Strong spirits: God doesn't want you to have religion

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Would it surprise you if I told you that God does not want you to be religious? At least not in the sense that I am thinking of...

Oh, he wants you to have faith, and he encourages you to do the spiritual disciplines that will help you find and grow that faith. What he doesn't want is you and I slavishly plodding through a lot of rules and regulations. He doesn't want us thinking that by our own efforts we can somehow get right with him. It's not that he is opposed to the commandments. After all, he wrote them. It's just that there is something more, and if we miss it, we miss everything.

God doesn't want you to be religious. He wants you to be real. He doesn't want you to have religion. He wants you to have a relationship. With himself. Apart from this, all our attention to right living falls short.

"If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." Jesus to the rich, young ruler (Matthew 19:21)

"Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death." Paul the apostle (Romans 8:1,2) 

Jesus came to fulfill the law. He came to set us free. He paid the price for that freedom with his death on the cross for us... for all of us. He doesn't invite us into a new religion. He invites us into a real, loving relationship with himself. Isn't that better?

Gary Schwerin serves as pastor at Caledonia Congregational Church. He is also the Spiritual Development Minister for the YMCA of the Rock River Valley and Executive Director of Bridge Ministries of Rockford. Prior to launching Bridge Ministries, Gary spent many years in leadership with Young Life. His column appears every Sunday.



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