Religion is Not Christianity

I just finished our Fall session of Gathering 4 Guys, drove home, and after I got home and sat down at my desk, I was thinking about the great experience of being with these amazing men. When I look into their eyes, I see greatness that wants to be unleashed into the world.  And yet I also see a sadness that somehow they are not convinced that they’re worthy of the successes that could truly be theirs.

I was reminded again of what I have often said and will stand by, that the number one problem with American Christianity is that Christians really don’t love themselves. They’ve not learned the truth of the gospel: that they are accepted in Christ, complete, justified, and loved without reservation.  Why is it after 2 centuries plus, of preaching and teaching in the American church do American Christians, particularly men, still feel so helpless and anemic?  I think it’s because we’ve lost the distinction between true Jesus-centered Christianity and religion.

I tried to illustrate that today by using an apple as an example. In religion, God says, “Here is the apple.” It’s what Adam and Eve wanted so desperately in the Garden.  And if you do certain things, if you jump through certain hoops, if you obey certain rules and regulations; if you give evidence of certain moral certitudes, then one day, I’ll give you the apple.  In religion, the apple is always out there.  If you keep up with your prayers, Bible-reading, attending church, tithing and giving – all these good activities – then one day, you’ll get the apple. The worst thing that can happen to you is to question those of us who have the apple, and they can tell you whether you have it or not.

In Christianity, Jesus has the apple; not the church, not religious institutions, not preachers, pastors, or priests.
Jesus hands the apple to each individual and says, “Here.  You are the apple of my eye.  You are the center of my love.  I love you.”  And when Jesus gives you the apple, he doesn’t say, “I love the world.”  It’s not the world’s name printed on the apple, it’s your name, your location, your DNA, your Social Security number, your latitude and longitude location.  He hands it to you.  It is yours forever.  It is a gift.  Your job is to enjoy it, to unpack it, to understand what’s already yours and available. If you don’t experience it, it’s simply because you’re not accessing everything that is yours.  As I said in “Renegade’s Guide to God,” if you have cancer and I send to you, Fed Ex, one day express, a miracle cure for cancer and a year from that date, I find out you’ve died, and I can’t understand.  I gave you the miracle cure.  And I visit your home for the wake and there’s the box from Fed Ex, sitting on the table unopened and unused.

One of the reasons Christians are so anemic in our culture is because we don’t even like ourselves, much less anyone else. Self-loathing, self-hate produces selfish, narcissistic behaviors; weak or non-existent character and integrity, at least as is reflected in the person of Jesus Christ.

So here is what I beg each one of you to do, who are considering Christianity.  Christianity is not spelled “d-o.”  It’ s not what you “do”in order to one day get the apple.  It is spelled “done.”  It is what God has done and he has handed you everything that He has done.  All you need to do is access it, live it, walk it out, every single day, embrace each experience and circumstance as a divine gift.

Remember this.  Every day you get up and submit to God’s love and surrender to His providence you understand that whatever comes to you in that day, good or bad, has gotten through His love, and has said, “This is the best thing I could do for you today.”