I remember an occasion a good nine years back when I was at a home group. I was a fairly new Christian, and looking back, I now realise that my relationship with God was definitely a tad legalistic. Upon reflection I can see that what I had heard at church back then centred more around "doing" rather than "being"...around "works" rather than "grace". And although I desperately needed God and wanted to pursue Him with hunger and authenticity I would find the ritualistic side of things so darn oppressive. I was deeply sin conscious and so aware of all the rules and regulations...all the do's and don'ts involved in this crazy God pursuit. I desperately need God but religion made me feel chained and oppressed - yet I simply wasn't about to give up because on the on the other side of the rituals and conditions I was convinced there was a beautiful God that I was yearning to know.
So here I was at this home group and a woman I had never met before, who seemed abit wacky and a bit of a loose cannon I suppose, made a statement that literally made me stop dead in my tracks. She said something along the lines of "hey its okay if you wake up and haven't had time to read your bible or pray or to do all the other stuff you apparently have to do because Jesus loves you anyway...bless God".
For a split second the hairs on the back of neck stood up. It's like the chains of religion broke over me. Momentarily I considered a utopian existence where I could know God and pursue Him without all the rituals and religion that seemed so very tedious and oppressive. "WOW...HAPPY DAY BAYBEEE" I thought to myself as I tentatively looked around wanting someone...anyone...to tell reveal more of this potential, delicious freedom in God. Yet no one did. For as soon as this concept of liberty arose, it just as quickly died. Immediately Someone else spoke up with a loud and familiar din of law keeping and quenched the gentle voice of grace. Most certainly not intentionally of course - just at that time not knowing any better I'm sure. None the less my hope was quenched. My heart sunk. Doh...of course such an idea was ludicrous right? It was simply too good to be true. And so on I went with my works and my law keeping and my striving to read the bible and pray and be good enough so that God would be pleased with me. On I continued with an existence of daily feeling less than worthy in this harder than hard pursuit of God...always so conscious of my sin and shortcomings.
Yet as the years ensued God began to unveil His glorious, lavish grace to me. To my surprise, yet immense, indescribable, delight, I discovered over time that, the wacky, precious, loose cannon I encountered years ago had indeed been right. For I soon discovered that I actually didn't need to perform to be acceptable before God after all. On the contrary He loved me unconditionally whether I read my Bible, worshipped or prayed...or not. His endless love was irrevocably mine despite my performance! Wow - what incredible freedom? Oh how beautiful was this grace that had unveiled its liberty to me. The scales dropped from my eyes. I saw the limitless goodness of God....His unceasing love for me...His righteousness in me...irrespective of my unrighteousness.
The enemy had of course desperately endeavoured to keep me in the dark concerning grace for a good few years...shackled in chains of religion so that I would never discover the freedom we have in God...so that I would never live a life of liberty...drenched in God's unconditional love...His unchanging... constant...forever good love...irrespective haha of my ability to do the right thing or not. Yet despite the enemy's best efforts...God just wasn't going to let me stay in the dark. He wasn't going to let me remain deceived. His fiery love never leaves a stone unturned. For I have come to discover the wonderfully, comforting truth - that those that are truly seeking to know Him in spirit and in truth will indeed find Him...God will make sure of it, because He who begins a good work in us is Faithful to complete it - and as we find Him we will find that we are totally free in Him...no rules...no regulations...no law keeping....just undiluted freedom.
Yet despite the solid assurance that God will indeed complete His work in each and every one of us...time wasted in a prison of religion is nevertheless a tragedy right? It totally grieves my heart when I think of the thousands of believers that are yet to discover that we have been set free from religion - that we don't have to live a life of tick boxes and obeying rules...of performing...and trying to do the right thing. Because the crazy, mad, deliciously ironic thing is that once we experience the liberty of love...once we find ourselves so lavished with God's glorious goodness, we desire to do all we can to draw closer to Him anyway...we want to pray...and fast...and get worded...and give...and love...and praise...we begin to willingly choose the right thing to do...not because we HAVE to but because we totally WANT to...now THAT'S what I call true freedom. And that's exactly what the devil wants to keep from us from truly knowing all along...the experiential knowledge of true liberty found in God's love...this glorious love that makes no demands upon us...yet compels us to wholeheartedly, love God in return...to freely obey His commands in such sweet surrender...simply because HE LOVED US FIRST...and because He gave Himself for us...holding nothing back at all...