuse. This is tricky because Christ must be first and following him must be a priority our lives, but to separate serving a Christian organization from serving Christ can be a task worthy of the most skilled surgeon. Of course, that spiritual surgeon is Christ.
Here’s the difference I believe: YOU CAN GET CAUGHT UP IN A RELIGIOUS PRACTICE AND STOP PUTTING GOD FIRST. Really. You can.
Once you get saved and come to church, it’s all good, but people can become masters of practicing religion and forget about truly following the one that saved them.
There’s a difference between loving Jesus and loving Church services.
There’s a difference between worshiping a religious institution and its practices, and worshiping the Lord.
Often we get the two mixed up and feel that if we keep “traditions”, following those dictates become our salvation.
When Jesus came here anyone that criticized what the Jewish elders and Pharisees had set up to worship God became an enemy. At that point in time, the Jewish religion had added so many traditions that God never even ordained, and the leaders held everyone to their traditions as if these were the words of God himself.
Look at this exchange between Jesus and the Pharisees:
Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!” Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? ( Matthew 15:1).
When you start hearing cries of “that’s the way it’s always been done”…look out. A man-made tradition is being developed right there, and everyone is afraid to move — in spite of how they feel inspired by the Spirt of God or in spite of evidence of error!
So isn’t that truly choosing tradition over being spirit-led and spirit-filled?
This is when religious practice and Jesus consciousness clash.
We should always obey God’s leading.
When folks are getting all upset, pointing fingers and reading to jump through the stained-glass windows, KNOW this, they are holding to a practice and…and this is a big and… if they are not doing so now, they will begin to worship their religion above God and his Son.
Here’s a question: what does one do when obeying the spirit of God conflicts with Church rules? Am I free to follow that leading?
How has my innocent love for truth crossed over into negative and destructive territory?
I believe, that some would far rather sit in an empty church, comfortable in knowing that they kept the dictates of religious practice than make any adjustments to their religion to reach lost souls for Christ.
Isn’t this what Paul taught when he encouraged the Romans in Romans, Chapter 14 to stop squabbling about who eats meat and who doesn’t. For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. (Romans 14:17 KJV)
So here it is:
Here are 5 sad signs of religious addiction and boy do we need a revival:
- I am performing my religious activities more than taking care of my natural life. There is no balance. My finances are neglected, my job is being effected, my family relationships are falling apart or even cut off, or my marriage is suffering. But I still refuse to change anything I am doing. This is a sign of wrong priorities. Jesus will counsel us more about our natural life than anything else, we have to make time to apply the lessons he teaches.
- Performing my religious duties makes me feel more in control of my life? Religious duties should not be the source of your control and calm.
- I feel anxious or upset when I cannot function in my place or perform a religious duty? What is the priority here? Don’t you know addicts become fidgety when they can’t get their drugs? What is happening here?
- My religious practices have disrupted my life and relationships? Say for example you planned to go to college. No problem, but you are so busy performing for this religion that you can’t complete your courses or make decent grades. Another example: you want to be a doctor, but people in the religion frown on that so you change your plans. Your relatives outside of the church invite you to a picnic or reunion and you feel guilty because it clashes with a bible study or church service (something you already go to on a regular basis). Or you only have 10 people to Pastor but you refuse to do secular work in order to “watch over the church”, thus keeping your family in unnecessary poverty?
- I notice that I have tolerance issues. In this case, my tolerance for opposing views is low. An addict needs high doses of something to get the original high. So with religion, I become fanatical just to feel spiritually functional. The high dosage of religion practice is the only thing that makes me feel spiritual. It becomes the only measure of my religious experience.
Here’s a test of tolerance: When someone breaks precious rules of my church am I more concerned about the rules or the person that broke the rules. In my mind, are they a problem, a danger to the entire religion or a “difficulty” that I don’t mind offending and would rather see them leave than stay?
The biggest thing I believe that Jesus wants, is for each of us to get in touch with who we are and to live our lives in holiness and righteousness to win others to salvation. But I know that he does not want us to worship our religious institutions.
Something to think about.