I Want More Religion (Part 3)

I figure that if half of the folks reading my blog say “amen!”, and the other half say “oh my!”, then I’m right where God wants me.

The Whole Picture

The consternation and angst – in blogs, Facebook comments, podcasts and the like – generated by this series have convinced me that what I said needed saying.

My point is simple, and 100% Biblical:

I go, do and obey because of who I am in Christ. It is His life in me, expressed through me.

But here’s the kicker: If I do not “do”or obey as Christ commands, then the life of Christ in me is a lie – at least in those areas where I choose to disobey or stay trapped in my own sensibilities.

Why that is now so controversial, and dismissively called legalism rather than authentic life, is evidence of how far we have to go to restore health among God’s people today.

We all deal with lies in our lives. The issue is not perfection, but how we deal with our imperfection. And where my actions do not reflect Christ, there I need to seek the authentic life of Christ.

Beyond specific areas in my life, if my life by and large is not showing any fruit of obedience – but is simply me and my own sensibilities with a Jesus candy coating on top – then I have a really big problem.

Jesus then becomes just a rationalization for my own self – even if it is my better self.

Relationship, transformation, holiness, obedience, going and doing: In Christ (and not some Jesus of my own creation), there should be no tension or contradiction between those aspects of a believer’s life, because if Christ is all, then He is all that and more.

You see, I enjoy a vibrant relationship with Jesus. And because of it, I also obey Him and do what He commands.

In fact, if His life in me is authentic, I can’t help but go, do and obey.

Where I fall short, I don’t beat myself up. Rather, I view that as an indication of an area in me where I need to let His life transform me.

Anyone who calls this “legalism” is either being disingenuous, or else is so spiritually unhealthy that they can’t see past their reaction to past hurts.

Legalists and many fundamentalists mistakenly think “being” comes from obeying and “doing”.

Libertines and mystics mistakenly think “being” transcends obeying and “doing”.

Real life in Christ, however, is Jesus in me and through me – being and obeying and doing.

And if that’s religion, then so be it (no pun intended).

On this I stand firm and unmoved.

If all this seems like a contradiction, then I can only urge you to examine your own beliefs to find the source of the disconnect.

So let the bloggers, podcasters, and voices of post-modernity rage.

In the meantime, I’ll just continue enjoying Jesus – my relationship and life in Him – and all the wonderful things He bids me to go and do.

I’ll feel His presence. I’ll pursue His holiness. I’ll go and minister His love and His truth. I’ll see the captives set free, lives transformed, nations changed.

I’ll joyfully serve His church while He gives me the breath to do so, and enjoy kicking down the gates of hell along the way.

And I’ll continue to rejoice as I see His Kingdom come, His will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Ain’t authentic life grand? 😉

~ Jim


10 responses

  1. The majority of what you said in this blog is true, the problem with your ‘I want more Religion’ series is less what you say but what you imply.

    #1 you imply that anyone who disagrees with you is following a false god.
    #2 you either don’t understand how a person becomes a ‘doer’ or you don’t really care.
    #3 becoming a ‘doer’ ONLY happens through 2 means (A) legalism and those works are filthy rags or (B) real relationship with Christ that results in ‘Christ in me the hope of glory’.

    I could add more… But I’ll stop there


  2. I agree there needs to be a balance in our walk. This statement you said, to me is where the rub I have with you is: “If I do not “do” – if I do not obey – then the life of Christ in me is a lie”. We all disobey, and if you say you don’t, then I think you are lying to yourself. Your black and white way of looking at things, I understand, for I used to be that way. As I grow further, I cannot look at someones life and walk with the Lord and assume those kind of things. I’m so thankful that He that began a good work in me will continue it, inspite of my sometimes disobedient moments. We are ALL a work in progress and we must have grace for one another in that process. We have not walked in the other persons shoes to know what they have experienced. I trust the Father that He is at work in His children, even if it’s not at the pace I would like. Christ’s life in them is never a lie. How we deal with our imperfections: we talk to Father about them, and He will work on them and trust Him to do so. NOTHING in us can change us, only He can and we can then rest in Him knowing that He is at work in us. If we don’t rest in His faithfulness to complete the good work He started in us, then we can become fearful, navel gazing, looking for our sins, etc. He’s after a relationship with us, the more I abide and behold Him, the more my behavior conforms. The more I fall in love with Him, the more the junk falls away, not from my effort, but by His life in me. The more my relationship deepens, doing things that displease Him become displeasing to me. Process…journey.


  3. “Why that is now so controversial, and dismissively called legalism rather than authentic life,”
    No doubt for some people they will straight up state they want a jesus with no demands on them beyond what theyre comfortable with. That said the way you’ve worded recent posts has made it more controversial than necessary as you will find people are not simply disagreeing with going or doing but rather the lens you use to describe that process.
    Many words have unfortunately lost meaning because they have been abused and misused so much… which does make dialogue more difficult. I know I’ve had plenty of debates around obey and obedience… or even missions or ministry… or ‘commands’. Get to know someone and it becomes more clear what they mean.
    I’ve met plenty of christians who are responsive to the lords internal promptings and what they interpret from scripture, though the bible is a massive book so its not like responding to scripture is done in isolation. Some of those christians talk of obeying the commands of jesus, some don’t, they use other language… maybe they talk rather of being loved and loving people. Whatever the case neither is less authentic or genuine, as the way we describe our walk is usually heavily influenced by training, background and culture.
    Personally I’m trying to live in a world where I dont put demands on everyone embracing my idea of balance. So many well meaning christians getting so much wrong, don’t think I’m immune. Funny thing is many bloggers or authors outside the institution spent many years in the institution contributing towards things they now cringe at… it should be no surprise that once someone leaves the institution its going to take some time to find their feet… especially when they’re venturing out mostly on their own even if they want companions.
    Maybe if you want to blame someone, blame the masses of active christians caught up in the system… people who could be helping others to flesh out this more balanced way of living and doing life in christ. The kind of guilt trip you are inadvertently pushing actually just pushes people back to the institution where its easy to plug into ministry and a form of going and doing… not everyone is a self starter or has access to thriving community.


