I’m going to talk about something today that will not be very popular with many people. This has to do with the religious veil that is pulled over many of our faces still to this day. A veil that Jesus himself brought down and that was torn in two, forever opening the door to the Father through Christ. I guess it’s appropriate that this is on my mind today on Ash Wednesday. This day is observed by many as the start of Lent, leading up to Easter. Even before I fully came into my faith, something never sat right with me about it all. Now that my eyes have been opened, I see it more clearly.
We have a serious religious problem across the Christian faith. I guess it’s bound to happen over a 2,000 year period as messages get skewed and people begin to prop themselves up through the creation of new religious practices. While Lent and Ash Wednesday are not referenced anywhere in Scripture, I don’t have an issue with people that want to observe this time. The problem lies in the motives of the heart. There are many people and I know many, that use the time leading up to Lent to indulge however they want. To live like hell and just whatever. Then Lent comes, they get the ashes on their forehead and then portray to be living a like a Christian for 40 days. Easter comes and goes and right back to life as usual. Living a life in Christ. Seeking holiness and sanctification is not for only 40 day out of the 365 days we have each year. This is meant to be a 24/7 365 life. People think that this time can make up for the rest of their crazy living. Doesn’t work that way.
In his book, ‘Beautiful Outlaw,’ John Eldredge speaks to the religious fog and how Jesus himself was very much anti-religious. That’s who he went after directly more times than not through the Gospels. John says this, “The religious fog uses sanctified worlds and activities, things that look and sound very Sunday school to distort our perception of God and our experience of Him. It is cunning as a snake and adaptive as the flu, infiltrating our practices to make them ever so false.” Read the Gospels and as John stated, there is one thing that is unmistakably clear…religion is the enemy. “Every hostile encounter Jesus has is with very “churchy” people. This spirit is the great enemy of our life with God, and it is this spirit that Jesus warned his boys about when they were whispering in the boat about the bread” (See Matthew 16:6-12).
Religion is a major problem that we to contend with. Religion is built by man on rules and regulation that continually build up larger walls between man and God. Jesus tore those walls down. Our salvation, our freedom, our restoration, our eternity lies with Him and Him alone. Not in religious practices and rituals. We are to be disciplined spiritually through prayer, studying and learning Scripture, and so on, but getting caught up in religious discipline and practices can be a real problem and can begin to pull you away from the heart of God. Following Jesus does not require the burden of religion. Matthew 11:29-30, “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.”
Why do we forget this? There is a cost to following Christ as it will pull you away from many around you, even if you are close them them, if they do not follow as well. However, His yoke is easy and His burden is light. Jesus did not put up more religious walls to shield us from God. No…He opened the door. The goal of living a life in Christ is to live as Christ lived. Not to follow every little thing that He may did, specifically, but to follow His example. In ‘The Spirit of the Disciplines,’ Dallas Willard explained it this way, “The secret of the easy yoke is simple, actually. It is the intelligent, informed, unyielding resolve to live as Jesus lived in all aspects of life, not just in the moment of specific choice or action.”
I have grown to become very much against religion. Actually, I hate religion. It is the enemies ploy to skew the message and the Good News to pull us away from the heart of God and truly living our lives in Christ. Christ is the example, not the pompous religious pharisees of today that prance around with so much pomp and circumstance just as the pharisees and religious leaders in Jesus’ time did. Christ challenged them directly and fiercely. We should not let our lives fall into their trap again. Clear the religious fog and live in the freedom and restoration found in Christ alone and is directly available to each and everyone of us.
No religious ritual can ever make one’s heart right with God. That only comes through the grace and spiritual blessings of the Father through the works (life, death, resurrection, and ascension) of Christ Jesus. Religion keeps you in chains and bondage behind a veil. Jesus tears down the veil, breaks those chains, and sets you free.