How is religion part of “this world” that Jesus came to save us from, and where did this whole counterfeit construct come from? This is part three in my series where we’re looking at these three questions:
- What does the New Testament mean by “world?”
- What does it mean that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the World?
- Why should this matter to us?
We’re still looking at the first question. If you have not read the other two parts, I suggest you do that before continuing here.
Religion in “this world”
We need to understand that what Jesus came to expose includes the fallen construct of religion. While all world religions are subsumed in the “seven mountain” cultural structure (see part one), Jesus came to put an end to religion and replace it by making a way to share in His life and relationship with His Father (John 14:6).
I will probably need to explain that further another time (or you could just read my series, “Leaving religion to follow Christ“). For our purposes here, I want to show how the Pharisees represented religion in the fallen structure, even though they were part of God’s covenantal people. See how Jesus exposes this:
23 And He said to them, “You are from beneath; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24 Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” (John 8:23-24 *)
Notice Jesus said they are “of this world.” Why? Not because they weren’t observing the Law or behaving themselves. These Pharisees were dedicated “Bible-believing” Jews! They followed all the rules; they faithfully attended synagogue and required feasts; they were moral and respected in their religious community. Yet, Jesus says their father is the devil (John 8:44).
They weren’t from the wrong world because they weren’t faithful practitioners of their religion; it was because, as Jesus told them, “you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life” (see John 5:39-40).
Now, it’s time to pull the curtain all the way back and expose the beast.
Two trees, two worlds
I’ve already written at length on this blog about the tragedy in the Garden when Adam and Eve ate from the wrong tree. I want to focus in here on a few other points as it pertains to the “world” Jesus is trying to free us from here.
We’ve already seen how God created His good world and gave Adam and Eve full partnership in it. Genesis three begins by introducing the serpent. He is cunning and begins to do his Jedi mind trick on Eve, convincing her that God was holding out on her (same lie he tells us today). So, Eve eats…and then Adam…
6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings. (Gen. 3:6-7 *)
Before we talk about this, you’ve probably heard this connection before, but John shows us the same modus operandi here [brackets added for clarification]:
16 For all that is in the world [FALLEN CONSTRUCT]—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world [FALLEN CONSTRUCT]. (1 John 2:16 *)
Notice the parallel…”pleasant to the eyes'” (“lust of the eyes”), “good for food” (“lust of the flesh”), and “desirable to make one wise” (“pride of life”). These are the three areas where we try to derive life from the empty self, apart from God. This is how Greg Boyd describes this empty self:
“The reality God wills is that of an eternal fullness overflowing to, in, and through everyone and everything. The reality Eve was in the process of creating—the reality we humans have been creating ever since—was the reality of a vacuum in which she attempted to get life by having everything flow into it. Instead of reality being centered on the fullness of God, reality for Eve became centered on her own, now empty, self.” (Boyd, Repenting from Religion, p. 144 *)
Instead of receiving the continuous life flow from God and letting it flow out to others, we become a black hole to everyone around us, getting our life flow from them.
Lust is the opposite of other-centered, self-giving love. It objectifies others for its own self-gratification. This is not just sexual, it’s anything we’re trying to get life from. As Paul Young said about religion, “It tends to be transactional and propositional rather than relational and mysterious. You don’t have to trust Person, or care for Person.” (See full quote here).
Which bring me to my last point today, continuing on in the Genesis account…
8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.
9 Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?”
10 So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.” (Gen. 3:8-10 *)
Now we’re getting the full picture of the religious paradigm in “this world” construct.
The first question we have to ask is, who is separating themselves from who here? Adam and Eve are the ones separating themselves from God! God still wants a relationship. It’s Adam and Eve who are hiding. This is the DNA of an orphan spirit.
The second question is, why did Adam and Eve cover their nakedness? The answer is because they now saw themselves exposed and vulnerable, which is a requirement for intimacy. They replaced honest and open intimacy with God with “fig leaf” religion that hides its shame and paints God’s face with Satan’s brush. You might say that God’s perfect love was cast out by fear in the Garden. This is the same fig leaf religion that God had to deconstruct and constantly acquiesce to throughout the entire Old Testament.
So, here we see the genesis of “this world.” We will talk about the immediate impact this had on humankind and God’s good world next time.