How to Break the Religious Rules Without Breaking Yourself
- Wednesday, April 07, 2010
Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Fil Anderson's recent book, Breaking the Rules: Trading Performance for Intimacy with God, (InterVarsity Press, 2010).
Read your Bible every day. Don't cuss. Attend worship services at church at least once each week. Don't drink alcohol. Volunteer for lots of service projects. Don't watch certain movies, etc., etc., etc.… The demands and pressures of trying to keep up with religious rules will only frustrate and burn you out - no matter how hard you try. The good news is that God doesn't require you to follow any rules; he invites you to pursue a relationship with Him. In the process, he'll empower you to live a faithful life that leads to real freedom.
Here's how you can break religious rules so you'll be free to pursue a close relationship with God:
Place your faith in God, not religion. Ask yourself honestly if your allegiance is simply to good moral habits and churchy routines, or if it's directly to God. Rather than placing your faith in believing and doing what's right and then relying on your own efforts to try to accomplish it, place your faith in God, trusting Him completely to lead you and empower you to follow where He leads you.
Realize that God doesn't think like you do. Religious people are often disappointed when God doesn't act according to their assumptions about how He should and will act. Accept the fact that God may choose to act in ways that are radically different from what you expect or desire - but trust Him to do what's best, even when you don't understand why He's doing what He's doing. God's perspective is far greater than yours, and He often appears in unpredictable places.
Find the beauty in brokenness. While religion urges you to try to fix the brokenness in your life, God often calls you to accept the brokenness, because it's a powerful tool to draw you closer to Him. Brokenness has the power to mold you character into the unique shape God intended for it. As you face the reality of your own brokenness, don't feel guilty and ashamed for not measuring up and try to hide, avoid, deny, or despise your brokenness. Instead, invite God to use your brokenness to teach you beautiful lessons that will make you a stronger person.
Look beyond your appearance. Don't waste time or energy trying to keep up the appearance of a person who has it all together, as religion urges you to do. Ask God to give you the courage to accept yourself as you are and to be yourself openly and honestly in your relationships with Him and other people. Let the knowledge that God loves you completely - just as you are - motivate you to stop pretending and simply be yourself.
Invest in relationships over rules. All of the world's religions except for Christianity urge their followers to try to climb a stairway to heaven, striving to please God through their own efforts. But Jesus showed us that God is reaching down to us with His love, and that's the only way God and people can truly connect. Recognize that, even though you're flawed, you're also forgiven. Accept Jesus' invitation to live a life of freedom by pursuing a relationship with Him rather than trying to follow religious rules.
Ask God to help you see yourself as He sees you. When you view yourself from God's perspective, you can clearly see how to live without having religion tell you.
Focus on friendship, and then service. Remember that, while God does often call you to service, you can't earn His love by serving others, and your relationship with Him can't be measured by your usefulness or fruitfulness. What God wants most from you is a close relationship with Him. Make it your top priority to simply spending time in prayer with God regularly, enjoying His presence and seeking His guidance. Doing so is never a waste of time. Let your service simply flow out of your love for God.
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