Gary Swisher

Religion Seeks a “Something” Part 2

In Christianity on February 16, 2011 at 12:31 pm

Objects of Our Activity

I really do like the analogy that’s been made about the emptiness in humans that only God can fill. There are so many things we can fill it with: music, news, TV, work, friends, pleasure… I know a person who never seems to get enough time at work. He works in the day, the evening, on the weekends… In the process he lost his family life. For him, the missing thing, the broken thing is made to feel more complete by work; only work. These things are like salve. They help something feel better for a little while, but never truly address the problem. We all have our salve. Our salve comes in many forms, all designed to soothe emptiness. What’s worse is when we fill this divine emptiness with religion. I say that because religion really makes us think we are doing something to properly fill the void. At least with our vices, we usually know they aren’t the answer. Religion is the most subtle thing in our garden.

The few fasts I have experienced have usually been a form of self-denial. Sometimes I taste something better of the peace that comes from the Spirit. When I left the radio off this time, I didn’t find myself wanting to fill the void, as a matter of fact, I realized I forgot to turn it on because Someone was already filling me. That was different. Sometimes we fast to get our focus right, but when the Bridegroom really is present why should we fast (Matt. 9:15)? I wasn’t missing anything because Someone is my Everything. I found a hidden pearl and I could really see how Christ is able to satisfy every piece of me; to fill all things. Nothing else was needed. I can at least imagine why one would let go of everything else without regret. In the words of a former religious fanatic, all else is counted as rubbish.

All of our things are but idolatrous detractions from the Father of spirits. The natural, human mind can’t comprehend that food draws us by a desire for True Bread, or that lust attempts to mask a desire for a spiritual connection with God. There is nothing we want that doesn’t serve as a substitute for the Father. His presence replaces our false contentment with true peace and life, removing all need and desire. This truly is the kind of treasure Jesus spoke of.  With a single heart, asking for the Father’s company, we will find Him, or rather, be found by Him. Our life in Christ is not about religious practice or discipline. It is sharing a spiritual fellowship with Christ. Our relationship with him is the essence of our Christian walk. Anything else is a form of idolatry,  These aren’t just words, or a doctrine we should agree with. He is the person we need to be in conversation with, on a deep spiritual level.

So many things stand in the way of a constant communion with Christ. Yet the human mind, with any amount of light, does realize that sinful things should be avoided as we seek to fill the spiritual void. We should seek good things rather than bad things, right? This is how the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil usurps the place of God, so that we can be like Him. If we are like Him we can go it alone. Unfortunately so many of us have answered the call of God by pursuing a “something”, rather than a “Someone.” Religion seeks a “something.” We may rightly seek self-control, but that is a “something.” Many seek the right doctrine; a “something.” Others seek spiritual gifts; “somethings.” In truth, we can only receive self-control as we experience fellowship with Christ in the Spirit. But even so, we should not be seeking it as an object to be possessed. It is only a byproduct of a real, live relationship with Christ. We should focus on Christ. A married man should not be seeking fidelity as a thing to posses and keep to his credit. He should grow in relationship with his wife. Out of love and partnership with her, he will also lose other desires and live as he should toward her.

Religion has mechanisms designed to program balance, discipline, morality, charity and all sorts of virtuous “somethings” into our lives. We can set up accountability groups and study groups, worship times and conferences, sacraments and services to make us “better Christians.” These are mechanisms aimed at acquiring virtuous objects—“somethings.” Some Christians chase after “spiritual nuggets” or new revelation. Others make speaking in tongues, evangelism, house churches, or some other thing into their object. It becomes their idol like the bronze serpent of old was to the Israelites. Even avoidance of religion is a false focus. A few years ago I encountered a group that made freedom from religion their object. They talked at great length of their liberty and of shedding the shackles of religious bondage. That was their “object.” Yes they mentioned Christ as the source, the reason, the Lord. But I think liberty was the object they relished most.

Our relationship with Christ is not bound up in Christian “activities.” I have spent much of my life pursuing the right church, the right pattern, the right doctrine. I have been involved in worship, Bible studies, charities, home groups, spiritual growth weekends and a steady stream of church attendance for many decades. I have spent far less time really focused on my relationship with Christ. How would that approach work in a marriage, or with children; with any other relationship? My marriage is not a regular meeting with other well-meaning husbands espousing the virtues of listening well and doing the dishes. Marriage is a love relationship with intimacy and dynamic vitality. Isn’t it clear that we can busy ourselves with so many activities of the church and, at the same time, neglect our true, First Love? The contemporary church seems to have a serious Martha complex; concerned with a great many things! We should not look at the church, its activities or a pastor as the source or broker of our spiritual life. We should not gauge our spiritual condition by how involved we are.  I have often viewed such objects as a primer for getting “spiritual.” I recently told a friend that it is hard for me to find a spiritual flow apart from such conventions. I am realizing, even more now, that religious activity is not the same as spiritual life. Our conventions amount to a substitute, a deviation from the fellowship of Christ.

In more recent years I have often focused on what I thought was the deeper essence of the gospel—that we are a finished and perfected work in Christ. I have worked hard to accept the truth that I died on the cross of Christ and therefore to reckon myself dead. But I have often done so only with my human thinking. I do this even though I realize that discovering such things is a work of the spirit. But like the Galatians I go about my natural ways even after having begun in the spirit. I forget that truth is not an object to be sought with my brain, but Truth is a “Someone” with whom I can relate. Only in real, living fellowship with the Truth can I manifest truth.

You will know the Truth (a Someone) and the Truth will make you free.

© 2011 Gary Swisher. All Rights Reserved

COMMENTS ARE WELCOME. Please click ARCHIVES to view any discussions.

  1. Gary,

    What you write here shows true growth in our Lord. It has taken me many years to finally see that religion in all its forms is still men trying to do what only our Father can do. And one thing that all these religions have in common is that they put men in the place of the Father and His Christ as authorities over all.

    Jesus told the disciples,

    But you are not to be called rabbi (teacher), for you have one Teacher and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth father, for you have one Father, Who is in heaven. And you must not be called masters (leaders), for you have one Master (Leader), the Christ. He who is greatest among you shall be your servant.
    (Matthew 23:8-11 AMP)

    What is so hard about this to understand? Yet, we spend most of our Christian lives learning this simple message the hard way. We heap to ourselves teacher who tickle our ears with their fanciful doctrines, yet John in a warning to the church about the antichrist spirit so boldly wrote,

    I write this to you about those who would deceive you; but the anointing which you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that any one should teach you; as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie, just as it has taught you, abide in him. And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.
    (1 John 2:26-28 RSVA)

    Keep on listening to Him, Gary, and thanks for sharing what you have heard.


  2. Thanks Michael. I really appreciate your thoughts.

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