Too Much Religion

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It seems odd to have to say so, but too much religion is a bad thing. We can’t get too much of God, we can’t get too much faith and obedience, can’t get too much love and worship. But religion—the well intentioned efforts we make to “get it all together” for God—can very well get in the way of what God is doing for us. The main and central action is everywhere and always what God has done, is doing, and will do for us. Jesus is the revelation of that action. Our main and central task is to live in responsive obedience to God’s action revealed in Jesus. Our part in the action is the act of faith.

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But more often than not we become impatiently self-important along the way and decide to improve matters with our two cents worth. We add on, we supplement, we embellish. But instead of improving on the purity and simplicity of Jesus, we dilute the purity, clutter the simplicity. We become fussily religious, or anxiously religious. We get in the way.

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That’s when it’s time to read and pray our way through the letter to the Hebrews again, written for “too religious” Christians, for “Jesus-and” Christians. In the letter, it is Jesus-and-angels, or Jesus-and-Moses, or Jesus-and-priesthood. In our time it is more likely to be Jesus-and-politics, or Jesus-and-education, or even Jesus-and-Buddha. This letter deletes the hyphens, the add-ons. the focus becomes clear and sharp again: God’s action in Jesus. And we are free once more for the act of faith, the one human action in which we don’t get in the way but on the Way.

–Eugene Peterson
Living the Message

Delighting in Christ

Beautiful-Sunset-Mountain-Wallpapers-3-300x300Anyone can use the word, of course, but without Christ holiness tends to have all the charm of an ingrown toenail. For, very simply, if holiness is not first and foremost about knowing Christ, it will be about self-produced morality and religiosity. But such incurved self-dependence is quite the opposite of what pleases God, or what is actually beautiful.

God is not interested in our manufactured virtue; he does not want any external obedience or morality if it does not flow from true love for him. He wants us to share his pleasure in his Son. What is the greatest commandment, after all? “Love the Lord your God” (Mt 22:36–37). That is the root of true God-likeness. Nothing is more holy than a heartfelt delight in Christ. Nothing is so powerful to transform lives.

–Michael Reeves
Christ Our Life

When God set things right

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From the dim beginnings of our history right up to the present day, there is not a man, woman, or child of us who has ever been immune to the temptation to think that the relationship between God and humanity can be repaired from our side by our efforts. Whether those efforts involve credal correctness, cultic performances, or ethical achievements – or whether they amount to little more than crassly superstitious behaviour – we are all, at the same level, committed to them.

divider-1If we are not convinced that God can be conned into being favorable to us by dint of our doctrinal orthodoxy, or chicken sacrifices, or the gritting of our moral teeth, we still have a hard time shaking the belief that stepping over sidewalk cracks, or hanging up the bath towel so the label won’t show, will somehow render the Ruler of the Universe kindhearted, softheaded, or both.

But as the Epistle of the Hebrews pointed out long ago, all such behaviour is bunk. The blood of bulls and goats cannot take away sins, nor can any other religious act do what it sets out to do…

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But the Gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is precisely Good News. It is the announcement, in the death and resurrection of Jesus, that God has simply called off the game – that he has taken all the disasters religion was trying to remedy and, without any recourse to religion at all, set them to rights by himself.

–Robert Farrar Capon
Kingdom, Grace, Judgment

Grace and goodness

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O my Divine Love,
the desire I had to please You,
the tears I shed, my great labours
and the little fruit I reaped from it,
moved Your compassion.
You gave me in a moment, through
Your grace and Your goodness alone,
what I had been unable to give myself
through all my efforts.

–Madame Guyon
(1648 – 1717)

Lurking suspicion

In all religiousness
there lurks the suspicion
that we invented the story
that God Loves us.

–Sebastian Moore

Not religious enough

It is a profound irony that
the Son of God visited this planet
and one of the chief complaints
against him was that he was
not religious enough.

–Rebecca Manley Pippert

Published in: on 10/24/2011 at 16:46  Leave a Comment  
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