  4. I thing being a lawyer, you are infatuated with arguments, which is fine, I just want you to think about that. I know as a serious scholar, you can not be serious about obeying His commandments. Which commandments do you purpose that we all obey? you choose; pluck out your eyes, cut off your hand, give away you coat, walk and extra mile, go and sin no more, of course I could go on and on. I hope that for all of your intelligence you are not reduced to this mere simplistic moralist interpretation of the commandments of Jesus and the scriptures. Being a pride filled person would only add insult to injury in this situation. As you see yourself as a leader of the blind, do you in fact claim to see?


    • Marc, your comments often go to motive, which is odd given that you don’t know me. I suspect you need to deal in caricatures – like reducing me to being an attorney (which has not been true for some time) – because I don’t conveniently fit into your own “church” framework. Caricatures are easier to handle than real people and disquieting ideas that force us outside our own comfort zones.

      I don’t dwell in some ivory tower, pontificating theory. I am in the trenches, weekly ministering to, mentoring, counseling and getting involved in the mess of folks’ lives as they turn their lives over to Jesus and seek His authentic life.

      I minister to, and walk beside, folks who cover the full gamut – addicts and pimps, the abused and prostitutes, the homeless and white suburban pillars of their community, post-modern millennials and boomers. I do this because the Lord calls me to do so and because I have a father’s heart, not a lawyer’s heart – although I admit to having some analytical and communication skills.

      Later today, I will be performing a wedding at my home for a couple in one of our fellowships. I met him in jail, helped him find the Lord, and have walked with him through life – including living for several months in the woods when he got out of jail, letting the Lord burn some attitudes out of him, being there for him when he needed a father in the Lord, seeing him slowly get to some emotional and spiritual health, mentoring him in starting his own business, and now I have the priviledge of performing the wedding as he marries a wonderful woman.

      Marc, that is who I am.

      This blog series comes out of real ministry and real community. If it doesn’t fit your paradigm, and makes you uneasy, then I guess it’s doing it’s job of breaking through folks’ sensibilities.


  5. Jim, perhaps you are guilty of choosing words to stir up reactions, but from what I’ve seen of your posts for the last six months you are the last person to sit in judgement of other believers who don’t fit your present pattern…that is demonstrated by your frequently posted complaining about the narrow views expressed by some of the founders of groups that are (I guess) called organic churches.

    Semantics…perhaps the furor is in the use of the word ‘religion’ in a positive sense where so many, myself included, generally use the word to refer to an organized system in which participants seek to endear themselves to a Deity by what they do (or don’t) do. We are not in a system of works to earn rewards…oops, now I get into the entire issue of crowns, etc….since we have been saved by grace and continue to walk by grace. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I read your post as making a plea for obeying Christ’s commands as expressed in 1 John:
    1John 2:3-5(NET) Now by this we know that we have come to know God: if we keep his commandments. The one who says “I have come to know God” and yet does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in such a person. But whoever obeys his word, truly in this person the love of God has been perfected. By this we know that we are in him.

    “I’ll joyfully serve His church while He gives me the breath to do so, and enjoy kicking down the gates of hell along the way.”
    I’m reading between the lines here, but I can imaging the ‘gives me breath’ has become, to you in particular, more than a bland expression about continuing to live. You continue in my prayers.


    • I think it relevant to quote more of 1John as he lays it on thick just what it means to know god and keep his commandments. On the one hand the call is so great it humbles all of us… on the other it is as simple as believing and loving.

      Rightly so we should be skeptical of those who claim to love jesus but have no interest in loving others. Interestingly John appeals primarily to the spirit and anointing we have to guide us… perhaps he was being too mystical 😉

      1John3:21 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. 24 The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.”


  6. Eli, Indeed if we have come to know Him, we have in us eternal (God’s kind) of life. The internal witness is for us and us alone. We know that we belong to Him. His commandments become now life giving, for they are relational in real time. “My sheep know my voice, they will not follow another.” What does He say when He speaks to us? He speaks words of knowledge, and wisdom, directional words, words of life, words of affirmation, just like a loving Father. The results of obeying this voice, is doing His will, by Divine instruction, grace and power. This is where my friend Jim would say, “The rubber meets the road.” But all of these Divine works, is by the Holt Spirit, or it is nothing at all.


  7. Eli… I too want to be a mystic if this is mysticism = “Immediate consciousness of the transcendent or ultimate reality or God.” SIGN ME UP! I don’t understand why mysticism or knowing and talking to God gets a bad wrap… When I read the definition I think… Yep, I’m a mystic.


  8. Pingback: Deeper Life? « Crossroad Junction

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