Transform Your Religion--Let God Live in You

There are many sincere religious folks in the world today—many people who are following a spiritual path of some type. Many are devoted and know the scriptures of the faith system to which they belong. Many attend religious services regularly and adamantly believe they have the “truth”. But much of the intolerance and in fact, the wars that we see today are initiated and participated in by religious folks. What has gone wrong in religion?

If we observe long enough, we will find that no belief system holds the corner down on the market of fundamentalism or intolerance. There are many “true believers”, those who believe that they have the only “right” way to heaven, in the world. There are many who believe that their hatred, violence, and prejudice are blessed by God and that God is pleased with what they are doing in God’s name.

When religion causes us to become intolerant instead of more loving—something has definitely gone wrong. Actually, it’s not a new problem, but a very old one. When you read the pages of history whether sacred or not, you will find that we have always used our religion as a cloak for acting out the true feelings in our hearts. Religion and God seem to make a handy covering. We seem to believe others won’t notice our true intentions if done behind a mask of religiosity.

I’ve painted a rather bleak picture of religion. The abuses do exist. But there is also the opposite truth and reality. Religion and spirituality can also be a blessing to the world. Religion has accomplished some of the greatest humanitarian and selfless acts witnessed in our world. It can work tirelessly for the uplifting and restoration of humanity. So what makes the difference? When does religion bless and when does it curse?

What makes the difference for people who follow a religious path about whether or not their walk with God will result in a blessing to the world or in their acting out defensively in the world?

Fear is one of the great motivators in life. We often turn to God when we are afraid. Religion can become a refuge for the fearful. This is not necessarily bad, it is a place to start, but if we never grow beyond our fear we tend to create a whole belief system about God based on fear.

The very nature of fear is that it is self-protective. Much of what we see in the world in the behaviors of some religious people is fear based. They have not allowed the picture of a loving God to actually change their worldview. They still live in fear despite the fact that they belong to a belief system that espouses a loving picture of God.

Another issue that gets in the way of a transforming relationship with God within religion is pride—and more specifically—spiritual pride. When one starts to believe that they hold an exclusive picture of God and that they have the only truth about God, it breeds intolerance. The church becomes an elitist club of sorts and it’s important that only like-minded folk are allowed to join. In some instances circumstances beyond one’s control might prevent them from ever belonging to the “chosen”, like ethnicity, gender, caste, etc.

If we think that these abuses exist only in the extreme, we might miss the subtle. The more subtle or softer forms of this probably exist right in our own homes and hearts. Consider how often fear is a visitor in your own life. How does it control and influence your treatment of yourself and others?

Does pride in your home, religion, community, or beliefs ever cause you to look down on someone else? What about the homeless beggar, someone of a different sexual orientation, or what about someone from a country we are at war with? We often act out prejudice and spiritual pride but are completely blind to our own motivations.

Obviously what we need is a transformational walk with God. We need a relationship with a God who is able to transform the hardness and deceitfulness of our hearts into hearts that are loving, giving, and tolerant. Unless we develop a relationship with a God of love, unless we have a new heart, we will only be using our religion as a cloak to hide behind.

Within Christianity is a teaching that speaks of how to have a transformed life and heart. The Apostle Paul talks frequently about it. In fact, he calls it a secret teaching. I can just see him lean towards me as he whispers the secret. “Christ lives in you.” To have a transformed life is to have a new life, one in which the old is gone and the new comes in. To have Christ living in your heart means that you will live a life like Christ’s.

Jesus said of himself, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” All of the world’s religions speak of “the way”. It is the middle way to a transformed life. Within Christianity, the life of Jesus shows us the way back to God. But it is not a mere belief in Christ; it is to have Christ living within.

When Christ lives within, we will do the work of restoration and healing that he did. So it is with all believers in all faith systems, when God lives in the heart, the life will be used in blessing and service to others.

Don’t you think it’s time to put God back where God belongs in religion? How about right in the center of our hearts, minds, and lives where God can do the transforming work that God does best—changing people one heart at a time, starting with mine.

Comments

What an insightful post. If God lived in each and everyone of us, we would have peace, joy and love.