Freedom From Religion

Let’s just start with this.

If you are a person who identifies as a Christian, but who constantly feels the burden of religious expectation, the weight of following all the rules in order to be a “Good Christian,” or the anxiety of never doing enough to “get to heaven” (and I know there are many of you out there), I have one thing to say to you.

Lay it all down. 

You were never meant to carry such a heavy burden in this life. You were not purposed for holding up such an impossible weight. You were not created to live in such a state of perpetual anxiety.

And do not let anyone, not even the leaders of your churches, try to convince you otherwise.

For the entire biblical narrative is a grand, sweeping movement over thousands of years documenting people continually misunderstanding the nature and character of God and what God wants from them.

They believed God was more concerned with their offerings and sacrifices, with their zeal and participation in religious rituals and celebrations, and with how fastidiously and obsessively they followed the “right rules.”

But God has never needed, nor been impressed with, our sacrifices, our religious rituals, or our “following the right rules,” e.g. Isaiah 1Isaiah 58, or any account with Jesus and the Pharisees.

God, lovingly and longingly, seeks only our undivided hearts so that God’s love may be made manifest through your life.

God has never wanted your outward, righteous-looking gestures or your strict religious adherence.

God has never wanted you to follow the “right rules” to be a “good Christian.”

God has never been interested in your perfect performance in order to make the cut for Heaven.

God has only, and always, wanted your heart.

Do you understand what I am saying?

God does not want your tithes and offerings.
God does not want your Bible studies.
God does not want your weekly church attendance.
God does not want your weekly communion.
God does not want your baptism.

God. Wants. Your. Heart.

Because when God has your heart, your life will be transformed.

What is the point of giving your offerings, if we neglect those who are in need? What’s the point of going to a Bible study to learn more information, if we don’t forgive people and then harbor anger and animosity toward them? What is the point of perfect church attendance each Sunday, if we then marginalize people or people groups and continue on with a divisive spirit? What is the point of weekly communion, when we make no attempt at patterning our lives after the cross-bearing, self-sacrificial Christ? What is the point of baptism, if we still live like the person who was supposed to be buried in baptism? What is the point of any of it, if we do not walk daily in the Spirit of God?

Our religious rituals and observances are only meaningful if expressed through a transformed heart, a changed life.

But so many of our churches have made religious rituals, observances, and rule-following more important than a transformed heart and life, as if it is by virtue of our religious rituals, celebrations, and rule-following that God is pleased with us and by which we are saved.

And that is simply wrong.

The profound tragedy is that this perspective and belief system turns the unmerited grace of God completely upside-down and makes us continually worry that we are never quite doing enough to make God happy. And so we work harder and harder to do all the “right things,” to make sure we are on God’s good side so that we might make it to Heaven one day.

Not only is that wrong, it is an impossibly heavy weight and burden for anyone to carry. It is a weight and burden we were never meant to carry. And it is a weight and burden that completely misses the point of who God is and what God intends for our lives.

It was Jesus who said, “Come to me all you are burdened and I will give you rest,” and then, “I have come that you might have life and life to the fullest.”

And that’s the Good News.

That in Christ, you have been forgiven.
That in Christ, you have been given rest.
That in Christ, you have been made to be free.
That in Christ, you have been recreated to experience life in all it’s fullness.
That in Christ, you are saved only by God’s unmerited grace.
And that in Christ, you are God’s handiwork, created for good works.

So if you constantly feel the burden of religious expectation, the weight of following all the rules in order to be a “Good Christian,” or the anxiety of never doing enough to “get to heaven,” lay it all down. Seriously, lay it all down.

Religious expectation has never been the point of this life. And when you finally realize that, you will be free.

I remember a few years ago when my younger sister, who lives in the town where I grew up, was leading a Bible study with a group of women whom she had never studied with before. As they each took a turn sharing with the others, my sister always prefaced her comments with, “I hope one day, if I make it to Heaven…”

The other ladies listened for a week or two and then one of the ladies spoke up and said, “Why do you always say, ‘If I make it to Heaven?'”

My sister, having never thought about what she had been saying all those years, just sat there in stunned silence. She tried to clarify, “No, what I mean is that I hope I have done enough to go to Heaven one day.”

The ladies continued by telling her that it is only through the grace of God by which she is saved.

It was an amazing moment in her life.

The heavy burden of religious expectation she carried all her life had been cast aside.

The impossible weight of following all the rules to be “good enough” that she had been living under was finally lifted.

The perpetual anxiety and burden of never knowing exactly where she stood with God, at last, faded away.

