“If you want to be a good Christian and please the Lord, then you need to read your Bible everyday.” “If you really want to grow in your faith you need to volunteer on a ministry team at church.” “If you’re not witnessing to your unsaved co-workers and family regularly you aren’t very mature as a Christian.”
I have been around church folk long enough to hear these comments in my 30 years as a Christian. Over the years I have heard comments like this and found myself feeling guilty for not measuring up to someone who I perceived as being more “mature” than myself. These thoughts of not doing enough, combined with my “habitual sins” have left me feeling so far away from experiencing God’s love and the presence of Christ, my savior. I have discovered over the last year that I have been practicing the religion of Christianity rather than the relationship with Jesus Christ.
Thankfully, the Lord has revealed to me some of the reasons behind my keeping my distance from Him. It revolves around fear and guilt. Now, generally speaking most religions of the world are based upon a works based system of pleasing their god. There is a natural fear of the consequences of not doing enough to earn your way to heaven, nirvana, or some other after life idea. Yet, in the western institutional church, there is still a level of doing good works to please God on top of trusting in Christ for salvation. Granted, works will be a natural outflow of gratitude towards Christ for salvation, but it shouldn’t be a series of “have to’s” to be followed. A dear friend of mine reminded me recently, “If you have to do something for Christ, then it isn’t of Christ.” What this means is, any service we do for our Lord should be motivated purely out of our love and devotion to Him rather than a out of duty.
The antidote for this mindset of guilt and doing things out of a sense of duty is to be reminded of His love and complete forgiveness. For myself, it also means forgiving myself for my past failures and accepting His perfect forgiveness. More on this in future post.
“God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.” 1 John 4:17-18 NLT
Are you practicing the religion of the Christian life or living Christianity through a vital relationship with Christ?