It’s back to school time! It’s so hard to believe, but it is. Some mamas are crying as they watch their babies go off into the world, and some mamas are standing in the middle of their empty living rooms singing the Hallelujah Chorus! I’ll leave it to you to guess which I will be when my little curly girl goes!
As I think about when I went back to school each year, mostly during the college days, I remember the excruciating awkwardness of the orientations we had to go through. You had to endure all of those weird questions that were obviously designed to set you up for success in your future careers, like “What color crayon you would be”, or “What you would name your boat and why?”. As you met all your new classmates, you would run through your mental list of questions to see if you were compatible, and to see if they were going to be your “people” or not – “Where are you from?” “What are you studying?” “Are you dating anyone?”…and inevitably, you got to the question, “So are you religious?”
For me, those moments never seemed like the time to get into the nitty -gritty of what I thought being a born-again Christian meant, so I would just say yes, I was religious. Looking back, at that point, maybe I WAS just religious. I had been saved since I was young, but it wasn’t until recently that I really encountered Jesus in a new way that reached all the way to the parts of my heart I hadn’t allowed Him before. I followed my nice little list of Christian rules because I was supposed to, not because I had my heart so totally lost to God that I wanted to be the best for Him. Now I follow Him and do what He says because I WANT to, not because that’s my religion, or those are the rules that I have to follow if I say I am a Christian who believes in Jesus.
Here’s a shocker for you though – Jesus wasn’t about religion when He was here teaching and preaching and healing. In fact, He was ANTI-religion! The religious leaders at the time were constantly going head-to-head with Him because He didn’t follow the rules and because He taught things that didn’t fit into their mold. The New Testament is full of stories of Jesus reaching out to the undesirable people in the world and disobeying what Religion was at that time. He showed it to be what it was — all rules and no relationship. He came and blew that out of the water as He started at the heart first and worked His way to changing lives from there. Jesus came and challenged the religious leaders’ motivations and leadership because He knew that rule-following with no change of heart was not true devotion, just discipline (read about it in Matthew 23). He knew that you could be religious all you wanted, and follow every single rule. but until there was a change of heart, there was no real redemption. As Mark 7:6 says, “…as it is written, ‘This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.‘” Lives that are truly changed have to change from the heart outward in order for it to be true and lasting.
Rules and religion are subject to change – Jesus never changes. Rules and religion cannot save you – only Jesus can save you. Rules and religion make us think that we can earn our way into rightness with God – Jesus tells us He is the only way. Religion and rules come with beautiful customs and traditions, but cannot give you grace or salvation. Until you give your heart over to Jesus to change, He will be a part of a checklist for you, and not a necessity in your life.
If I went to one of those first orientations now, I wouldn’t say I’m religious – I would say that I follow Jesus. Its different now – its not just a religion to me anymore, it was a heart transplant.
“…but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7