That too is available to each and every one of you right now. It is your time to quit living under the heavy-handed, man-made expectations of religion, and walk into the freedom that God has always wanted you to experience.

Peace…

Brandon

21 thoughts on “Freedom From Religion

  1. I agree that Jesus wants our heart. But do not agree that religion is bad. And the point of religious observances is for our own good. For we all have rituals that we do and we need them for when we aren’t feeling the love or presence of God. Something to keep us going and keep us faithful. This goes back to the faith and works argument. This video I highly recommend. Let me know what you think! https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=TLta2b9zQ64

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    1. I agree with what you are saying, but that is not the point of my post. I need to be very clear… I am NOT saying that we ought not go to church or get baptized or take communion, etc… but when it becomes the only point… and not a transformed life in the Spirit… it is meaningless. Of course all of those things are for our own benefit, but again, they are a means and not the end. Here is the quote from my post, “Our religious rituals and observances are only meaningful if expressed through a transformed heart, a changed life.”

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for this piece, Brandon. I have been trying to get closer to living with this mindset and have experienced the beginnings of the freedom and true, unvarnished love that God supplies for our journey when we “lay it all down” and accept his Grace and love. You are transforming lives with your work!

    Aaron

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    Liked by 1 person

  3. God does not want your tithes and offerings.
    God does not want your Bible studies.
    God does not want your weekly church attendance.
    God does not want your weekly communion.
    God does not want your baptism.

    God. Wants. Your. Heart.

    These statements coming from a Christian is head scratching. What you wrote is so unBiblical that you won’t find any verse in holy scripture supporting it. Jesus commanded for new converts in Him to be baptized. Our faith grows through studying and obeying scripture. I’m sorry man but what you said in this post does not come from Christ and the logical conclusion leaves you with the opposite.

    Your post is dangerous

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      1. You said-What is the point of giving your offerings, if we neglect those who are in need? What’s the point of going to a Bible study to learn more information, if we don’t forgive people and then harbor anger and animosity toward them?

        I think you are very confused in your understanding of what it means to delve into holy scripture and what does that do to the individual and also supporting the ministry.

        First of all, we know that not everyone that goes to church is truly saved but they go with the motion. Even though they are not doing what the Word says, the Holy Spirit is dealing with them and convicting them to believe in Jesus Christ.

        When a true Christian goes to church and his faith is weak by not living according to scripture, the reading of the Word in church or the Bible study will convict him and God will speak through His Word and like a sword will pierce him through.

        In your post you are giving the wrong impression and making it seem like God’s Word cannot change the person that they have to change first, now that is ridicules.

        I would suggest you reread what you wrote because it’s off.

        I know you are offended but from a Christian to another, your post is off and it will confuse and mislead some.

        take it however you like, I’m not here to put you down just letting you know what I see.

        You said-If you are a person who identifies as a Christian, but who constantly feels the burden of religious expectation, the weight of following all the rules in order to be a “Good Christian,” or the anxiety of never doing enough to “get to heaven” (and I know there are many of you out there), I have one thing to say to you.

        “Religious expectation?” “The weight of following all the rules in order to be good?” Really, what is the expectation that the churches teach but to obey holy scripture and the rules is to live a life according to the Bible? By doing what the Word says you will forgive those who have wronged you, help those in need and so forth, why? Because the Word of God changes people’s, heart.

        Your post sounds like what an atheist does which attacks the churches.

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      2. Thanks for the reply. You first comment said that my post is “dangerous,” and you received a curt reply. I’m hardly offended. I just disagree with your assertion of it being “dangerous.”

        The perplexing thing for me is to see example after example in the OT … God telling his chosen people that he doesn’t need their “sacrifices, their meaningless offerings, their continual celebrations and convocations, their worthless assemblies, their detestable worship, their ritualistic fasting,” all of which they were doing out of obedience and all of which could be used by God to transform them, yet because they remained an untransformed people… God calls them out. In the NT … we see in almost every encounter of Jesus and the Pharisees a similar rebuke. The Pharisees were absolutely obedient, absolutely following Torah… yet they “close the door of the Kingdom of God in people’s faces” by imposing the heavy burden of “following the rules,” while remaining untransformed- they obsess about the tiniest rules while neglecting the weightier matters of justice, mercy, and faithfulness. These examples are just scratching the surface of the prophets and Jesus telling people that it is completely possible to do all that the law requires, yet remain woefully untransformed. You are correct, however, that God can use any of these means through the Spirit to transform a person. But my post is clear that all of these means and methods of worship are meaningless, and that God does not want them for the sake of doing them, rather God wants our hearts wholly. I am being honest when I do not understand why this seems to be unclear. And I want you to know that I ask that in a spirit of humility. Why would it be “out of bounds” to say that when a person obsesses about the “means,” all the while ignoring the “ends,” it is so controversial. It seems very much in line with what Jesus might say. Peace… Brandon

