"For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ." Jude 1:4
I have written about religion before and if one is speaking about outward conformity & external works to please men over inward conversion & transformation to Christ, then I am dead set against it. However, when some speak of "hating religion", they are not expressing a heartfelt desire to be in relationship with Jesus Christ. Rather, they are speaking of a desire to be free from Rules, Responsibility, and Reproof.
There is a video which has gone "viral" entitled, "Why I Hate Religion, but Love Jesus". This video has lots of people "Amening" it and and saying how much it expresses what they feel. Yet, this young man has another video as well containing his personal testimony (below), which explains why he made that video.
In a nutshell, he made the video about religion because he believes that religion is not "grace-oriented". What does he mean by that? He is offended by the insistence that sin defiles and he finds such assertions ungrace-like. Folks, this video about "hating religion" is not about freedom in Christ; it is about the fact that this young man is not yet through with sin.
My statement is not one of condemnation. I pray that he turns his whole heart to the Lord so that he may find mercy and grace to help in his times of need. He has not yet understood the truths of the Gospel and even the essence of salvation.
His thoughts about grace are shaped by the following belief: All any of us can be is a dirty sinner in God's eyes. While it is true that we have all sinned, it is not true that God continues to see us as sinners when we turn in faith to Jesus. What is the point of being born again if we remain the same defiled, dirty, sinful creation we were before turning to Christ? Was God just lying when He said that He makes us into a new creation in Him so that old things are passed away and ALL things are made new?
According to his testimony, the difference in his life between pre-conversion and post-conversion is that he is no longer ashamed about his sin. See, "religion" made him feel like sin was bad and he should not sin. It convinced him that those who continue in sin will go to Hell. So he became a hypocrite in order to appear righteous to men, while still continuing in sin. Then he realized that everyone sins and it doesn't matter if we sin or not because Jesus loves us. People, that is not salvation! That is not repentance. That is not the Gospel.
"What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?...Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin." Romans 6:1-2, 6-7
"We" - who are Christians - are to be dead to sin. We are to be destroying the body of sin through the crucifixion of the old man so that we should not serve sin. It is the mercy of God which extends to man even while he is fallen in sin; yet it is His grace which does not leave us there, but pulls us out of sin so that we are no longer enslaved by it. God is not indifferent to sin, He takes it personally (I Samuel 8:7).
"It's okay to be a mess because Jesus represents you", this man says. How does he describe being "a mess"? Being addicted to pornography, getting into fornication, being filled with lust, etc. Being a Christian apparently does not mean that we are cleansed from sin, but that we no longer have to hide sin because we have "grace". Our picture of Jesus is just "too clean" and "too moral", he says. Even in his sharing of Hebrews 12:1-2, he quickly skims over the part about us laying aside every sinful way in order to get to what he calls the "good part" of us being Jesus' joy.
However, the truth is that it is not "okay" to continue willfully in sin, for such will lead to spiritual death (Hebrews 6:4-6).
What is the root of his problem? Fatherlessness. As he states in the video, he is not yet whole because he doesn't have the identity of a father; and this is the problem with many people who often rant about what they call "religion". I am not speaking of an earthly father, I am speaking of being reconciled to the Heavenly Father. One of the main attributes we experience with God as our Father is that He chastens us (Hebrews 12:6-8). If we endure that chastening, then we are sons. If we be without that chastening, then we are bastards. Pray for him, that he would truly come to know God as His Father. That he would embrace the chastening of the Lord as an extension of His love, instead of settling into a comfort zone with sin (Proverbs 13:24; Revelation 3:19).
This is not about this young man because the errors he is espousing are what a lot of people believe. Oftentimes, all of this Ranting about Religion is merely Rebellion against the Righteous Rules, Responsibility, and Reproof that exists in the Body of Christ.
My son asked me about a month ago, "Is the song "We fall Down" bad? I said, "Well, it is a lie." The song claims that "a saint is just a sinner who fell down, but got up." The inference then is that as long as you continue to 'get back up' from your sin, you are a saint.
But the word of God says that the difference between a sinner and a saint (in part) is that the sinner is powerless to cease from sinning (II Peter 2:14). Sinners are powerless against sin because they are still under sin and ruled by it, but saints are made overcomers of sin through faith in Christ Jesus and being led by the Spirit so they do not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.
