Two Articles

By: Steve McVey
From: March 2010
Found in: The Gospel of Grace

We hereby present two short teaching articles by Steve McVey, both focusing on holding on to the Gospel and not religion.

Losing Your Religion

I lost my religion years ago and I’m doing so much better now. I’m not exaggerating to make a point. I really mean it. Sometimes people will say to me, “What do you mean when you say you lost your religion?” The answer is simple.

Tied by Religion

Understanding the true meaning of the word “religion” will help clarify my statement. The English word is taken from the Latin word relgio, originally meaning “obligation” or “bond.” It was probably derived from the verb religare, which means to “tie tight.” (Taken from The Dictionary of Word Origins, by John Ayto.)
The origin of the word “religion” explains its problem. Religion ties people up tight, obligating them to a particular set of standards and behavior. In time the word became associated with the obligation men had toward ancient gods.

Religion is a greenhouse for legalism because it focuses on duty and performance.

In modern terminology, the word denotes the idea of performing certain actions with the goal in mind of gaining divine favor. Religion is a greenhouse for legalism because it focuses on duty and performance. It puts the duty on man to reach God by his actions. It puts a bond on people, consequently leaving them in bondage.

Authentic Christianity is different from religion in many ways. A recent comment made about boxing illustrates what I mean. Somebody said, “To me, boxing is like a ballet, except there’s no music, no choreography and the dancers hit each other.” His comparison between boxing and ballet illustrates the union that exists between authentic Christianity and legalistic religion. There is none.

God’s actions are sufficient

Authentic Christianity is grounded in the Gospel. The word “gospel” means “good news.” What is the good news? It’s that we don’t have to try to reach God by our actions anymore, but that it is God’s actions that unite us to Him. It’s the good news that God has reached down to us in the person of Jesus Christ. It’s the good news that the cross and empty tomb were sufficient to cause God to tear up the score card on your life and to call the game over - with you as a winner.
All we need is to trust in the finished work of Christ. That’s it
– nothing else. The disciples once asked Jesus, “What should we do that we might work the works of God?” The answer Jesus gave sounds strange to religious ears. He said, “This is the work of God – that you believe on Him who He has sent” (John 6:28-29). Believe – that’s it.
Some might ask, “Aren’t we to do certain things?” The answer is that we will do certain things, not because we’re trying to score points with God, but because it’s a part of our spiritual DNA to produce godly works. Others may mistakenly think that we are behaving religiously, but we aren’t. We are simply acting like who we are – containers and conduits of divine life.

Do you need to lose your religion?

Religion will obligate you to work for God, but Jesus will liberate you to serve because of love.

Religion will tie you down. Jesus Christ will set you free. Religion will obligate you to work for God, but Jesus will liberate you to serve because of love. Religion will leave you exhausted. Jesus will invigorate your spirit with divine life continuously.
Yes, I lost my religion. As a result, I’ve come to know Jesus intimately. I wouldn’t trade that knowledge for all the religion in the world. I still do many things that probably look religious to others, but that’s not the case. I’m just enjoying Jesus and doing what I want (which happens to coincide with what He wants).
Do you need to lose your religion? You’ll find yourself much better off when you find your life in Christ. Go ahead, do it. Say good-bye to the bondage of being tied up by religious duty and fall into the arms of Jesus Christ. You won’t be sorry.

Learning To Love God More

I recently heard a sermon online about lamenting the fact that Christians don’t love God the way we ought to love Him. “How do you expect to be used by God if you don’t even fully love Him?” the passionate preacher proclaimed. His message reminded me of the many sermons just like it that I used to preach, but it reminded me even more of the many years I struggled to love the Lord the way I felt I should.

The greatest commandment

It’s a sincere endeavor to love the Lord, but so often is misguided. A lawyer once came to Jesus and asked Him, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law?” Notice what the man was asking about here. He was asking about the Law. Jesus answered his question, saying, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and foremost commandment.” In response to the man’s question about the greatest law, Jesus answered that it is to love God.
 This verse has been abused many times by well meaning Christians because they fail to understand its context. It’s important to note that the man was asking Jesus about the Law. As odd as it might seem, when we believe our greatest need is to try to love God more, we set ourselves up for failure. That’s because of what the Law does to a person.

So if you focus on how much you should love God, that law will condemn you and cause you to be filled with a sense of guilt.

The Bible says that the Law stirs up sinful passions (See Romans 7:5). It stimulates rebellion against the very thing it demands. So if you focus on how much you should love God, that law will condemn you and cause you to be filled with a sense of guilt. It isn’t possible to love Him like we want to until we understand how much He loves us. Then, and only then, will we find love for God swelling up within our hearts.
Haven’t you found this to be true in your own life? When you’ve focused on loving Him more, did you feel like you were succeeding? Or did you find yourself literally praying for help to love Him more? “Lord, help me to love you more” was evidence that you knew you were falling short in that area.

How to love God more

The Bible says, “We love, because He first loved us.” Do you want to love God more? The key, then, is to focus on how much He loves you, not on how much you love Him at any given moment in life. The most important thing in your life isn’t to struggle to love God more. By what power can you do that? Haven’t we all struggled in that area? The secret is to begin to focus on how much your heavenly Father loves you.

focus on how much He loves you, not on how much you love Him

As you grow in your understanding of the great love that He has for you, you’ll find that what happens is the love within you will be awakened and motivated. In response to His love, it will grow and flourish and you’ll find yourself loving Him more and more and, for that matter, even loving everybody else around you more and more too.
A legalistic view on the love relationship we have with our Father shifts the focus away from His goodness and grace and puts the responsibility on us. Grace reminds us that He is the initiator and we are the responders. The Bible says that God loves us; it’s all about His love for us, and when we focus on that, instead of on our love for Him, we will discover that knowing the love of God for us becomes the catalyst for experiencing and enjoying His love in a deeper way than we have ever known. We will find that our own love for Him grows by leaps and bounds.

By: Steve McVey

Dr. Steve McVey is a dynamic author and speaker who inspires Christians to develop a deeper, more intimate relationship with God.

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