As much as I'd love to claim this title as my own, I can't. It's a chapter heading from a provocative book I'm reading entitled The Naked Gospel.
As soon as I read that title my mind went to a favorite scripture found in Matthew 11:28-30 where Jesus asks:
"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly."
Just before Jesus made this statement He had been teaching and preaching to the people in the villages. He'd commented on how many of them were like spoiled children who are never happy with any situation, and He'd rebuked some for their indifference. Then He prayed and began to speak to those people who were sincerely looking for God and He uttered those words above.
When I read these words of Jesus I find myself asking these questions: What is it about religion that is bad? What about religion would cause burn out? How is getting away with Jesus different than religion?
I'll tell you my thoughts on these questions and then I'd be interested to hear yours.
The common usage of the word religion implies rules. Rules to which we must scrupulously conform, a set of standards of what we should and should not do. It's about how we're going to get to, or be right with, God.
Jesus claimed in John 14:6 that He was the only way to get to God. Then we see in Romans 8:1-23 that the law from the Old Testament shows us the perfect requirements, standards, rules that we are not able to keep but that Jesus was able to do what the law could not - Jesus is able to bring us into relationship with God. Ephesians 2:4-10 shows us that God will reach out to us in grace and give us the ability to have faith in Jesus so that we can come into relationship with Himself. So what Jesus is offering us, is different than following rules or standards; He's offering us to be in relationship with Himself and empower us to live a better way of life by living through us.
I know that trying to measure up, to be good enough, is exhausting. It's like being a hamster on an exercise wheel because I can never get anywhere; my best, and everyone else's, is always imperfect. But to come into a relationship with Jesus who loves me just as I am, who allows me to be myself, who asks me in John 15:3-5 to spend time with Him and He will produce good things through my life - this is an entirely different experience.
Has religion ever been a headache for you? Have you ever experienced being burned out from trying to live up to religious standards? How has getting away with Jesus been different for you than religion?
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