The institutional religion we call Christianity (not the true faith by which our God lives in us by His Holy Spirit) is an expression of our search for meaning, love, purpose and fulfillment in all the wrong places. You can read more about this search in a previous post (here). The institutional religion has over time added practices, liturgies, and icons that lend meaning to the users. That we need to add these to our religiosity to find meaning when the source of all meaning intends to live within us should jerk us up short. The Holy Spirit is waiting to supply far greater meaning and fullness that any human practice, liturgy, or icon could ever produce. It seems we have missed something important here.
The meaning for which we seek can be found only in the life of Christ lived in us in place of our own living. This is true both individually and as a community of disciples. It is His life in us that is the complete source of all things meaningful. His mind in us is the wisdom and revelation we seek to complete our living. His purposes in us are the only purposes that will give permanent focus and meaning. His life lived in us by His Spirit is the only source of holiness, purity, fullness, and glory: His life in us is the driver of true life and unending abundance.
“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” – Jesus, in John 10:10; compare to John 14:6 and 14:18-21.
“But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him… Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?” Paul, in 1 Corinthians 6:17 & 19.
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” – Paul, in Galatians 2:20
“Set your minds on the things that are above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.” Colossians 3:2-4.
“The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” – Paul, in 1 Timothy 1:14
We cannot find deep and durable meaning in the religiosity of the flesh, nor will these practices bring us into intimacy with our God. On this the scriptures are clear. Yet we have built entire systems, even empires, to try to accomplish these ends. These systems may appear somewhat similar to the true faith but they do not take us to the life of God in place of our own lives. They do not produce the overflow of the Spirit of Christ through us.
Our calendared, clock-bound approach to “worship” and religious living reveals our lack of intimacy with our God. Our liturgies (every church has liturgies, even the non-liturgical ones) and myriad activities exist to try to fill the gap in our experience of our God. We know deep inside we are missing the point, so we double down on our religious expressions in the hope of finding that deeper meaning. These expressions have a shadow of religious and cultural meaning, but they invariably fail to produce true intimacy with our God.
Some time back, Pew Research Center released a study on evangelical Christians. Shockingly, more than 8 out of 10 respondents indicated they attend church services “to feel closer to God.” If we must attend a service in a specific location at a set time in order to feel closer to the God who has declared His intention to live in and through us at all times, perhaps we have missed the point.
That no one notices this is stunning.