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Thanks for your explanation Brandon, that helped a lot to see where you are coming from in your post. I agree that just going to church is not going to make us right with God unless we are living according to holy scripture. Scripture still commands us to assemble with the brothers which we call a church and all I wanted to tell you is that some are going to take it as there’s no need for church and making the scripture seem as less important.

        Your post I would consider being a gray line. When I write I try to be as clear as possible and stay in the boundaries of holy scripture.

        Anyways, good talking to you and have a great day.

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      4. You do realize that though that Jesus created profound “gray lines” in his ministry right? He may have even been called “dangerous” by the religious. There may have even been “some” who may have taken Jesus’ words as reason to not follow Torah. Do you see that? When one confronts a heavy-handed religious system or the following of rules (or the law) without life change there are bound to be people who hear or read the words and then leave wondering what the greater point was. When you say that you want to “stay in the boundaries of holy scripture,” you do know that Jesus spoke in parables that many didn’t understand right? Sometimes people didn’t understand and he walked away without explaining it. Why? Because the Kingdom of God looks like asking, seeking, and knocking. The Kingdom of God is like a treasure that one needs to search for in order to discover. The Kingdom of God is like a pearl of great value that one seeks out and sells everything to attain. Brother, the holy scriptures are not as linear and in-bounds as you think. In fact, there is significant mystery in all of it (as Paul would say). I appreciate your care, because I believe it is genuine and heartfelt, but I would rather travel in the gray areas where Jesus traveled than in the black and white areas. You too have a great day. Peace… Brandon

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      5. I’m not here to boast but I do understand the scriptures, not me that is but the Holy Spirit has given me a desire to study His Word. Any understanding I have comes from the Lord, not me. I interpret scripture in the confine of its context and references to other scripture

        I would have to disagree with you vehemently that we don’t know what Jesus said, especially in His parables. Any Christian with the Holy Spirit will understand the Bible. Some in higher degree than others according to one’s maturity in the Lord.

        Jesus never went to any gray area, He stayed within the scripture as seen in the wilderness when He used scripture to fight against Satan. The Pharisee’s were the one’s who misunderstood the scriptures.

        Scripture clearly states not to go beyond what it has clearly revealed

        1 Corinthians 4:6
        Now, brothers, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the saying: “Nothing beyond what is written.” The purpose is that none of you will be inflated with pride in favor of one person over another.

        You said-When one confronts a heavy-handed religious system or the following of rules (or the law) without life change

        What Law? We are not under the Law. What are you talking about? We are under grace and under the leadership of the Holy Spirit who directs us according to the written Word of God.

        It’s like you are trying to combine the Old with the New Testament. We are to live a life of moral excellence, which is God’s character according to holy scripture.

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    1. I’d argue that many of the Pharisees studied and obeyed scripture to the n’th degree, and yet their faith was dead. Faith can grow from works/obedience (not come from works, just to be clear), and faith ultimately cultivates works/obedience as well. But they are not the same. It is one thing to say “I am faithful, therefore I am obedient” and quite another to say “I am obedient, therefore I am faithful”. One is at the heart of faith in Christ, and the other is legalism.

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      1. A weed (false convert) can read the Bible and that doesn’t mean that he is saved.

        Legalism seems to be confused with doing good works (God’s will)

        Legalism means according to holy scripture obeying the Law which we are not under but we are under the Law of the Spirit. We as Christians have to have good works or else there will be no evidence of our conversion or the Holy Spirit living in us.

        Ephesians 2:10
        For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.

        Legalism is a person that wants to go back to the Law and live according to what he can do even though Jesus lived the Law for us. But that doesn’t mean that we do nothing and deceive ourselves.

