-Self-focused fear feeds and empowers religion, and spiritual blindness allows it to remain unchallenged as legitimate before God.-
As a follower of Jesus, you probably hear often of the dangers, pitfalls, and uselessness of “religion.” Often quoted is: “Christianity isn’t a religion, it’s a relationship.” I’d agree with this overall, and I wrote of some of the dangers of religion in earlier posts. However, I’d say this anti-religion message within Christianity is so common that it has begun to lose it’s meaning, partly because there is often little explanation or application included. Many say “I hate religion” and yet continue to live either religious or apathetic lives toward God. Neither is of any value.
So here’s a question – WHAT IS RELIGION? Some have said it’s “man’s attempt to reach God.” I think that’s true, but incomplete. According to http://www.enneagraminstitute.com, which a friend recently suggested I look at, my personality is primarily that of an “investigator,” one who looks deeper into things and often challenges the status quo. If this is true, my sincere hope is my deeper searching will benefit others who can then take their unique giftings and apply my findings in ways I won’t or can’t.
I think, in a nutshell, religion is a fear-based, self-preserving, self-focused set of doctrines and works, with a view toward God. When you boil it all down, it’s focus is SELF. Self-improvement, self-preservation (avoiding hell and/or acquiring heaven), gaining favor with God to avoid pain, gaining favor with God to invite pleasure/reward, etc. Nearly all religions, including mainstream Christianity, are aimed toward these things in one way or another.
I think the main reason Christianity is so infatuated with “doctrine” and proper belief, often over God Himself, is fear. So then, what is the root of this fear? I believe this fear often stems from a lack of love and from spiritual blindness. (Galatians 5:4-6) You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. 5For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness. 6For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.
As I’ve said before and Paul says here, outward law-keeping doesn’t count for anything to God. Only “faith working through love” counts. Some translations say “faith, which works through love.” The Greek word for “means” in the phrase “means anything” is eschuo. Eschuo essentially means “strong and capable.” The Greek word translated “working” is energeo, where we get our word “energy.” It essentially means “to be empowered and active.” So, keeping in mind the two preceding verses and Paul’s teaching in Galatians, we can form a useful and applicable translation, as follows:
“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is capable of producing righteousness before God; only faith, which is empowered and active through love, can do so.” This fits with the idea taught elsewhere in scripture that righteousness only comes through faith. But now, a new idea is added: faith is empowered through love. I believe the love mentioned in this verse is God’s love toward us. If we remain open to God’s love toward us, then our faith is empowered and we are capable of being righteous (in right standing) toward God.
Allow me to make one more point, then try to tie this all together. Self-focused fear feeds and empowers religion, and spiritual blindness allows it to remain unchallenged as legitimate before God. An opponent of fear, we know, is love: “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear… (1 John 4:18). (What an amazing verse that is, I may write more on that sometime). So this is what I sense: walking by religion, which is empowered by fear, is an opposite of walking by faith, which is empowered by God’s love.
This then begs the question: what is faith? God gave me a partial revelation on this a while back, that has been confirmed by others. The word “faith” in Greek basically means a “persuasion.” But faith, scripture says, is a gift from God. I think faith is a “divine persuasion,” and is only formed when God’s truth is received in one’s spirit. In that sense, faith is “spiritual sight,” just as logic/reason are “soulical sight.” In Galatians 5:5 above, Paul says we await righteousness “through the Spirit, by faith…” When undistorted physical light hits our eyes, the receptors in our eyes convey it to our brain and an accurate image of the physical realm is produced. When undistorted spiritual light (Truth) hits our spiritual receptors, an accurate image (faith) is produced and we can “see” in the spiritual realm. Walking by our “spiritual sight” (faith) from God is what all believers must learn to do. When Paul said “we walk by faith, not by sight,” he was saying those who would follow Christ must “walk by” (base their life and behavior by) spiritual perception (faith), not logical or outward perception (sight). Faith is spiritual persuasion and perception, the seeing of the unseen. Our human logic is tainted by the flesh and opposes God. True faith is untainted, pure and divine, from the Holy Spirit. Paul talks of the “Spirit of faith” (2 Corinthians 4:13) and that faith is a gift of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:9).
- Fear and self-preservation are connected and oppose the knowledge of God, thus making righteousness (right relationship) impossible.
- Fear and spiritual blindness are the foundations of religion, i.e. a relationship with God based on a fear-based set of doctrines and works. Fear feeds religion and spiritual blindness allows it to remain unchallenged as legitimate before God.
- God’s love nullifies religion, because it casts out fear (1 John 4:18) and energizes faith, which has to do with spiritual perception.
- Thus, God’s love is the sole source of righteousness (right relationship to God). Righteousness results in freedom, which is following God out of love (sonship) and not fear (bondage).
Seek God in the spirit, and seek to see the spiritual applications and meanings in the words of Christ and the apostles. Humble yourself, lay down your own understandings, and ask your Father for wisdom. Thank you for reading. My love to you in Christ.