Leaving religion to follow Christ – Part four

Jesus_writing_sandWhen Jesus told the people of Galilee to “repent” (change your mindset) for the kingdom of God is here (Mark 1:15), He was talking to people who already obeyed the Law, so He wasn’t telling them to start behaving themselves. He was basically telling them to leave their Adamic transactional mindset of sacrificial appeasement and follow Him instead.

This is the part four of this series. If you haven’t read the other parts you can go here.

Getting back to Jesus’ first message in Mark 1:15, we see that with the coming of Jesus Christ, God’s final deconstruction of their religious paradigm was about to begin. For Jesus didn’t come to solve an ethical problem, but one that came from us eating from the wrong tree (more on this in part five).

With Jesus came the way of the Kingdom. We know that Jesus is the way, truth, and life (John 14:6), but this “way” is not the way that man had sought God since Adam, as orphans alienated in their minds from God (Col.1:21). It’s the way of a fully-affirmed son or daughter toward a loving Father; a way that Jesus shows us by His teaching and example. And we see this summarized as follows:

As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. 10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.

11 “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. 12 This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. 14 You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. 17 These things I command you, that you love one another. (John 15:9-17 NKJV *)

Love_treeFirst, notice what Jesus’ commandment is: to love others as God loves us. Second, we are to live from His love (abide). And when we do, we will bear much fruit. Third, love chooses. It’s not conditioned by the other’s response or their worthiness of that love.

Finally, Jesus contrasts a servant to that of a friend. This speaks of mutual affection and inclusion. This is what Adam and Eve gave up when they fell under the Serpent’s spell, trading a life in God’s constant embrace for a religious construct that feeds off of fear, separation, and obligation…that thrives on self-elevating judgmentalism and polarizing divisiveness.

I mentioned last time that “religion has always been about sacrificing things or people to appease a distant deity but God has always been about surrender and other-centered love.” Let’s briefly look at three passages that point out this paradigm shift:

You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had,

who though he existed in the form of God
did not regard equality with God
as something to be grasped,
but emptied himself
by taking on the form of a slave,
by looking like other men,
and by sharing in human nature.
He humbled himself,
by becoming obedient to the point of death
—even death on a cross! (Phil.2:5-8 NET *)

14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. (2 Cor.5:14-15 *)

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.(Rom.12:1 NIV *)

I want you to notice a couple of things here:

First, the “sacrifice” is of ourselves to God; not what we think we need to do in order to appease Him. In other words, we don’t sacrifice our families, other people, or things, thinking we’re serving God. Rather, as Christ did, we offer our “bodies” for His other-centered love to flow in and through us (Heb.10:5-7). We’re no longer the center of our universe, for we died and our life is now Christ’s very life (cf., Rom.6:1-14; Col.3:3). We repent from our transactional relationship with God while keeping Him at a distance and freely offer Him our hearts instead.

Second, we are compelled by love, not obligation. When we follow Christ and “empty ourselves,” He fills us with the fullness that fills God! (Eph.3:19). We serve one another out of the boundless love we feel for the “other” when we’re being loved by God the same way! (My heart fills with joy just typing these words!)

vending_machineThis is the difference between religion and living out of our relationship in Christ. We don’t use God like a vending machine so we can fill ourselves on junk-food spirituality. We leave the emaciating “weak and beggarly elements” of this transactional idolatry (Gal.4:9; Col.2:20-23) for the boundless cornucopia of overflowing life found in the Divine Dance!  And in this unending  communion, we will also find each another (see John 14:20; 17:21-26).

The Pharisees were all about transactional religion, but they wouldn’t dance.

‘We played the flute for you,
    And you did not dance;
We mourned to you,
    And you did not lament.’ (Matt.11:17 NKJV)

But when we do “taste and see” the dynamic flow of the Trinitarian life in God’s self-emptying and other-centered love, our one desire is to empty ourselves, again and again, so that He can fill us with His life. In His presence truly is fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore! (Psalm 16:11; John 15:11; 16:24; Acts 2:28; 1 Pet.1:8; 1 John 1:4; 2 John 1:12). And, in the Divine Overflow, we gladly, lovingly, graciously pour out our lives for one another. And that’s a beautiful thing to behold.

We will wrap this series up next time.

* Emphasis added.
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About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 36 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
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2 Responses to Leaving religion to follow Christ – Part four

  1. Dan LaChance says:

    Mel,

    I have my share of baggage from growing up in “catholic” grade schools. But, there is one thing I learned that I believe holds true today. Here’s how I remember it. God’s grace is like a running faucet of water. All we need to do is get under the faucet to receive it. I think this speaks to what I believe is your central message:

    God’s love has always been there for us. We just need to accept it.

    It’s funny (not really) that my sister who is one year older than me went to the same school. And she doesn’t remember anything vaguely resembling this. All she remembers is what we had to “do” to earn God’s love. My prayer is that your message of God’s love will reach every human heart in this world. As the song says: What the world needs now, is love, sweet love. Said another way: What the world needs now is for all of us to receive God’s love, and to treat everyone else that same way. Thanks so much for all you do.

    Love,
    Dan

    • Mel Wild says:

      Thanks Dan. I really appreciate that. It’s funny how we hear what we are ready to hear. Two people can hear different things from the same message. I’ve had people tell me the opposite, too. They will come up to me after I give a message and say how much something I said meant so much to them. The problem is, I don’t remember saying it! It’s not in my notes either. Either God said it through me or the Holy Spirit said directly to them as I was talking. 🙂

      I definitely share your prayer. That we would learn to be loved so that we can love. Our broken and divisive world SO needs the Father’s reconciling love!

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