        James 1:22
        But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

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  4. I am perplexed by SpaniardVIII’s issue with this post, but I think that he is on a similar wavelength, if unknowingly. The way I read your post, Brandon, was that you are saying that works and rituals for the sake of works and rituals are pointless. It is our very hearts that God wants, not our words and not even our deeds. I would agree wholeheartedly.
    Ephesians 2:8-9 “For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not from yourselves; it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast.” This verse actually goes hand-in-hand with James 1:22, which was submitted by SpaniardVIII. James calls for us to be doers of the word and not hearers only. The “doing” he is calling for flows OUT of hearing rather than just “doing” in and of itself. In other words, we do in response to hearing, in response to actually giving our hearts and our lives to Christ.
    In other words, our works come as a result of giving our lives over to God. Works are secondary. We are never saved by them any more than we are saved by attending worship or receiving a sacrament. While both of those actions are important and vital for healthy Christian living, they are not means of grace by themselves.
    All of this to say, I believe that you are not saying that we are not to have or don’t need to have works pour from our lives; but that those works flow from the blossomed fruit of the Spirit in our lives. I think that SpaniardVIII is rightfully saying that we are to live a life that does display the results of the salvation and grace that we have received in Christ. However, we are never called to Pelagianism. We can’t work or earn our way to salvation. Only Christ can give us salvation. Works then come as a loving and grateful response to Christ’s gracious gift.

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    1. Very nice summary, Jeffrey. Yes, you are correct. To me, however, this post goes beyond the works vs. grace argument. You perfectly iterated that from an outflow of our transformed heart, we want to gather with other believes, we want to sing the praise of God, we want to jump into the waters of baptism, etc. However, I am trying to address the heavy-handedness of legalism. The way it imposes the burden of weekly church service, the guilt and shame and pressure to get baptized, the scorn of missing communion, etc. It is a mindset that imposes fear and guilt and shame and then elicits a response from people based, not on an outflow of a transformed heart, but from the fear and guilt and shame it imposes. It is a mindset that operates with the constant fear of hell, or God’s displeasure, for not doing all of those things. I hope that makes sense.

      I plan to follow this post up with another and maybe I will get even more specific.

      Peace…

      Brandon

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  5. Another gem Brandon. Your words are always inspiring and challenging.

    It is easy to get caught up in the Christian to-do list. Communion use to be that way for me. They would pass it around and if you didn’t partake you were glared at and rumors swirled on what you had done. These rituals can easily become a form of an idol.

    It wasn’t until we took a 2 year hiatus from church-going(not a faith crisis, intentional) that I really figured out what following Jesus looked like. The funny thing is, I found a lot of my answers in the Bible, OT & NT. Once I was able to strip away all that I had learned and read the Bible through a lens that only reflected Jesus, I saw the beauty in it. I now saw that Jesus wasn’t a demanding dictator but instead He was a man who came and showed us God’s true character, a humble, loving, relational Being.

    We get so caught up on living for heaven(or to avoid the consequences of hell) that we forget that Jesus lived for others. If we are to model ourselves after Jesus, shouldn’t we be freeing other’s of burdens instead of piling on more? If we want to truly reflect Jesus, than we need to live for today, for our families, neighbors, and the outsiders.

    Thanks Brandon for sharing your wisdom, it is always edifying.

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  6. The truth, Brandon, is that the content of this post is what the Lord Jesus is drumming into the hearts of believers.

    When you enjoin “lay it down,” I see myself at the cross where He said, “It is finished;” which isn’t just a chronological terminus: for the word, ‘finished’ in the Greek is not teleioō (tel-i-o’-o): ‘to complete, that is, (literally) accomplish, or (figuratively) consummate (in character),’ which Jesus used in John 17:4. The ‘finished’ of His last words is teleō (tel-eh’-o): ‘to end, that is, complete, execute, conclude, discharge (a debt).’ Jesus paid all our spiritual debts! What, therefore, is the stress, Christian people of spiritual regeneration!?

    When He said in Matthew 11:28, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest;” the word ‘rest’ is anapauō (an-ap-ow’-o): ‘(reflexively) to repose (literally or figuratively (be exempt), remain); by implication to refresh.’ Jesus has given every born again anapauō from ‘heavy laden’ which is a one Greek word: phortizō (for-tid’-zo) ‘to load up (properly as a vessel or animal), that is, (figuratively) to overburden with ceremony (or spiritual anxiety).’ Freedom, indeed, from religion!

    Our concern is no longer ‘if I make it to heaven’ but rather to busy our lives with those values of a saved soul so as to receive rewards for faithfulness (1Cor. 3:12-14).

    This post is for the huios minds. It’s not for the brephos (1Peter 2:2) minded. It helps to understand my post, “WHY GO ARMINIANISTIC SOTORIOLOGY.” Pastors who insist that salvation can be lost have definitely not digested Galatians chapter 3. Praise the Lord!

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