one thing I often hear when I’m talking about faith in God is “I’m not religious”. I usually answer that with “well good. neither is God.” religion is a set of rules and requirements imposed externally on one’s life to govern the way one lives. that puts the one in question in charge of his or her own righteousness. that is, like, categorically opposite to faith in God. that’s faith in self. that is the fundamental difference between choosing religion and being born again. every religion out there from the new age and pagan world views, wicca, eastern philosophies, and cults to the pseudo christian denominational organizations, are all a works based system in one form or another. that is, they are all dependent on how you live your life to achieve the goal of godhood, sainthood, righteousness, perfection. they all have some kind of account balance for countering bad with good, whether its paying for it with some sort of penance, or neutralizing it with good deeds. the bottom line is that salvation depends on oneself.
if this were they way, how would one know when one has done enough? on what would one base one’s faith? in self? but one has seen that self is capable of corruption, and therefore needs to counter it. a corruptible self is not a reliable basis for faith when the stakes are so high. that the stakes are high is evident, else we wouldn’t be thinking about countering the bad, or even recognizing that bad is bad. I mean, what is bad, and why is bad less desirable than good, if there were not a reason to care about it? is it just in this life that it matters? if so, then it really doesn’t matter that much.
the Bible teaches something completely different. it teaches that God is the one who provided the solution for all the bad, and that faith in what He did is the way to deliverance. the way to union with Him. the way to righteous perfection. I think that’s why it’s so hard for some to accept. they think it can’t be that easy. it’ hard on the ego. most people feel they have to deserve it, and they know they aren’t perfect.
so what happens when one is born again? why is this so much better? because what God offers is a change from the inside. religion will never be able to touch that. the caterpillar never becomes the butterfly simply by willing himself into it. neither by following a regimen imposed from the outside. so it is with everyone who comes to God, and receives the gift of righteousness by faith. then such a one is changed on the inside, and no longer needs the law to govern him/her.
this is the point where people start either rejoicing or choking. it’s hard for many to conceive that God really doesn’t impose the law on people to govern their lives. “why, you mean we can live anyway we want to and still be accepted by God?” yeah. that’s what I mean. the thing you may not be aware of is this … when one is born again, one is just that – born again. the body is still the same, but the spirit inside – the real you – is recreated all over. you might be surprised at how profoundly this will change one’s “want to”. when the desires of the heart are changed from the inside, when the nature of the beast is changed into the nature of God, all the want to’s change with it. now one is really back in union with God.
isn’t that point of all religions anyway? don’t people engage in religious pursuit because ultimately they desire to get back to God somehow? even most atheists seem to desire to at least be good, not just be happy. people seem to have an innate awareness that there is some kind of higher power, and that it is both higher than themselves, and more powerful. they also show a desire to hook up with that higher power. else they wouldn’t engage in any kind of religion. they wouldn’t care. those that don’t care are never chosen as role models for anyone except others who also don’t care.
so what God offers is a real change, and gives His own Spirit to govern us from the inside. I can tell you from personal experience that the Holy Spirit is a much stricter governor than any rule I have ever encountered. you break a rule or a law, you hope you don’t get caught or you pay the price. you might experience shame, or embarrassment. but you disobey the Holy Spirit and you have this conviction in your heart that you just can’t ignore, even if nobody else knows you have disobeyed. shame is the price we pay for breaking the rules. conviction is the result of walking contrary to the leading of the Spirit, because it now goes against your own nature, and you know good and well that the Spirit of God only wants the best for you. and Jesus said “my yoke is easy, and my burden is light”. the Spirit of God never deviates from that in His leading.
wouldn’t you rather be lead than ruled?