How to know if you are substituting the life Jesus offers for a religious life.
When God is a distant concept to you instead of a personal real presence.
When you find yourself idolizing a man, woman, or following a set of principles instead of following Jesus.
When the fear of eternity, not measuring up, or falling into error drives your doing.
When you find yourself performing empty rituals that do not connect you in a real way to Him.
When you are burdened by the expectations of others and feel guilty when you don't meet those expectations.
When you look at others who struggle with failure with contempt and condemnation instead of love and compassion.
When the approval of others means more to you than remaining in the reality of His love.
When you hesitate to be honest about your doubts or struggles because others will judge you.
When you think of holiness as achievable by law keeping, rather than the glorious invitation of grace.
When you think righteousness depends on your self-effort rather than an accomplishment of His grace working in you.
When following Him is more about obligation of obedience rather than affectionate love.
When correcting someone's doctrine is more important than loving acceptance of them.
When God seems more present on Sunday morning, than He does the rest of the week.
If you have only known following Christ to be a set of doctrines, rules and rituals to be followed, I have great news. Jesus came and died to open up access between you and Father God. Religion supplants that, distracting us with discipline, commitment and hard work that never yields the fruit it promises. If you've been worn out by religion, don't think you're alone. Others are just pretending, afraid they are the only ones, too. Life is only found in him.
There's something about our flesh that craves the illusion of safety that religion affords. Anyone of us can find our heart easily turned toward following rules instead of engaging him. When we recognize that happening, we can simply turn our hearts back to him and choose to move away from the religious traps and connect once again with God as our Father.
Living the Gospel means we live in his love. We come to know the Father's love for us and then sharing that love with him, and with others he puts in our path. (John 13:34-35).
No other motive will suffice; no other is necessary. This is where the journey begins and this is the only place it can continue.