When we think of bondage the first thoughts for many of us are of those who are captive to the chains of addiction. We consider the alcoholic, the drug addict, the porn addict and the sex addict but do we consider those held captive in the bonds of religion?
Do we consider the ones who have been raised in a culture that teaches us that we play a significant role in God’s love for us? Do we pray for those who have put God, the AWESOME Creator of the universe, into a little box?
Do we mourn for those who still see life as an odds game where they are essentially left to fend for themselves? Do we intercede for those who struggle to do enough and be enough so that they will be viewed with favor by our Lord?
Do we reach out to those who are still operating from a list of do’s and don’ts? There are many types of chains and the enemy excels in the subtle ones that seem as though they are good.
The question we must ask ourselves with honest hearts is, “By what am I justified? TRULY?”
Is it He who began a good work in us only to have us complete it through willpower and self effort or is the One who began the work also the One who will complete it? In God’s equation our efforts to justify self are not a factor. Those who live by the law will also die by it. We either find ourselves struggling with not doing enough or being enough or we become prideful in what we perceive as our self-made success. Religion is a tomb and when we dwell in it we rub shoulders with the dead. It inspires covert competition between God’s children. While many of us will say we are justified by faith and saved by grace, how many truly believe it?
The belief that we can be justified through our own actions causes us to look to the left and the right examining with a critical eye the progress of our brothers and sisters. We stop looking to Him as the Author of our salvation and begin comparing ourselves to one another trying to discover how we rank.
Stuggles with self worth and doubt pervade our churches. Rather than loving one another with the knowledge that we are loved we begin to fear one another as judges. Rather than accepting one another with flaws and all we hide in plain sight while searching for the hypocrites as though we were tasked with what amounts to a witch hunt. Yet all of these things oppose love. These struggles with the chains of religion don’t draw us together.
Rather, they pull us apart. How can Christ’s bride be ready when are unwilling to join together as His body? Nowhere in all of scripture are we listed as “the bodies.” Nowhere were we told to divide ourselves in religious sects over petty disputes. Can we agree in Christ? Can we agree that He came to save a lost and dying world? Can we agree that He commanded us to love one another?
It is time to make a conscious decision to love past differences in opinions on semantics. It is time that we open our eyes to the unlimited possibilities of our awesome God. No box can contain Him. No religion can define Him. He is not interested in our self efforts . He is interested in our unconditional surrender. He is not interested in our boxes that we have effectively put Him in. He does not belong in a box.
Brothers and sisters, I have no way of knowing what your personal walk with Jesus looks like. I have no way of knowing what is in your heart this morning. If, as you reach this point of the article, you are feeling conviction, it is not my simple words that have caused it. The Holy Spirit is speaking to you and moving within you validating these words as true. He is calling you forward, beckoning you.
He is inviting you to leave the bondage of a religion that promotes self effort in favor of a real relationship with Him. If, as you read, you are nodding your head in agreement, I ask that you pray. Pray that the bondage of religion will be loosed from your brothers and sisters and that their eyes will be opened to the God who loves them just as they are. Pray that they will know the meaning of Jesus’ words when He said, “Whom the Son sets free is free indeed.”
We are not meant for bondage. We were not made for religious ceremony. We were made to have an authentic and intimate relationship with our Father. We are meant for freedom. It is only in this place that we will see Him move in our hearts and in our lives.
Consider the possibilities and you too will know that they are limitless.
~ Mitch Salmon