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Changing My Religion - A Devotion

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James 1:19-25 (NLT)
Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires. So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls. But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.

Lost in thought literally looking in the bathroom mirror, my mind was reeling in thought. I am a thinker. I am always contemplating or evaluating something in my life. If you ask me what I am thinking about and I say, “Oh no, nothing” – don’t believe it. I scrutinize every single second of my life. In that moment, I was condemning and judging myself. The Voice of His Spirit startled me as I thought I was alone. It made a horrible accusation and one that I do not take lightly. As if pointing a finger back at me from the image in the glass, He said, “You are religious!” Completely offended, I began to think of all the ways that I had grown in my relationship with the Lord over the past year. In fact, it was my self-evaluation from the previous year preparing for New Year’s that got me in this private conversation with the Spirit of the Living God. I have tried diligently to love others. I have made it a point to apply the grace I desire to those who aggravate me or let me down. Striving to see others through the eyes of Jesus and treat them as such, falling short yet trying so hard – I could not believe that I could be called “religious” when all I was trying to do was follow Jesus. Then it hit me, I am religious. I try to follow God’s Law to the letter to please Him. Isn’t that what you are supposed to do? We are all supposed to try being quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to get angry striving daily to remain in the righteousness that we have been given. Yes, we are to get rid of the filth and evil in our lives by humbling accepting the Word of God as truth and planting it deep in our heart. We must not just tuck it away but pay care attention to it day by day. I am trying to do that to remain righteous not become religious. But after all these instructions, I have missed the most important one of all. I am glancing in the mirror but not allowing the Law of Love given to us by Jesus Christ to apply to me. If you carefully look into the “perfect law” that sets you free, doing what it says He will bless you! I am not living by in the “perfect law” when I refuse to apply the same love and grace to myself that I extend to others. Yet, day after day I evaluate and condemn myself if I am weak or fall short. I am being religious – it is time to change my religion.

Hebrews 7:20-25 (NLT)
This new system was established with a solemn oath. Aaron’s descendants became priests without such an oath, but there was an oath regarding Jesus. For God said to him, “The LORD has taken an oath and will not break his vow: ‘You are a priest forever.’” Because of this oath, Jesus is the one who guarantees this better covenant with God. There were many priests under the old system, for death prevented them from remaining in office. But because Jesus lives forever, his priesthood lasts forever. Therefore he is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf.

Jesus Christ lives forever. He is a Priest forever and the One who guarantees a better covenant with God. Jesus is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through Him. He lives forever to intercede on our behalf. Intercede means to reconcile the differences between two people. The Lord is constantly mending fences between His Father and His Beloved. “Yes, the old requirement about the priesthood was set aside because it was weak and useless. For the law never made anything perfect. But now we have confidence in a better hope, through which we draw near to God.” (Hebrews 7:18-19) Anytime I begin to berate myself or punish myself for acting out of accordance with God’s Law rather than applying the Grace of Jesus Christ that is the “perfect law” – I have decided to become religious all over again. It means that I think there is something flawed in my humanity too great for the Blood of Jesus Christ to cover and that He is unable to settle the differences between the Father and His Children. It means that I weaken salvation by my disbelief in the Messiah and High Priest – Jesus Christ who perfected the Law. Yes, I must strive to do what God’s Word says because that is exactly what Jesus Christ did as a man on the earth. But when I fail or fall down, His Unfailing Love will pick me up, dust me off, and put me right back on course. I don’t have to do anything other than ask for forgiveness and repent (turning from my way to go His Way again). I must daily commit to living in God’s Perfect Law made possible through Jesus Christ that allows me to experience His Grace, Love and Mercy personally so that I can effectively reproduce it in my life.

Matthew 7:1-2 (NLT)
“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.”

