Religion always has a condition

David was having a difficult time accepting God’s love for him. After all, he had done some pretty horrible things in his life. Between the things he had to do while serving in the military and choices he had made after returning home, he could not wrap his brain around any possibility of God loving him.

This newfound follower of Jesus finally broke down and called the pastor of the church he occasionally attended. The pastor gladly agreed to talk with David since he knew he had attended services there.

As they sat in his office, the pastor began by encouraging David to be open and honest about his feelings. He assured the young former soldier that anything they discussed would be between them alone.

David was quite reluctant at first not freely offering anything but surface thoughts and feelings. Sensing David’s reluctance, the pastor took the lead telling David some of the things that he struggled with. The pastor’s willingness to be somewhat transparent eventually allowed David to open up, revealing to him some things about his life—but not too much.

David told the pastor that he had done some pretty horrible things while in the service. He also admitted that those things haunted him so much that since being back that he did things he wasn’t proud of.

The pastor began to assure David that no matter what had happened in his life that God’s love was great enough to overcome it. He even spoke to him about forgiveness through the applied blood of Jesus. Even though David still had a hard time wrapping his brain around it, the pastor’s words carried a strange sense of comfort.

As they concluded their time together the pastor told David what he needed to do to get to the other side of his dilemma. He reassured him of God’s love for him and told him that as long as he continued attending the services becoming as active in the church as he could that he would get through this. The pastor encouraged him to stay committed.

Following a very sincere prayer offered by the pastor, the two departed. David left with mixed emotions. On the one hand he did feel some strange sense of comfort, but on the other hand he felt as though he had just been given some hoops to jump through. His military training told him to accept the orders and carry them out, while something deep within him told him to question it.

What should David do? He admitted to a struggle in his life he needs help with. He admitted that the pastor seemed genuine in his desire to help him. He felt that the pastor offered him practical advise to overcome his challenge. But why did part of him sense he needed to question this? Is inwardly David being rebellious or is this a ploy of David’s newfound enemy the devil to distract him and keep him in bondage?

As a pastor in the traditional church setting, I would teach David about the tactics of this adversary—the devil. I would show him scripture upon scripture where he worked to deceive and enslave God’s people by causing them to question the instructions of the Lord. I would teach him how to battle those thoughts overcoming this wily foe.

As a pastor that has been lead out of the traditional church setting, I would search deeper into David’s mixed emotions. It is very possible that David is unknowingly sensing the still small voice of the Holy Spirit. Why would I say that? The reason may seem “hair-splitting,” but I assure you that there is a serious difference. The pastor was indeed quite sincere. The advise he offered the young soldier was indeed sound practical advise—within the traditional church setting. However it was religious advise. I can say this now, because I was that pastor and David—though not his real name—came to me for help.

My heart was right and my intentions were sincere, but at that time I did not know the difference between a close personal relationship with the godhead and activity in traditional church. At that time in my life, the two were the same. You showed your love of God by showing your devotion to church functions.

David needed a close personal relationship with the godhead in order to overcome the challenges in his life. He could have been the most committed member under the pastor’s care—and he was for a time—and still not overcome the issues that haunted him.

Jesus shows us what a close personal relationship with the Father looks like throughout the writings in the gospels.

In Mark’s account we find Jesus rising up a great while before day to find a quiet place to pray. The type of prayers Jesus offered was worship as well as requests.

In Matthew’s account after completing a full day of helping people, Jesus excused himself and went to a quiet place to pray. The type of prayers he offered was worship as well as requests.

In John’s account we see Jesus in the midst of his disciples offering up a prayer to the Father concerning their lives as he nears the end of his. The type of prayers he offered was worship as well as requests.

It is Luke’s account of the life of Jesus that shows him in the midst of his greatest challenge, leaving the disciples to go into the garden to find a quiet place to pray. The type of prayers he offered was worship as well as requests.

There is a page on the site titled In the Garden that is designed to assist you in developing a close personal relationship with the godhead. These four instances offer you a template for developing that relationship; finding a quiet place to worship and make requests. Jesus started his day this way as well as ended his day this way. There are many other scriptures where in the middle of the day he prayed.

This template is not a 30-minute time slot where you read a certain portion of scripture and pray a prescribed prayer. These methods are religious and have merit, but they do not build a close personal relationship with the godhead. This is not said to be critical; simply to point out the difference between a religious duty and a close personal relationship.

The challenge with writing anything is the material you must leave out for the sake of the article. For example, I am not suggesting that the traditional church is bad; I am saying it is religious—and religion always has conditions. Even though I could not see it at the time, the things I told David that he needed to do were religious conditions. Even though my intentions were helping this young man, I was shackling him with conditions that would not in and of themselves cause him to overcome his challenges. Sadly this proved to be the case with David, who eventually left. Today I have no idea where he is or what he is doing; but what I do know is that the religion that was in me, placed a condition on the young man that Abba God would not have.