God doesn’t invite you into religion—He invites you into relationship.
Amidst the wearisome pandemic, we’ve been exploring the source of real energy for living in Christ and we’ve exposed the counterfeit passions of rebellion and religion.
Rebellion says, “I’ll be energized by doing what others say I shouldn’t do” while religion says, “I’ll be energized by doing everything others say I should.”
The person who has been shamed wants to escape the oppression and thinks, if only I can get away from rules and religion, I’ll feel alive. The person who sees the licentiousness of the world and the irreligion of culture feels artificially energized by a sense of superiority, thinking, I’m glad I’m not like those sinful people.
Part of the genius of Jesus’ famous story known as the parable of the prodigal son is the dynamic contrast between the younger son and his older brother. The younger is perfectly rebellious, scandalizing his family with his riotous living. The older is perfectly obedient, dutifully “slaving” at home. But neither son is anywhere near the father’s heart. The spirit of performance-based living (which I’m referring to broadly as “religion”) carries us just as far away from God as does rebellion.
Rebellion declares, “I can’t measure up, so why try to be affirmed?”
Religion declares, “When I prove that I measure up, I’ll be affirmed.”
Rebellion makes no effort to be good.
Religion makes every effort to be better than others.
Rebellion always rejects others’ expectations.
Religion always conforms to others’ expectations.
Rebellion finds fleeting energy in pleasure.
Religion finds fleeting energy in pride.
Rebellion has no righteousness.
Religion has self-righteousness.
What the Father wants and offers isn’t a correction of rebellion that leads to religion. He offers both the rebellious and the religious authentic relationship. In Jesus’ story, the wayward prodigal falls into his father’s arms while the bitter older brother refuses to join the celebration. If you’re tired of running from God or tired of just working for God, look, see His arms open wide. There’s real-life in relationship with God. And that’s the Gospel!