Lately my heart has been breaking over all the ways in which we have ruined the Gospel. Just.Plain.Ruined.It. In general the church in American has bought and sold a gospel that is a far cry from the one Jesus died for. How have we done that?
I stumbled upon these words from Max Lucado which put words to some of my thoughts on the subject:
“We prefer to get salvation the old-fashioned way: We earn it. To accept grace is to admit failure, a step we are hesitant to take. We opt to impress God with how good we are rather than confessing how great He is. We dizzy ourselves with doctrine. Burden ourselves with rules. Think that God will smile on our efforts.
God’s smile is not for the healthy hiker who boasts that he made the journey alone. It is, instead, for the crippled lepar who begs God for a back on which to ride.”
It is so much easier to shrink following God down to that we can wrap our head around and control, tasks we can achieve and cross off our list to give us some assurance that we have attained and earned the right to be called God’s sons and daughters. But reducing God to religion, to traditions, rules, doctrine and “acceptable Christian behavior” squeezes Him completely out of the picture. We completely miss the point. Just like the pharisees that Jesus directed all of his rebukes to. God is not religious. Religion kills our hearts, it kills the Gospel. For years I’ve heard people say “It’s not about religion it’s about relationship”. Yet for years I’ve seen a lot of “relationships” with thoughts and ideas about God rather than with God himself.
Bill Johnson said
“Revelation from scripture must take us to an encounter with God or it will only serve to make us more religious.”
We can manipulate scripture to fit any agenda we want or we can allow it to penetrate to our hearts and lead us into an encounter with a living breathing God who speaks to us now. What does this mean… “an encounter with God”? God must be experienced with our senses because we cannot possibly understand Him with our minds. Encountering God is a sensory experience that leads us into intimacy and relationship. An encounter with God is an encounter with LOVE. After a Love encounter you are never the same. Encounters with the living God change our hearts, renew our minds, heal our disease, deliver us from bondage into freedom, and give us joy – the strength for living. It is eating from the Tree of Life!
Jesus says to us,
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30, The Message )