My position allows me to meet a lot of people in the course of a day. Young and old file in to talk about changing their life seeking training in a new career. There are representatives of every socioeconomic and multicultural background that you can imagine. Some have just come out of bad situations and others fresh out of incarceration. Each day I greet them exactly the same way. This is a change in my heart by Jesus Christ. I believe that my position has allowed me to grow spiritually in many ways because I see people differently now. We had a new employee a few years back who had never been exposed to such a variety of individuals. She was a bit apprehensive at first. Over the years, she too has seen past the differences in people and embraced her position serving everyone. Customer service can really challenge our social skills especially when it comes to judging other people. I try diligently not to judge other people simply because I do not want them to judge me. My past is not glorious but under the Blood. My character is flawed, but my hope is secure. I want them to see the Love of Jesus in the way that I treat them so they will know Him, too. But when it comes to myself, it is a whole other story. I am a harsh, unscrupulous judge. My past is unacceptable and constantly knocks on the door of my mind reminding me that I am not worthy of God’s Love and Mercy. My mistakes knock me down and guilt holds me back when I fail in any way. I believe that God desires humility in His Servants not humiliation. Humbling ourselves before the Lord is a submission of our life in exchange for a brand new one. Humiliation is the devil’s device to hurt you. The Grace of Jesus Christ covered every single sin – past, present and future. He knows that you will mess up so it is no surprised. A heart humbled before the Lord will be lifted up. To fully accept the Love of God and Salvation offered through His Son Jesus Christ means that His Grace is sufficient for even you! (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Mark 15:1-5 (NLT)
Very early in the morning the leading priests, the elders, and the teachers of religious law—the entire high council—met to discuss their next step. They bound Jesus, led him away, and took him to Pilate, the Roman governor. Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus replied, “You have said it.” Then the leading priests kept accusing him of many crimes, and Pilate asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer them? What about all these charges they are bringing against you?” But Jesus said nothing, much to Pilate’s surprise.
Religion is conduct indicating belief in divine power. It comes from Latin word meaning “conscientiousness; to tie, fasten or bind.” Religion led by religious people bound Jesus. How ironic! Religion has the potential to change our relationship with Jesus Christ when we begin to live by the Law of God and the Perfect Law of Love. We begin to punish our own sin again rather than leaving it all under the Blood. Jesus Christ is Lord. He daily makes intercession for your every shortcoming. His Grace, Mercy and Love is more than enough to cover every single mistake that we make when trying to follow His Word and walk in His Way. We are mandated to love other people as we would have them love us. You cannot love other people until you allow God’s Love to impact you so that you expect the same from the Gospel as you give. There is not a different code of ethics once you are saved or some secret sect. We are all sinners set free by the Love of God to be saved, healed, restored and prosper. Who the Son sets free is free indeed! That includes you and I. The list of rules and regulations that we have mandated for our life with all of its do’s and don’ts must not become confused with what God really requires of us. Love, faithfulness and devotion – He just wants us warts and all. Bad choices and consequence-filled so He can transform our live and make it new. He has not instructed you to go heal thyself, but rather come boldly to His Throne each day. (Hebrews 4:16) In our quest to love and trust Him more, we must be careful not to bind ourselves to the law which restricts Jesus movement in our life. He will be silent in this moment until your faith is renewed.

Galatians 5:7-14 (NLT)
You were running the race so well. Who has held you back from following the truth? It certainly isn’t God, for he is the one who called you to freedom. This false teaching is like a little yeast that spreads through the whole batch of dough! I am trusting the Lord to keep you from believing false teachings. God will judge that person, whoever he is, who has been confusing you. Dear brothers and sisters, if I were still preaching that you must be circumcised—as some say I do—why am I still being persecuted? If I were no longer preaching salvation through the cross of Christ, no one would be offended. I just wish that those troublemakers who want to mutilate you by circumcision would mutilate themselves. For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Love your neighbor as yourself is tough when you do not love you. I understand how it feels to think you are not lovable. I know the struggle in trying to meet everybody’s love requirement because you cannot love yourself appropriately so you worry constantly about meeting the emotional and physical needs of those around you giving your life unselfishly in exchange for “love”. Such people, seldom if ever do anything for themselves and give their life away every single minute and second. I am not condoning selfishness at all but those who life selflessly remaining empty most of the time. The Love of Jesus is hard to comprehend and much harder to receive by the “givers” in life. They have not time for it or place to put it because they do not think they are worthy to own it. Not many of us know where such a mentality began nor do we have time to figure it all out. We just keep going until we hit a wall crashing and burning feeling unloved, unwanted, unappreciated and unfulfilled. Religion fits quite nicely for those who do not understand the give and take of relationships. They will give their whole life to Jesus Christ expecting nothing in return and that is not how His Perfect Love works! We are not free to pursue the wants and desires of our sinful nature. But we are free to love and be loved! Religion confines His Love, but a truly thriving relationship of giving and receiving from the Lord will prosper our soul and pour out over our life. Love covers a multitude of sins both yours and everyone else’s. A relationship is reciprocal. You cannot be in a covenant relationship with the Lord and not accept His Love, Grace and Mercy for yourself. You must learn to live in His Love daily to become less religious and develop a relationship with Jesus.

I John 4:17-19 (NLT)
And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the Day of Judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.
Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. We love each other because he loved us first.

I do not want to be religious. Judgment Day will be very scary for those who live immersed in religion and on the fringe of a relationship with Jesus Christ. In my humanity, I love to give and nurture. I do not value myself enough to take care of my own needs most of the time choosing to give my whole life to my family and friends. This is not a good thing. This is not a God thing. It is not anything to boast about because it is also a self-disclosure that I am religious. I have restricted God’s Love and Work in my life to the fulfillment of a long list of rules and regulations without accepting the Grace, Mercy and Love that fulfills it through Jesus Christ. We love each other BECAUSE He first loved us. I must learn to accept the Love and Grace of God through Jesus Christ for myself and stop trying to work my way in. I can come boldly through the Blood into His Presence with confidence that His Grace is sufficient for me. If not, I fall short by judging myself and my sin as too great for the Lord’s Work of Salvation. Love has no fear. Self-condemnation is not of God. Guilt is residue of our inability to accept His Great Love and hinders our freedom in Christ. Perfect love expels all fear. Expels is a strong word. It means to drive or force something out, to eject it or cut it off. I must change my religion into a relationship that allows His Love to “expel” all fear, worry, doubt, anxiety, and guilt from my life. I want to face the Lord with confidence when I meet Him face-to-face! I want His Words to me to be, “Well done good and faithful servant!” This will only happen if I love others from His Love that I have accepted for myself!

Ephesians 3:17-19 (NLT)
Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

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