The flesh loves the idea of earning, achieving, qualifying for, winning, paying for - whatever dream we may have. The flesh rarely likes charity. Charity means someone else did it, and you didn’t. It means you have achieved nothing.
An individual may desire to run in the Boston Marathon. So, every morning for six months prior to the race, he crawls out of bed at 5:30 AM and runs five miles before work. We say he is training religiously for the marathon. What does the phrase, “training religiously,” mean? If you look in an older dictionary (50 years or older) one of the usages of the word religion was, “a return to bondage”.
Our marathon runner has placed him/herself into self-imposed bondage in the training routine. Whether rain, snow, hail, blistering sun, high wind or a just plain nice day - he is out there at 5:30 AM every morning as if his eternal life depended on it! When the training is finished, and the race is run, our marathon runner crosses the finish line, throws his arms in the air and shouts triumphantly, “I did it”!
When it comes to the plan of God, religion is hogwash. When our marathon runner decides to join the local church, he brings his achievement mentality with him, and works hard to please God, and earn God’s favor and blessing. He becomes critical of other Christians who are not type “A” personalities like himself. He has trouble understanding God’s plan is a rest in Jesus, where the only words we shout at the finish line are, “God did it”!
In the western world we are born into a very performance based society. We have stats for every activity from school grades to stock rises and falls. Our sports heros live in a fish bowl of performance stats. We know exactly how many pitches they have thrown by the 7th inning. We know the success percentage of power plays our favorite hockey team has had in this year’s run for the Stanley Cup. We make heros and legends of those who perform the best regardless of their methods, ethics, or motives. All of this influence impacts us and we bring the baggage along with us to church and allow it to impact our relationship with Jesus.
When I was first called by the Lord, I read an article expounding Acts 2:38. I was thrilled. I was overjoyed with the meaning and power in those few lines. The direction they gave me immediately started changing my life and giving me a joy I had never experienced before.
In my excitement I ended up attending a church that was very legalistic, although I did not understand anything about legalism at the time. The church was a tight community that made me feel a part of the family, and taught me hundreds of things I needed to do and not do to please God. In my naivety I appreciated this, but, with the passage of time the joy and excitement of Jesus and the Holy Spirit faded away. As the internal culture of the church became more of a molding influence on me than the covenant love of God, I became far more engrossed with doing things right - not in bringing glory to God. Jesus had offered me freedom, peace, joy, rest, and an easy yoke. Somehow, I missed it, and picked up the package of striving, working, struggling to please God with my own strength and became very self-focused to make sure I was living right. It all sounded good, but the fruits were exhaustion, continuous disappointment, judgement toward others and eventually toward God Himself, and an overwhelming disillusionment with what I thought was Christianity.
I’m not alone. You may have experienced a number of years that are almost identical to mine. Listen to this statement and ponder it in your heart for a season. I am convinced there are many children of God who will never experience the joy Jesus promises until they stop trying to please God! For some who are still striving to earn what Jesus gives us, this statement may sound like heresy. For those who do understand the least understood truth in the Bible - the New Covenant - you know exactly what I mean. The blood covenant story of David and Jonathan explains much of the nature of the New Covenant (see our article).
If you are weary, frustrated and disillusioned from trying so hard to please God, or live a good life, or keep people in the church happy - we need to pray for you. To deeply understand the blood covenant agreement, and to have a new revelation of Jesus and the unaltered Gospel like the disciples on the road to Emmaus were given - would help you immensely. Please see our articles about the True Gospel, and the Blood Covenant.