Abused by Religion

Abused by Religion

Philippians 3:2-4 (NLT)

Watch out for those dogs, those people who do evil, those mutilators who say you must be circumcised to be saved. For we who worship by the Spirit of God are the ones who are truly circumcised. We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort, though I could have confidence in my own effort if anyone could. Indeed, if others have reason for confidence in their own efforts, I have even more!

 

I have a confession to make to you. I am a bit embarrassed to even mention it but it’s totally true. I hope my children do not read this for I will surely be berated. I am absolutely terrified by the dentist. I have not been in four years. I overcame my fear several years back when a friend who was a hygienist somehow convinced me to go back after years of dental neglect. I have had babies at home before and would rather do that again then sit in the big black chair in the room filled with things that surely do not belong in my mouth. More than two decades ago, I had a horrible experience. I have a nerves that run along my top and bottom jawline are very close to my teeth. This makes it a very sensitive area so even cleaning when not careful will send a jolt through my whole mouth. It feels almost electric and man does it hurt. I am labeled at the office as having “white coat syndrome”. When I come in for an appointment, I am taken back immediately because they know I may anxiously leave. I am not made to wait in the back very long and only given experienced hygienist who note my anxiety. When our son was diagnosed with cancer back in 2011, I had a dental appointment scheduled the next week but called and cancelled now that I had an excuse. I have not gone back since then. Sad, but true.

The last few weeks, I have been thinking that I really need to go back to the dentist. This really is silly that I want to conquer giants and overcome the enemy but cannot even get past myself to make an appointment and go to someone who only wants to safeguard my health. I may be one of the few who actually fear the dentist but I am definitely not the only one who is avoiding something in life due to a bad experience. When I was in my mid-twenties, I went to the dentist. I sat in the chair chatting with the nice hygienist ready to get my teeth cleaned. After the cleaning, as the dentist examined my teeth it was found that I had a small cavity after two back to back pregnancies that had drained calcium from my body. So I scheduled a return visit the following week, no worries. The next visit was a horrible nightmare. As he began to drill into my tooth, even with Novocain, the dentist hit the nerve. Immediately, I clenched the chair and my rear end came flying out of the seat. He simply pushed me back down and kept on drilling. Like a scene from a Frankenstein movie, he kept poking and prodding with tears running down my face I tried to endure it. I trusted the dentist to solve my problem but also to have compassion for my pain but clearly he did not. We had words at the window and I never returned again. So here I am today in need of a dental visit, but too anxious to trust again.

I wonder if this is the mentality of those abused by religion. Those who came to church or approached a “Christian” friend to find hope, healing, encouragement and love only to be mutilated and harmed in the process. Religion has a way of brutalizing people and sadly the ones doing it are usually worse off than the ones coming to Christ. Why? They are living a lie that will one day backfire when it is too late to change. I used to think my ability to overcome bad habits and live closely to the letter of the Law made me a good Christian and Child of God. But I found out I was wrong. Paul says to watch out for those who say “you must be circumcised to be saved.” Religiosity does not open the door to Heaven. Jesus does. He is the One who welcomed you when you were nothing but a hot mess. He took that “hot mess” and worked out for your good according to His Word (Romans8:28) now you have a message. What are you saying? If Jesus is the work in you, it will be words fill with love, grace and mercy full of encouragement with arms that never stop reaching for those who are exposed living in fear for tomorrow. You will not see the terms, conditions and consequences that life has subjected them too but the powerful potential hidden in them just as it was in you. We must relinquish role of abuser of the Law and begin to live the Law of Love in the Spirit.

John 4:21-24 (NLT)

Jesus replied, “Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem. You Samaritans know very little about the one you worship, while we Jews know all about him, for salvation comes through the Jews. But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”

 

The woman at the well is a prime example of religion gone way wrong. She was at the well drawing water isolated and alone because the details of her life were unacceptable. She was shunned by the other woman in the village and used by several of the men. So she kept to herself going to do her chores in the hottest part of the day and enduring hard labor all alone. It was in such a state that she met Jesus Christ. He knew she loved God. He could see right through the hard exterior of abuse and misuse to the beautiful soul that His Father created locked behind a barrier built of distrust locked shut in fear. But Jesus would tell her about a time that was coming who in fact was sitting right in front of her. The One who would allow us to worship outside of religion in a one-on-one relationship with God through Himself. God wants worshippers who worship in Spirit and in Truth. Old Testament believers could only count on the Word. But when the Word came down wrapped in flesh to die for all humanity, His Spirit was released and now we can live life with great expectancy just because He loves us and His Love can operate through us without fear or distrust. It is called faith. Faith is born of a circumcised heart. The act of circumcision implies brokenness. It is a symbol of being set apart that requires the removal of something. When Jesus died on the Cross – He bore our sin and shame. He assumed our weaknesses to replace them with strength AND by His Stripes, we are healed. This means that religion does not have to be painful anymore. We relinquish our right to judge others in the pardon of ourselves and accept the Doctrine of Grace as the measure of love we are to give. God is a spirit. Circumcision is now a matter of the heart.

