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How to Spot a Comfortable Religion
Religion is for good people.
It has one central characteristic – to give you a bunch of laws to make your life work and to gain approval from its god. And the burden is on you. You have make it work. It’s your discipline and commitment that makes it or breaks it for you.
For example, meditation just doesn’t float down like a cloud and take you by the hand to your happy place. You have to work it. You have to set aside the time, roll out the mat, sit Buddha-style, inhale and exhale, clear your mind, breathe in, breathe out, and keep your back straight. After twenty minutes you get up, roll up the mat, tuck it under your arm and now you’re ready to check that off your list for the day.
On the other hand, Christianity is for bad people. That’s me. I have the mat, the exercise ball, and the twister thing, all with a heavy layer of dust on them in the corner of the room. I’ve walked away from many schools of discipline. I’m sure they would have worked had I been more consistent. But consistency eludes me, along with daily bible reading, prayer, and keeping my eyes glued to Jesus every day.
The slightest distraction draws me away from him. The weather. My spiritual temperature. The latest conflict with my husband. The boring aspects of my job. Those capture my heart faster than everything Jesus has done for me.
I tell others to be aware of looking inward because there’s nothing good there. Just sin and failure. That joy in life is found in keeping a closeness with Jesus. Except I don’t do it.
That’s why I’m a bad people. Even on my best days, my life is shot full of sin. That’s why Christianity is my kind of religion. It tells me I am bad, that I have no hope, and that I am lost and without God in the world. Sounds very orphan-like to me. No Father is heaven looking after me. No church to nurture and raise me. No brothers and sisters to live with. That’s as bad as it gets.
That’s why I need Christianity. That’s where I discover Jesus. He came to rescue me because I was that bad. He merited righteousness through his perfect obedience, and paid the price for my sins through his death on the cross. And both are credited to me through faith in him alone.
That’s it. It’s that simple, and yet it cost Jesus everything. My job? To believe him. If he said he did this, then you can trust him.
Which would you rather do? Believe in Jesus or roll out that dusty exercise ball?
Talk to me.
Do we strive to enter God’s kingdom? Just because God has placed a ticket to heaven in our hands doesn’t mean we stay in the waiting lounge. We have to get up and walk into the plane.
Who are we listening to? Is it God through his Word or someone else’s voice?
How often it’s my voice I follow. It’s easy. It’s all too familiar.
Living the kingdom life is nothing short of brutal. It goes against the grain of self. It’s not the life we’re used to.
It requires humility, mercy, sincerity and loving our enemies.
Everything we don’t like doing.
Who wants to die?
Who wants to disregard his own ambitions?
It’s easier to profess Christ than to follow him.
I know. I’m an expert at it.
I suspect you are, too.
So what do we do about it?
Study. Pray. Respect.
Immerse yourself in God’s Word.
Pray God’s Word. Make it your own. Eat it.
Respect your teachers. Make sure they’re telling you about Christ and not themselves. Make sure they’re men of the Word. Humble. Accessible.
True followers of Christ are submitted to him, even in rejection and suffering.
As Christians we now live by the sermon on the Mount, but not by adhering to its rules, but by having faith in the preacher of the sermon.
He’s our Mediator. He’s the new Moses. He fights his battles for us.
Lean heavily into him.
Talk to me.
“The hardest thing in the world is to take Christ alone for salvation and then to return to Christ alone every day of the Christian life.” – Tony Reinke
Our human nature wants to manipulate our salvation. It goes something like this: Christ did the hard part (dying on the cross) so now we’ll take it from here.
Everyone of us desires glory. We were build for it, and one day we’ll experience it, but not here. And yet, every time we use self-salvation strategies to keep God liking us and thinking we’re terrific, we end up in self-worship and self-glory.
We hate, absolutely hate, admitting we can do nothing apart from Christ. We pay lip service to that truth.
We long to be something apart from him.
Have you noticed how burdened we feel most days with the many pressures and layers of life?
We’re addicted to living that way. We don’t understand any other kind of life.
But what would happen if we truly knew ourselves from God’s vantage point and realized we are nothing? And then be glad that Jesus is all we ever need or want?
What would our lives look like with that mindset?
“When our self-evaluation is emptied, Christ’s glory weighs heavier in our lives.” – John Newton
We need to be people like those who go to AA meetings. We need to say to ourselves in the mirror every morning, “My name is Bub, and I’m a sinner addicted to myself.”
I think we need to confess that everyday to the Lord.
He might even say to us, “Now you’re getting it. I’m here to help.”
What do you think?
This Is Not Our Best Life
Do You Need the Church?
Are you addicted to love?
Not the paper-thin kind in a Hollywood movie, but the love found in God’s people, the flesh and bone kind.
Are we devoted to one another? Do we share a common life with others in the church or do we walk past them as vapors?
