Religion & Relation: The War of Control

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:10 ESV

We are supposed to be imitators of Christ, right?
His mission became our mission when He ascended into Heaven. We know we are to win souls. We know that we are to “save.” But we often forget to “seek.”

We’ve created a full force for “saving.”

We build our churches.
We pack into them on Sundays.
We even give our money to help ministries “save” the so called “lost.”
But rarely does any of this “religion” make it’s way into our daily lives. Rarely does any of this practice help us in our “seeking” of the lost.
And I’m going to boldly claim that it’s not meant to.

Our lives are full of “religious practice.”
We “religiously” support our favorite sports team or we “religiously” watch American Idol or our favorite reality show just so we can feel a part of something bigger than ourselves.
Then, we sit in church on Sunday. We pay our diligence.
We seem to enjoy the worship as long as it doesn’t last too long or feel forced.
We “Amen!” the pastor so that he feels better about his sermon and might end church early.
We greet with other church members but engage in a broken-record conversation that we say out of pleasantry but rarely do we build those relationships outside of church walls.
Our supposed worship experience has become a church visit full of religious practice.

I started teaching middle school this year. After 5 years of college and a year off from any sort of routine job, I began to experience a phenomenon that I haven’t felt since my days of adolescence.
Every Sunday night I get this sickly feeling in the pit of my stomach which sounds the alarm to the end of the weekend. It’s back to work on Monday and there’s nothing I can do to change that.
I know I’m not alone on this. Our lives become routine. We have our set schedule we follow each week/weekend.

Whatever your job may be. School teacher, banker, lawyer, accountant, grocery worker, landscaper, plummer…we work these 7-4, 8-5, 9-6 lives each week praying for the weekend and then when it finally arrives, we are already dreading Monday morning. I’ve noticed something very odd about our behaviour towards this lifestyle.

For a society so bent on routine, and hating it for that matter, we don’t like to break from it very often.

Think about any red light you’ve ever caught, or a train that made you late. How about a delayed flight?
Maybe they were all out of skinny non-fat no-foam white-mocha lattes extra whip at Starbucks this morning. When we find our routine, although it keeps us at work more than at home, we will do anything to stick to it and not break our cycle. We keep it inside our control. It becomes our religious practice.

Sadly, I also find this pattern in our relationship with God.

Sure, we love the message of God. We love to hear stories about how God has changed the lives of those we prayed for or those charities we gave money to. We even enjoy sharing about how God has changed our own lives. We didn’t use to go to church or pray every once in a while, but now we pray because we are supposed to. We don’t like it when God finds a way to throw a wrench into our plans…do we?

We like our religious routine; our 8-5 lifestyles. It may not be perfect but it’s the best we could come up with. If we had to change our schedule to adapt to something new that might make us feel very uncomfortable. After all…

We are only comfortable when we are experiencing something inside of our own control.

For example,
let’s say you’ve been going to church for a while and you start to feel like God has birthed a desire in your heart to reach out to teenagers. This desire has now affected your prayer life. You find yourself unexpectedly praying for teenagers in your church and your community. You have the love of God in your heart and you aren’t really sure how to use it just yet, but this is where you are gravitating towards.

You finally reach a point where you want this passion inside of you to burn and be put to good use. You decide to become a volunteer at your church’s youth group on Wednesdays. The only problem with this plan is that your current job (that you’ve worked at all your adult life) schedule’s you to work every Wednesday. You pray. You ask your boss to switch your shifts around so you can have that night off. That doesn’t work. You plead your case because you really feel like this is the right thing to do. You pray some more. You believe that God has ordained you to do this. Your boss says, “Well if you want Wednesdays off, you’ll just have to find yourself another job.”

Another job?
But you’ve worked there for 10 years. 20 years. Maybe you even went to school for this career, but now you aren’t too sure that this career is what you were meant to do.

Find another job? At this point, that would mean changing something that has defined you for the last “x” amount of years of your life.

The way you live your entire life is being put into question. This doesn’t not at all feel comfortable.

For argument’s sake, you play both outcomes out.
Stay at your job. Keep the income you’re comfortable with. The routine you know. The controlled lifestyle you’ve always had; after all, this is who you are.

or

Quit. Find a new job. Chase after the new desires that God has placed inside of your heart. This is an uncomfortable vanilla sundae with a huge dose of uncertainty sprinkled on top. But God’s promises remain true; He will provide.

What do you do?

May I remind you  “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” Luke 10:2 NIV

But why God? Why did you have to mess up my routine? Why did you have to change who I am?

Actually, I don’t think God did this to you at all. I think you did this to yourself. We all did really.
Remember when you got saved? When you asked Jesus to come live inside of you?
Usually the prayer includes something along the lines of, “I give you my life, make me more like you.” Or “Help me to live my life pleasing to you. I give you my dreams. My life is in your hands.”
The dilemma you are facing right now is really just God’s answer to your prayer.

Now, I’m not suggesting you up and quit your job right this instant in order to accept the calling that God has for your life.  What I AM suggesting is that you ask yourself, “Why not?”

You are perfectly capable and qualified by God to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ wherever you are working at. And if you’ve tried and failed, pray and try again. If you are not being edified by your workplace, change it up. You can’t complain for the world to change if YOU aren’t willing to change.

The fallacy in our practice of faith is the same fallacy we have in our everyday life, and that is we are entirely too religious in the way we operate.

God is a relational God. He doesn’t need our “religious practice” in order to love us. He satisfied that with the cross. Our lives are to be relationally driven too. Too often do I see people, myself included, walking around in the store trying so hard not to get in each other’s way, like the earth is a place where we are all supposed to coexist just as long as we don’t talk to each other. How can we save the lost if we don’t know who they are?

or better yet…

How can we save the lost if they don’t know who WE are?

The world has seen enough of the “religious christian” and they are turned off by them. Religious practice never saved anyone. Religious practice doesn’t give someone eternal hope. Love does. Love is only transferable through relationship.

Jesus didn’t die for our sins to that we can repay Him with religious practice.
Jesus died for our sins because He loves us and wants a relationship with us.
Jesus sacrificed Himself so that His love can stretch out through us and change the world that we live in.

Jesus didn’t go to church and stay there. He brought His message into the homes of those who needed it most (Luke 19). He sought after the ones who were outcast by everyone else (Matt 8). He died to break the barrier between Himself and us (Eph), not for us to create a barrier between us and the rest of the world.

Can we start being the relational disciples of God who invite ourselves over the tax collector’s house for dinner? Can we start being the hands of Jesus stretching out to touch those deemed by our society untouchable? Can we start being the feet of Christ who go outside of our routine to share the good news of the Kingdom of Heaven?

Jesus came to seek and save the lost; and now He sends us to do the same (Matt 28).

Surrendering our future is scary though. It means stepping out into the land of uncertainty. A land outside of our own control. I’ve tried to control my life in the past and have failed miserably several times. Now, it seems a lot scarier to go it alone instead of letting God lead the way. God WILL NOT fail you. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

Let us let go of control and seek the true desires of our heart. The desire to share the love of Jesus in this world by being the hands and feet of Christ.

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