Colossians 2:11-15 (NLT)

When you came to Christ, you were “circumcised,” but not by a physical procedure. Christ performed a spiritual circumcision—the cutting away of your sinful nature. For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead. You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross.

Circumcision is no longer a physical procedure. There is a young single mother in our church. I have known her for a very long time. She is super special to my heart and God constantly calls her to my remembrance. She had a bit of a fall (spiritually) a few months ago that culminated in some pictures being posted on social media that were less than complimentary. Of course, they were quickly removed but the damage done. She has not returned to church since that time. We had an event no the church campus recently and she was there with her children. I was so elated to see her all I could do was hug her over and over again. She is not coming to church right now for a reason. Religion is the generalized theme behind her avoidance. She knows what to do and what not do to, but as believers we must find a way to love beyond opinion. The church cannot be a world with its own strict rules and standards. Yes, we have the Word. We know what to do but where is the allowance of time for discipline and teaching. Where are the disciples with more spiritual growth in others than beating down the doors of Heaven for more blessings? If your heart is right with the Lord today, you have EVERYTHING you need to prosper and live a satisfied life. Until we allow God to soften our heart and open it to others cutting away pride and humbling us to humanity, the church is not doing her job. Until we become more concerned about those who stop coming to the House of God rather than impressing the ones who do, we have lost our salt and the Light of His Love is burning out.

As we allow the Spirit of the Lord to work the Word of God through us the common denominator of our life becomes love. We love others more and more as we accept and take full advantage of God’s Grace. Suddenly the do’s and don’ts of religion fade away and radical obedience is born of the Love for God that comes pouring from our heart cut open by His Word and filled by His Spirit. This is not a word against the church but empowerment of the church. Signs, wonders and miracles have left God’s House because we have stifled this place of worship with people afraid to ask for help or worse than that too humiliated to show their faces. Enough is enough. If we want all of who HE is, we must give all of who we are to loving one another, building each other up and moving past the Law to be true Children of God.

Matthew 24:11-13 (NLT)

And many false prophets will appear and will deceive many people. Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

 

Recently, I have found myself in a defensive posture only to realize it is not of God. The summer reading book that was assigned to our daughter was not appropriate. I contacted the principal requesting a different book that did not contain the R-rated profanity of the one she was given. Apparently several other parents voiced the same concerns, an alternative was given. A couple weeks later, an email was sent that the summer reading assignment was now extra credit. This created an uproar in the community calling it a book banning and all kinds of other ridiculous things. The media spun it out of control calling it a form of censorship. The book is still in the library of the school. There has been no book burning on the football field. Yet the media and people began berating the Christian Bible “thumpers” of America. The only Bible thumping I wanted to do was to knock some sense into these troublemakers. Well, I took to social media to voice my distaste of double standards and set the record straight. People got offended by my post. I find this so ironic because it was the same individuals are liberals who believe that as long as it doesn’t hurt another human being everyone should be given the right to choose. Well, I was wrong. Even though my post was in love, it may have pushed people from Jesus rather than drawing them near. Dang it! That’s not what I intended to do but the enemy goaded me out of my faith position into a knee jerk reaction.

What does this have to do with anything? I don’t want to be part of the problem but be the one who shares the solution. I don’t want people to not come to church because I am standing in front of the door. We have to trust the Lord enough to love others unconditionally. Condemnation and judgment are not qualities of Christ. We must also look at this world for what it is – a desperate, dying and confused planet so lost in self it sees little value or worth. Sin is rampant. Love has grown cold. Everything is just as Jesus described it… all expect the church. Our love for the people should be a fiery torch that draws others to the Love of God and His Son Jesus Christ rather than a harsh reprimand. Love covers a multitude of sins opening the door for discipleship. Discipleship requires commitment and an investment into other people’s messy lives while fully surrendering our way to the Lord. It is a relationship not dictatorship. We are all in this together bound by God’s Grace and Unconditional Love.  It is time for a circumcision of the heart of every man and woman who call themselves Christians. To believe in the Grace, Love and Mercy of God so much that it pours out into the lives of all mankind. Perfect love casts out all fear so we won’t be afraid to live what we believe not worrying about what other people think or say just loving them with the True Love we have found. This is our goal as a whole. This should be our aspiration. God circumcise my heart yet again. Open it to those around me with blatant disregard from my own mind, will and emotions. I put my expectation fully in You today! You have never let me down! I trust you enough to love others without any conditions.

Psalm 51:10-17 (NLT)

Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you. Then I will teach your ways to rebels, and they will return to you. Forgive me for shedding blood, O God who saves; then I will joyfully sing of your forgiveness. Unseal my lips, O Lord, that my mouth may praise you. You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering. The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.

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