Are we Spiritual Barren because we have Damed the River of God's Grace?
Religion depicts a dry barren parched land, void of spiritual vitality, where believers are cut off from the abundance of spiritual life flowing in the free flowing river of God's Grace. Those who find themselves in the desert of Religion are thirsting for living water but never find it because the river of Life is damed and its tributaries leading to the people in the Religious desert are blocked by religious sludge preventing the living waters of Grace from bringing a quenching to the thirsty soul, dehydrating them spiritually. God’s river of Grace flows downward, from God to humanity in response to the spiritual gravitational pull of humility. The egotistic arrogance of religion's self-sufficiency, like a magnet, opposes the spiritual gravitational pull of God's Grace because religious high places dominate the hearts and minds of God's people.
God's grace can be understood by the humble heart, not the prideful heart of the religiously prideful! (1 Peter 5:5). God’s grace is experienced by those who are well aware that their spiritual needs cannot be fulfilled by their religious deeds, and therefore empty themselves of self-religious-doings and willingly come to the river of Grace to obtain spiritual life.
By contrast, those who believe themselves to be spiritually sufficient because of religious involvement see no need to make their spiritual home by the banks of the Grace river of life. The spiritually proud see the fullness of God’s grace as unnecessary because of their doing to be in God's favor...it cascades off their souls like the proverbial “water off a duck’s back.” God’s grace thrives in the lives of nobodies who have been overlooked, exploited, abused and abandoned. The down-and-outers find it far easier to be convinced and accept God's Grace than the religious up-and-uppers.
Religion requires that people be committed to a religious creed, believing that people can do the religious do's and and not do the don'ts to measure up to God's standards.
Grace, on the other hand, has no dependance on the doings or not doings of man and the doings of one's pass and present is admitted and open before God and not covered up in an attempt to look religiously good for Religion, but owned up too so no guilt, shame or condemnation can be inflicted by the religious, or self-inflicted because of not meeting religious expectations.
Grace is not waving the white flag signaling surrender to Religion, but rather surrender to God, who alone initiated and maintains our relationship with Him. Accepting God’s grace involves surrender, and few things are as hard to surrender as cherished religious ceremonies, observances and icons.
God’s love is the foundation and core of our relationship with Him. God’s grace flows out of God’s love...and God’s love is the very essence and nature of who He is. But we must understand that God’s generous offer of grace is on His terms, not ours. His terms are that we surrender all Christ-less religious traditions that in some way by our own efforts, through our religious exercises, rituals and performances will enable us to be more righteous, be more holy and gain favor with God...making us spiritually rich by our own doing.
When we do something that we have been assured by our religious leaders makes God more pleased with us than He would have been had we not done so, pride sets in. Some leaders even propose that God is obligated to respond to our religious deed accomplishments. The whole performance-based culture leads to religious arrogance and elitism...with many pridefully concluding: I’m-better-than-others because of all the religious things I obey and do.”
Religious pride, arrogance and elitism dams the river of God's Grace, while the humbleness is a gorge that channels the gushing flow. God’s Grace is a reflection of Jesus’ earthly ministry. The religious high and mighty, haughty and arrogant, and the Torah enlightened religious expert quoters of His day stood in opposition to Jesus. Yet the simple fishermen, the outcast lepers and whoring prostitutes, the despised tax collectors, lowly shepherds, were all regarded as second-class citizens by the religious elite, accepted Him.
Sadly, within religion, which predominates in Christendom today, God's Amazing Grace is underestimated and grossly misunderstood. Why is it that so many religionists, ostensibly composed of Christ-followers, is filled with hatred, rage, competition, arrogance and arguments about doctrine, beliefs and creeds? The New Testament overflows with God’s grace.
Within religion the emphasis is on what individuals can do to make themselves more acceptable and pleasing to God. Within authentic Grace living, people must surrender the religious lie that doing the religious do's makes them righteous. Accepting God's Grace, which comes by way of Jesus Christ, involves an acceptance of the supremacy of the Master, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Augustine, an early church fathers, is recorded as saying that "God wants to give us good things but our hands are too full to receive them." God always reaches out to us with His grace, but in order to receive His grace we must be willing to empty our hands and hearts of grace-rebelling religion that we deem is the Gospel.
If we rid ourselves of the performance-based religious way of relating to God and open our hearts to Him, God will fill us with the riches of his Grace. God’s grace is the currency by which we receive every blessing, every ability, and righteousness in bringing the atmosphere of heaven to earth. God freely gives us all the spiritual resources we will ever need by His grace. All that we ever need in order to know and experience God has been accomplished for us, in and through the DONE work of Jesus Christ.
By contrast, the currency of the religious world is the DO work of Religion. The kingdom of religion relentlessly demands: “Show me your spirituality! Earn your own way. Demonstrate what you are doing for the kingdom of God. Prove yourself. Work harder. Do more. Your account is overdrawn, stop robbing God by giving more of your money. Pray more. Read your Bible more. Witness more. Attend church more often...stop being a lazy Christian and get with the program!”
God’s kingdom operates on a completely different spiritual platform than the kingdom of Religion. Religious deeds and accomplishments are worthless in the kingdom of God...religion is a counterfeit gospel. Righteousness we earn by our hard work and efforts has no value in Grace living.
We have nothing to offer God that He doesn’t already have. We can’t buy or purchase God’s favor. Without God’s grace, the hardest working saint you know is spiritually impoverished. The most righteous person you can ever hope to meet, apart from the righteousness which comes only from God, will never accrue spiritual treasures they can use in Grace living. God gives grace to those who surrender all their spiritual treasures and trophies, and come and follow Jesus.
Grace is all about God’s goodness, holiness and righteousness. If we accept the invitation of His love and grace, then we do so without any strings attached. We cannot import religious traditions and rituals into the Grace living. God is opposed to legalistic religion with all its Christ-less religious rituals, ceremonies and performances because it lures us away from trusting Him. Religion is about making us proud of what we do and what we accomplish...it is a deluding illusion that deludes and deceives us.
Religion encourages people to labor under the false premise that God is trying to fix them by them fixing themselves. Thus, they perceive their relationship with God as a spiritual behavior modification program. But God is not trying to fix and repair us. God is interested in our complete transformation. He offers us, by His Grace, a new life in Christ...a spiritual reality we cannot earn.
Is it not time to clean up the religious sludge that is preventing the flow of God's Grace into our Llves?