The Lie of Religion

Written on 05/03/2022
Christian Dunn

Verse: Colossians 2:20-23

20 Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: 21 “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? 22 These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. 23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.

What a perfect description of religion. Rules, regulations, appearances, self-imposed worship and false humility. When Jesus ascended into heaven he commissioned his followers to go and make "disciples" of all nations. From the beginning this was a movement of people on a mission. They, in fact, early on were simply called The Way. These were lifelong Jews who were discovering that God had always wanted more than religion, he had wanted friendship, relationship, and love. 

As time has passed, of course, Christianity has drifted into religion. People have added "man made rules" to the Word of God, and legalism ("do not ... do not ... do not") has crept in as well. I remember growing up Christians in some circles I was part of were encouraged not to wear jeans, not to go to the movies, and not to listen to music with too many drums (there's no such thing by the way!). Whenever we add to Scripture, we get ourselves in trouble. Simple following the rules, looking like we've got our lives together, and being "good people" isn't the goal of Christianity.

Jesus isn't looking to make us look like good people, he's looking to transform us from the inside out to become more like him. It's not about appearances, it's about character. It's not about checking the most religious boxes, it's about humility, sacrifice, and service. It's not about religion, it's about relationship with Jesus.

Where in your life do you see legalism creeping in? Now, legalism isn't the same as obedience. The Bible is clear that obedience to God's word is part of loving Jesus. Love and obedience go hand in hand. Legalism, on the other hand, is trying to earn God's love by what we do. It's inverted obedience. Obedience flows from knowing we are loved, and loving Him back. Legalism tries to become worthy of love by being as good as possible in our own strength.

Religion and legalism tend to slowly kill the people who serve them. They promise you heaven, but they put you through hell (to quote Bon Jovi). Jesus promised to give us true life - abundant life. A life of grace, love, peace, and faith. Let's resist the temptation to be in control by using religion and legalism to feel better about ourselves and "earn" our salvation. Let's instead learn to lean into the joy and grace that Jesus offers. Let's enjoy the relationship he offers us. 

Thank you God that you offer us so much more than a stale legalistic religion. Thank you for true life in you!