THE 5 LIES OF RELIGION
Christianity does not always look like Jesus. That statement makes me uncomfortable! But I have seen so many people who reject Christianity until they meet Jesus. I grew up in a Christian home, church, and country, but I realized that sinners were trying to stay away from the church. The church unwittingly believed that if you touched a leper so to speak, you would become unclean. But when a leper touched Jesus, they became clean. That should happen when others interact with us, and the church.
The story of Levi (Matthew) has really touched me lately. Levi, like many tax collectors in Jesus’ day, would steal money from his own family and give it to Rome. The government would then use it for nefarious activities, like crucifying Christians. There was a highly negative stigma against them in society. Jesus knew this, and He still gave Levi an invitation to follow Him, dine with Him, and come into relationship with Him. He wanted nothing in return. Out of this amazing love, Levi believed and found his identity.
The difference between religion and Jesus is powerful living. Anything that doesn’t look like the radical love of Jesus is not normal Christian life. Most of the world hasn’t actually rejected Jesus; they’ve just rejected Christianity as a religion. Any Christianity without Christ is just another religion.
Let’s look at some of the key differences between religion and Jesus.
5 WAYS TO IDENTIFY RELIGION VS. JESUS
- Powerless vs. Powerful living.
Religion leaves you totally powerless, while deceiving you into believing that your actions make you powerful. The religious spirit causes people to tear others down and blame their mistakes on others in an attempt to elevate themselves. You tend to receive more than you give in most relationships. It’s completely fear-based, and it causes people to control and manipulate their relationships, which pushes people even further away from them.
With Jesus at our core, we will naturally live a powerful life. One of the most powerful statements Jesus ever made is that all of His sons and daughters would do even greater miracles than He did. This should be normal, everyday life. When we understand what it means to be not only co-resurrected with Him, but also co-crucified, we know that the old person is completely dead. You can’t offend or hurt someone who’s already dead! So you’re always speaking life into others, no matter how they treat you. You don’t seek praise, but you are elevated nonetheless.
- Behaving vs. Belonging.
Religion tells you that you must believe, then behave, and then you can belong. If you don’t agree with someone, you cannot be accepted into their circle. This is why so many denominations have been created. The primary focus is on what you do, and it’s the ultimate lie. If you don’t perform, it leads to disappointments. Jesus went through these 3 tests in the wilderness; Satan tempted Him with counterfeits that would cause Him to belong, behave a certain way, and believe a lie about Himself. But Jesus emerged from the wilderness full of the Spirit.
Jesus started with belonging. He invited all of His disciples to come join Him before they changed their ways or had any clue who they were. Out of this undeserved belonging, there was a transformation into believing. And their belief changed their behavior, because they were encouraged to become fully free as the best version of themselves. The starting point with religion is that we have an F on our report card and we have to do something to get a better grade. But with Jesus, we have an A+ on our report card before we even take the exam.
- Jealousy vs. Empowerment.
Religion tears people down due to fear, insecurity, and jealousy. Religion doesn’t celebrate other’s success but rather says you deserved that promotion, that praise, that assignment… not them! It whispers lies in your ear that you’re alone, nobody understands you, it’s always so hard, and keeps you trapped in a cycle of negativity. This feeds unhealthy coping mechanisms.
Jesus empowered people and changed the environments around Him. He was able to do this because He knew who He was. He knew He was fully loved by His Father and lived from Him, not for Him. Get to know Him so you can be like Him. We get so busy in life, but you become like whatever or whoever you spend your time with. And if you become like Father God, you release Him upon others.
- Isolation vs. Relationship.
Religion uses guilt from your past, shame for today (who you are not), and fear for tomorrow to prevent you from finding your identity. This causes people to build walls around their pain and fears and dive deep into isolation. The rules and regulations of religion further discourage healthy community while we’re more concerned with the way other people are acting than speaking life into them.
Jesus was constantly in healthy relationship. And because we have Him living in us, we never have to be alone, even while driving in your car. Jesus is about following the law of love. Through relationship with Him, you have the fullness of power, so you can trust Him with all of your issues. Jesus gives you—like the prodigal son—a robe of identity that brings you to Heaven, and a ring of authority and brings Heaven to you. And a party.
- Condemnation vs. Acceptance.
Religion condemns people who sin, or don’t live up to our idea of righteousness. It preaches the message of fear which says Choose Jesus or be thrown into the lake of fire. Religion condemns and even hates others who don’t believe the same way we do, religiously or politically. It’s intolerance disguised as love. It’s also heavy on self-condemnation, keeping you in a mindset that you’re just a sinner saved by grace, rather than the righteousness of God.
Jesus was always hanging around sinners. He chose to connect with them rather than condemn them for their past. When the Pharisees got offended and questioned Him about it, He said that healthy people don’t need a doctor (Matt 9:12). When we see people the way Jesus did, and become comfortable loving sinners, we will see real change come. Jesus didn’t treat people based on their history, but on their destiny.
LIVING LIKE JESUS: HOW DOES IT LOOK?
A good friend of mine is now a wealthy businessman, but he didn’t start out that way. I remember when he was an employee of a large company and decided one day that he was sick of religion—of striving, competing, judging, and working for God’s acceptance. He went to his boss one day and said, “From now on, I’m going to serve you as I serve the Lord.” He chose to start working for God rather than a paycheck. He went into work every day thinking, My company is going to be much better because I work here, because I re-present Jesus!
After he made that decision, Ray added so much value to his company that when the company merged with a larger corporation, his boss promoted him. Later on, he was entrusted with the company as a senior leader. And today He’s one of its greatest investors—shaping the world through the marketplace with the Holy Spirit.
Less than 5% of the world today truly knows who they are and what they’re called to do. How many people in your life truly re-present Jesus? If we are the light of the world, why are we not having greater influence? It only takes one light in a classroom or a boardroom to change the atmosphere there.
I believe the world deserves to have an experience with a God just like Jesus. And since you re-present Jesus, they can experience Heaven through you. The Father loves you just the way you are, but He refuses for you to stay that way, because he wants you to be just like Jesus. He allows trials to come because it reveals the root system of your heart. If your Gospel message is all about what Jesus can do for you, it won’t get you through hard times in life.
I encourage you to look through the Gospels and note people who had encounters with Jesus, and look at the way Jesus interacted with them. Invite Holy Spirit to come and remove anything in your life that doesn’t look like Jesus. Let’s start acting and seeing others the way He does.