I have been thinking a lot recently about the differences between religion and faith. So often in counseling, I talk with people who have been steeped in religion and can’t see Jesus because of all the religious garbage. Religion is when life is up to me. Faith is when life is up to God. I have put together a little diagram for illustration purposes. I apologize to the graphic designers in my audience, as I realize that is not my gift! Ha!
As with many things, this is a topic the Lord used Mike to begin to grow revelation in me, so he has spoken of it many times before. This is just where I have gone with it since.
Religion is based on a checklist—I have to do all these things in order to make God love me. I am in serious trouble if I don’t obey. Generally, you are either a failure or self-righteous in this system, as it is all up to you and how hard you work at following all the rules. My behavior determines whether or not I’m a child of God, so I had better live “right” today. Religion means that God will only be faithful if I am obedient and hold up my side of the bargain. Basically, religion ends at my feet, and what a burden it is to carry!!
Faith means there isn’t a checklist—it is up to Jesus to complete the good work that He began in me ( 1 Thess 5:23-24). It is about relationship. God wants me to know Him, and realize that true Life is found only in Him. As I walk with Him, the fruit that grows is obedience, and obedience makes me happy because I’m not out trying to screw my life up. Obedience doesn’t determine my relationship with God. It is a result of that relationship. I am loved regardless of what I do because my position determines that I am a child of God. I have been transferred from darkness to light (Col 1:13). This isn’t based on what I’ve done, but rather on what Jesus has done. Faith means God will always be faithful, regardless of what I do (2 Tim 2:13). Faith ends at God’s feet. It means the burden isn’t mine to carry. Honestly, it doesn’t seem fair, as He does the work and we enjoy the results! It isn’t easy to let go of our attempts to generate life and allow Him to flow real Life through us. What an amazing thing it is, though, when we get to enjoy rest instead of spinning our wheels fruitlessly.