The Futility of Any Religious System

Sara and I just returned from Pismo Beach (left), our special get-away spot on the California Coast. It was only three days, but it was the only all-alone time we’ve been able to find this summer and Sara goes back to work on Monday. So it was a bit late and way too short, but we had three uninterrupted days together, which were awesome! I’m now putting the finishing touches on a new BodyLife that will be out Monday if all goes well.

On Tuesday night our Galatians group stumbled across a wonderful quote. In answer to the question of what purpose the law had if it was unable to make us perfect, Paul answered:

“It’s purpose was to make obvious to everyone that we are, in ourselves, out of right relationship with God, and therefore to show us the futility of devising some religious system for getting by our own efforts what we can only get by waiting in faith for God to complete his promise. For if any kind of rule-keeping had power to create life in us, we would certainly have gotten it by this time.”(Galatians 3:21 – The Message)

Most people read Galatians, thinking Judaism was the problem. I think Eugene Peterson gets it exactly right through out his whole translation. Judaism wasn’t the problem, religion was. Any system of rules and obligations will not produce the life of God because it depends on human response, not God’s action in response to his promise

So why isn’t that obvious to everyone?

In our day religious systems proliferate like horny rats. People just get out of one and start looking for another. When that one disappoints yet again they look for another. And seemingly there is no end of people willing to devise them thinking that they have finally stumbled on the system that will better all other systems. I’ve been on that road. It’s crazy. Paul is right, not one of them can create the life of God.

I love the conclusion one brother made in an email that will appear in the new issue of BodyLife:

“I’m seeing that it’s not about house church, liquid church, emerging church, simple church, organic church, relational church, 24/7 prayer, worship, intercession, warfare, the Bible, prophecy, healing, deliverance, revival, etc. It’s about Him and Him alone!

It’s not that some of those things can’t be useful tools to help us see God’s hand working in our lives, but as a methodology to recapture New Testament community they are destined to fail. The law was meant to end our dependence on any religious system. If God’s own didn’t work, what hope do we have of implementing our own, as well thought out as they might be? As Kevin Smith from Australia likes to say, “Jesus didn’t leave us with a system, but with his Spirit. When that becomes obvious to us we’ll be ready to live as the church instead of trying to build an unreasonable facsimile thereof.

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8 Comments
  1. Loren August 28, 2004 at 1:37 am

    Horny rats? LOL! That cracked me up! Good analogy.

  2. Loren August 28, 2004 at 4:37 am

    Horny rats? LOL! That cracked me up! Good analogy.

  3. Steve August 28, 2004 at 9:47 am

    You said, "So why isn’t that obvious to everyone?"

    Is it because mankind, every since eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, has been rather sold out to religion, depending on the functions of the soul, knowledge of laws and will worship driven by emotion, to get to the god that he imagines as being like himself. Only when He is a new creature, born of God’s own Spirit does what you are saying become obvious and even then our soul, influenced by spritual enemies, continues to play tricks on us trying to lead us away from walking daily in the Spirit of God. In falling back to depending on our souls do we deceive ourselves? Just thinking out loud Wayne.

  4. Steve August 28, 2004 at 12:47 pm

    You said, "So why isn’t that obvious to everyone?"

    Is it because mankind, every since eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, has been rather sold out to religion, depending on the functions of the soul, knowledge of laws and will worship driven by emotion, to get to the god that he imagines as being like himself. Only when He is a new creature, born of God’s own Spirit does what you are saying become obvious and even then our soul, influenced by spritual enemies, continues to play tricks on us trying to lead us away from walking daily in the Spirit of God. In falling back to depending on our souls do we deceive ourselves? Just thinking out loud Wayne.

  5. Dave A. August 30, 2004 at 7:10 am

    I like that brother’s conclusion. Reminds me of another that I heard: "It’s not about IC. It’s not about HC. It’s about JC."

    Dave

    (Horny rats indeed. Yeesh, what a visual!)

  6. Dave A. August 30, 2004 at 10:10 am

    I like that brother’s conclusion. Reminds me of another that I heard: "It’s not about IC. It’s not about HC. It’s about JC."

    Dave

    (Horny rats indeed. Yeesh, what a visual!)

  7. tim forster October 4, 2004 at 10:14 pm

    re it’s not about prayer or healling etc but about him. I agree yet I don’t .

    BUT! What about him? so many seem to love to say the right words but still have no clue. Those things are not tools. Those are his gifts to us. And too many times we reduce them to no consequence when in fact HE says to teach all peoples to do all the things I have commanded you. As I was sent to do these works, so you are to let me continue them. I did not sit down with the first disciples and say, never mind the healing stuff any more guys, from now on it’s just all about me! People need these works to become whole. Just try telling a highly demonised man that it’s not about deliverance! Etc. the other gifts. C’mon you guys. Stop trying to figure him out.

    If he says do anything, do it , whether others agree or not.

  8. tim forster October 5, 2004 at 1:14 am

    re it’s not about prayer or healling etc but about him. I agree yet I don’t .

    BUT! What about him? so many seem to love to say the right words but still have no clue. Those things are not tools. Those are his gifts to us. And too many times we reduce them to no consequence when in fact HE says to teach all peoples to do all the things I have commanded you. As I was sent to do these works, so you are to let me continue them. I did not sit down with the first disciples and say, never mind the healing stuff any more guys, from now on it’s just all about me! People need these works to become whole. Just try telling a highly demonised man that it’s not about deliverance! Etc. the other gifts. C’mon you guys. Stop trying to figure him out.

    If he says do anything, do it , whether others agree or not.

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