In God's word is His repeated expectation that we are to "go and sin no more" after turning in faith to Him (John 5:14, 8:11). While provision is made for us should we sin (I John 1:9), the primary command is that we sin not (I John 2:1, 3:8-9; Hebrews 12:1; I Corinthians 15:34; Romans 6:18-20). Why? Precisely because sin defiles. It makes us dirty and puts obstacles between our communion with the Lord (Isaiah 59:2; Jeremiah 5:25; Micah 3:4; Proverbs 15:29; I John 2:4-6; 3:6; 5:18).
Salvation does not change the nature of sin and what sin does to us. Salvation changes us so that we can overcome and be delivered from sin's power. Does that mean we will be sinless? No, but it means that we feel about sin the way that God does: hating it (Psalm 119:104,128). We set our wills to follow God's way and not give in to the lusts of the flesh simply because we love Him. And even should we commit sin, we still hate it and seek to be freed from it (Psalm 97:10, 101:3; Proverbs 8:13; Amos 5:15; Romans 12:9).
"If ye love me, keep my commandments." John 14:15
God is a Commander and His gives commands. The Scriptures are not just a wishlist of what God would like or a collection of His requests He would like us to consider. We cannot just pick and choose which of God's commands we want to obey.
Many confess that they love the Lord, but in their hearts they despise Him because they despise His commands; choosing instead cling to the understanding of men (Isaiah 29:13; Matthew 15:8; Mark 7:6).
The issue is not whether God loves us, but whether we love Him. If we do, then we will honor what He says.
"And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish." Luke 14:27-30
What is being crucified on that cross we take up each day? The old man, the flesh, the body of sin (Romans 6:6-7). If we do not do this, then we cannot be Jesus' disciple.
We become responsible before God when we become a Christian. We are responsible for how we live, what we say, even what we think. We are responsible for walking worthy of our calling and making our own calling & election sure. We are responsible for being witnesses to the lost of God's saving power, love, and righteousness.
Indeed, we will have to give an account one day to God of all that has been done in these mortal bodies. There is a cost to salvation.
"He that refuseth instruction despiseth his own soul: but he that heareth reproof getteth understanding." Proverbs 15:32
As a demonstration of God's wisdom, He provides for reproof in His Body. In His loving kindness, He uses our brothers and sisters to help us when we fall, including pointing out our error when we are going astray so that we can repent (Galatians 6:1). He says that to refuse to offer such reproof for sin when warranted is to actually hate your brother (Leviticus 19:17). In the Church, we are charged with admonishing one another (Romans 15:14; I Thessalonians 5:14; Titus 1:13; II Timothy 2:25, 4:2).
God has ordained that we be receptive to His correction, even as administered by His Body, for our maturation and protection. If we sincerely desire to be like Christ, then we will.
Don't let the riotous chorus about "religion" lead you into deception. Many of these persons are running away from God as a Father because they do not want to follow His Rules, be Responsible before Him or be subject to His Reproof. Why? They are not yet through with sin.
Those still enjoying the deceitful pleasures of sin (which are only for a season) will not want to be reminded of God's word, held accountable to His word, or corrected by it. God's word becomes an offense, which leads to rebellion and rejection of God as a Father. As a result, a spirit of fatherlessness is being loosed on the masses, which will lead (and is leading) many away from God.
Rules, Responsibility, and Reproof are not examples of Religion, but are part of the purpose and function of the Body of Christ. Condemnation and Conviction are not the same things. While we are not condemned when we fall into sin, there should always be the conviction of the Holy Spirit there to lead us to repentance. Not merely a feeling of sorrow about the sin, but a turning away from it. When we walk away from conviction, rejecting it as condemnation or "religion", we are having our consciences seared.
Grace does not give us a cloak for sin. The true grace of God will lead us to live for Him in all things and call us into fellowship with each other. If you really want to understand what "grace" is, please listen to the following exposition on the Book of I Peter.
If your "freedom from religion" has allowed you to grow more comfortable in your sin, then you are not being freed from bondage, but freed from Christ.
"Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears." Hebrews 12:15-17
UPDATE: I thought the following comment from NealReal should be incorporated into the article:
"I'd like to add one more scripture that pretty much shatters this misunderstanding of grace. Its my favorite one:
Titus 2:11-12 NIV
"For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age..."
Grace is the allotted time by which we are taught to say NO to sin and to learn to live upright. Anyone claiming to be walking in grace and not saying NO to sin, has got grace all wrong."