How Jesus Frees Us From Religion

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“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” – Romans 8:1-2

I have this burden. I have this burden that I try to carry to try to prove to myself that I really try to do my best. I try.

But I am learning how very weak I am. And I am learning how it actually is dangerous to try to carry the weight of the world on my own. It’s foolish.

Because I can never meet up to the standards God requires. You can’t. None of us can.

When you think of religion, you probably think of a life of ritual–mechanically uttering certain prayers at certain times, caring for the weak out of mere obligation, performing various righteous duties and so forth.

What is this idol we have constructed?

It saddens me to think of how many people are trapped in an endless cycle of duty.  Religion is damaging. Hurtful. Dangerous. I say this because so often it looks like a good thing from the outside, but on the inside it is a burden of stones that people make efforts to carry in order to feel they are a “good” person.

The thing is, doing the right things doesn’t necessarily mean our heart is good enough for heaven.

God can see past our actions and deep into the hidden places of our hearts. The Bible is clear that no one who tries to reach heaven with good deeds will succeed.

“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” – Isaiah 64:6

We need to recognize how religion can be a trap that myselfthose with the best intentions can fall into. Nothing we can do can make us any better of a person. Sin always clings to us in one form or another.

So then how do we follow Jesus? Doesn’t Jesus say, “If you love Me, keep my commands” ? (John 14:15)

Yes, He does. But too many people, like myself, take this verse and think, “Oh, so I just need to obey His commands to prove that I love Him.”

But how can I prove anything to God, who knows the deepest, most secret parts about me? We can’t. I am realizing how futile it is to “muster” up love for our wonderful Savior. God sees right past that. We need to look at this verse differently.

We are NOT to obey His commands to somehow prove that we love Him. Instead, the commands come naturally when we truly, genuinely love Jesus.

And what reason do we have to love Him? 1 John 4:19 says, “We love because He first loved us.”

It’s that simple. We love because He first loved us, not because we are trying to get people to like us, not because we are trying to convert people, not because we are trying to prove that we are saved.

Once we truly experience the unconditional love of God, we are never the same again. When His love resides in us, it flows naturally out towards other people. God’s love is so deep, reaching hearts with the truest care and thoughtfulness, without any ulterior motives.

God’s love is something that we can completely, totally, and absolutely rest in.

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” – Ephesians 3:16-19

We obey God’s commands because we love Him, and we love Him, because He first loved us. It’s all because of Jesus that we have any hope. It’s all because of Him that we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. It’s all through Him that His joy can be our strength. And it’s through Him that we inherit eternal life.

We need to spend our whole lives focusing on that one word: love. Because once we fall  in love with Jesus, the rest will follow, without us vainly striving for perfection.

Religion is nothing compared to the love of God.

It is nothing compared to the everlasting relationship we can have with Him because of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. It is nothing compared to the rest our souls can experience when we lay all of our burdens at Jesus’ feet, and let Him love people through us. (Gal. 2:20) After all, loving God and loving others are the greatest commandments! (Matthew 22:37) And this is what we are called to do when we walk in the joyous freedom of God’s love.

“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” – Galatians 5:13 ESV

Today, and every day, I want to recognize my need for Jesus to carry my burdens. There is NO condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Once you confess your sins to Him, you are free. I am free.

So stop trying to be religious! Take a breath of the deep, deep love of Jesus. Be still and know that He is God. The only burden we have is easy and light. And it is the burden of complete and total trust that God really does have our backs.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30

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Tears of Joy

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“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” – Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV)

Today I have lots of homework and very little time, so I’ll keep it simple. I want to share with you this awesome testimony of an ex Mormon finding out who Jesus really is on a mission trip he took. It really is so beautiful, full of Scripture, and it makes you want to weep tears of joy along with him.

God’s grace is SO amazing!

We don’t have to follow rituals or rigid rules of a religion (the English teacher in me is saying, “Alliteration, oh my!”). We aren’t bound by the law to get us to heaven. We can’t do enough good works to measure up to God’s infinite standard. That’s like trying to throw a rock to the moon. Even the best thrower gets the rock nowhere near the moon.

Jesus is ENOUGH. He truly is! We don’t have to worry if we are doing “enough” for God to be pleased with us, because He is enough. He is the only one who can throw the rock to the moon, so we need Him to take our place–and He is more than happy to!

This should make us want to cry and shout and sing and dance! We can let go of everything and know that God is in control. Jesus’ blood washes over us, covers us, and sanctifies us, and because of that we can be so full of joy that people can’t help beholding the radiance of Christ within us.