God is addicted to us. He pours out his love to us in Christ every day. Instead of loving others in the same way, if we’re honest, we’re more addicted to our own dreams and ambitions.
I’m guilty. I lose myself in my reading and my writing. Even this blog. I can go for days without leaving the house or talking to a neighbor. And when I go to church, very often I go home afterwards and return to my interests.
If we build our lives in him, it’s going to hurt. It will interrupt our habits. It will undermine our selfishness. It will change us.
God went to incredible lengths to have fellowship with us. He sent Christ because of it.
If we choose to live private, closed lives we’re living life lopsided.
Being a Christian and a member of God’s church means a level of transparency.
Jesus was put out of the camp so we could be brought in, not to live self-absorbed lives, but to be a blessing to others.
We come to church to be fed Christ in the sermon and at the communion table, and as a result we are built up in the faith, but not for our sake only, but for our neighbor sitting in the chair next to us.
How’s it going for you?
Talk to me.
Think about the creativity God uses to call you to Himself.
He sent His Son to earth to become like you, except he was without sin.
Christ lived his life obeying God perfectly for you.
Then He died on the cross to take away your sin.
He took God’s wrath that was meant for you.
He absorbed your guilt and removed it from you.
He loved God perfectly because you couldn’t do it.
What a Savior!
If you can see how much you need Christ from reading this, then embrace Him with faith right now.
Thank Him for His overwhelming love for you.
And go out and tell someone about Him.
Talk to me.
This Old House
Sanctification is like being brought up again but this time in Christ. God is your Father, Jesus is your elder brother who has blazed the trail for you, and the Holy Spirit draws you deeper into your new identity in Christ.
You are born again but living inside an old house. Don’t get focused on the rusty hinges, the peeling paint, and the overgrown lawn. Keep your attention focused on the architect and builder of the new house you’ll be living in.
Meanwhile, refuse to participate in the conspiracy of silence. You continue to be a wretched sinner even as a Christian. You have great examples of confession from the apostles. Paul called himself the chief of sinners. So can you. There’s no shame in that.
It is the job of the Holy Spirit to make you more humble and dependent on the Lord, more grateful for his sacrifice, and more adoring of him as a wonderful Savior.
Don’t be surprised at your trials then, Peter said. They’re meant to make your faith like gold. And faith attaches itself to Jesus who was meek and lowly and won salvation for you.
Joy here and now is your birthright and inheritance even when you sin miserably as a Christian.
Talk to me.
The Many Disguises of the Devil
Have you noticed how subtle the devil can be in your life?
He never attacks straight on. He’s too clever for that. It’s always sideways or from the back.
He offered Eve an apple in exchange for Paradise. (Maybe God gave us apples to eat as a reminder?)
He comes camouflaged as a sheep, but if you look closely, you’ll see the razor-sharp teeth of a wolf waiting to pounce and devour.
He shines bright as an angel of light. He’s prepared to take you on sublime flights of mystical fantasy, but does that light speak of Jesus as your only source of satisfaction and peace?
The devil paints sin in spellbinding colors. He minimizes the horrors of following God-substitutes by suggesting ways to inflate your potential, live your dreams, and squeeze all the gusto out of life.
What he fails to disclose is that all his ways lead to the four D’s:
In contrast, God and his love for you in Christ is the answer to all your needs. His kingdom is Paradise on earth, and the new heavens and the new earth he promises to send will be Paradise throughout eternity.
He is all your heart’s desire whether you are single or married or divorced. He is the perfect Parent, Spouse, and Friend.
He is your identity because he has placed you in Christ. You don’t need another. Now you’re free to love your neighbor by serving him through your calling in life as firefighter, nurse, garbage collector, teacher, or artist.
Next time you find yourself under attack, say this:
“Devil, if you can’t do better than that, kiss my backside. I have no time for you now.” – Martin Luther
Talk to me.
A Warm Embrace
Praying is hard.
I fail at keeping a warm devotional life.
I forget what I asked God for as soon as I pray my requests.
I know a few Christians whose gift is prayer and really love it, but for the rest of us, prayer is a struggle.
Our hope, however is knowing that our prayers don’t have to be perfect to please the Lord.
They can be downright messy.
And having a poor prayer life doesn’t mean God doesn’t love us anymore.
He can’t possible think that, and neither can we.
1. We are never going to be perfect in this life because we still wrestle with remaining sin in our lives.
2. All our prayers, our good works, everything in our lives is mediated through Christ and he makes them perfect and therefore acceptable to God.
God does not find fault with us because we are in Christ.
So prayer instead of being an excruciating exercise is instead a conversation with our Father in heaven who loves us.
Remember that next time you pray.
You come to a Father who is eager to hear you.
Talk to me.