Here is the testimony:

 

The Gospel, The Light: 6 Things God Has Done For Humanity

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I blind myself to the truth, do you? Am I the only one who runs from the Light, preferring the safety of darkness? 

When the Light pierces through the darkness, it hurts. It hurts when I see I’ve been trying to fill the void inside me with my passions, dreams, ego, or self-pity. It hurts to see that me, you, and the whole human race sin every day without realizing it.

Or maybe we do realize our weakness, but we’re too afraid to do anything about it.

Woe to those who go to great depths
to hide their plans from the Lord,
who do their work in darkness and think,
“Who sees us? Who will know?” – Isaiah 29:15

Without this Light, I feel so empty. I’m in constant pain, letting insecurity rule and darkness overshadow any good that’s left in me.

I’m blind to my own weakness.

Why are we like this? It’s my fault. It’s yours. It’s Adam and Eve’s fault for eating that fruit in the garden. Their sin began a chain reaction that spread to every generation of humans who have lived since.

Doubts come: Come on, I’m good enough. God wouldn’t send a nice person like me to hell. I’ve done enough good things to outweigh the bad.

But God doesn’t weigh the good versus the bad; no, He measures us up to a stick, and we have to reach the top to enter heaven—He requires us to be 100 % perfect.

And we’re not.

And God is truly sad about that: “[God] wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:4)

So, how did God provide a way for us to escape hell and to enter His heavenly presence, now and forever?

1. He sent a perfect man.

God sent His Son, Jesus, to live on this earth perfectly following God’s laws, like no human ever had before. He was the one person in history’s existence who actually deserved heaven.

Only God is 100% perfect all the time. And that’s exactly who Jesus was, and still is to this very day.

“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” – Hebrews 1:3

Jesus is the one perfect Light, the one true fulfiller of our souls. He spoke out against lies and injustice; He uplifted the outsiders in society. He was filled with deep compassion for people, healing the sick and preaching about the Kingdom of God, a place where hearts are free, a place their souls had been longing to hear about.

2. He sacrificed this man, His Only Son, for us.

What’s terribly ironic, is that the One person who deserved heaven went to hell in place of everyone else who deserved hell. Jesus was nailed to a cross to purify us from our sins, dying in our place so we wouldn’t have to eternally bleed.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.” – John 3:16-21

3. He, in the form of a man, came back to life.

But it doesn’t end at the cross. Three days later, Jesus Christ rose from the tomb, alive and well, and witnessed by hundreds of astonished people. He went up to heaven where He now sits at the right hand of the throne of God.

4. He saves us not by any goodness in ourselves, but by His amazing grace.

This is the most crucial point I have, even though it’s number four (number 4 is a good number, right? ;)) So pay attention here.

The thing is, Jesus did NOT die so we would follow rules, He died so we would place our faith in Him and come to know Him. It is only by faith in Christ that we are saved.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” – Ephesians 2:8-9

Christianity is NOT a religion. It is a beautiful, everlasting, soul-fulfilling relationship with Jesus Christ.

5. He shines His Light into our everyday lives.

Today, in the 21st century, Jesus offers this hope as we battle against anxiety, depression, temptations, grief, and feelings of emptiness: He is the Light.

Let those words sink in for a minute.

After Jesus left this earth, His Holy Spirit came to convict this world of sin.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” – 1 John 1:9

Wow! What an amazing truth that is. Throughout our Christian lives, we must bring our dark deeds into God’s glorious light, so that He may completely and totally outshine this darkness within us. His forgiveness is real, and He is waiting for you to simply cry out to Him with a repentant heart.

Once we believe in Jesus’ power to overcome death and sin on the cross, the Holy Spirit illuminates through our pitch black souls and guides us into more and more victories over our sin and failures, and more and more into the love and peace of walking in His ways.

“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” – John 14:16

6. He fills us with joy—now and forever.

With God’s Light inside of me, I’ve found the absolute freedom of His grace. I am no longer empty. I am truly, definitely, totally forgiven, as far as the east is from the west. When I place my surrendered trust in Jesus, my heart bursts with this Light.

As Christians, we face hardship. But through it all, our joy is made complete through Christ.

You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” – Psalm 16:11

I am free.

I am not floundering in darkness, but I am running out into the open arms of my Father, whose eyes ignite with unspeakable joy when He sees me. Without Jesus, I don’t know where I’d be. I don’t know how I’d bear the fires of this raw, miserable life.

But with Him, the sword of truth has attacked my old self. Now I am new like a polished ring, waiting like a Bride for her Groom, until the day He returns.

Please, when He comes back, don’t let it be your first time to bow.

“[Jesus], being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.” – Philippians 2:6-11

(All Scripture taken from NIV.)