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Incompetent People and the Failings of Religion

Grace is a gift only the non-religious can accept. They’re the only ones who can understand it, and put it to use. “Religious” folk see grace as soft and weak, so they keep trying to manage their junk with will power and tenacity. Nothing defines religion quite as well as attempting impossible tasks with limited power, all while pretending that it’s working. –The Cure by John Lynch, Bruce McNichol, Bill Thrall

Every year I reread this book because I need the reminders. I’m in that process now, and surprise, I need it again.

Life beats you down in such a way that you can begin to believe that grace isn’t working and you’ll have to fend for yourself. Instead of trusting the new life God placed within you, you think you’re supposed to make up the difference and work harder to “fix” yourself.

Instead of trusting the truth that you have His perfect righteousness (and are in fact, righteousness yourself [2 Corinthians 5:21]), you see yourself as lesser and begin to put rules in place to keep yourself in check.

Rules in themselves are not the problems. God has rules right? Absolutely, but the question you have to ask is, “is this producing what I want?” Do you feel closer to God or further away? Is your relationship steady with Him or do you feel it might collapse at any moment?

External rules are the domain of religion. Internal compass is the domain of the Holy Spirit and grace. In one, I try to force myself. In the other, I surrender to the life God enables me to live.

Remember: Nothing defines religion quite as well as attempting impossible tasks with limited power, all while pretending that it’s working. If that’s true, that living by grace can be defined by attempting impossible tasks with unlimited power, while seeing it’s working.

Which sounds better to you? And yet, we run back so often to that hollow, shallow form of living thinking we’re doing God a favor.

Rules, laws, or whatever you want to call them are good. They protect and even enhance our lives (especially God’s laws), but the moment my goal is compliance in myself or others, I’ve short circuited grace from working as God’s best intention in my life.

It’s all a matter of focus. You have to maintain a firm belief in the goodness of God and who He made me to be through Jesus’ blood and salvation. Relationship always trumps rule-following because rule following without relationship produces self-righteousness.

Life-giving, lifechanging relationship teaches you to value connection over change, and counterintuitively, living in that sustained relationship produces change as a natural outgrowth.

I’m writing all this because I need the reminder. Maybe you need it too.

Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. –Hebrews 3:12-13

We don’t encourage one another by pointing out the flaws in each other and telling the other to “work on it.” We encourage each other by reminding us of the greatness of God’s salvation, grace, and continued work in our lives–that relationship is the key to maturity.

How about you? Did you need to hear this as I did? Have you ever fallen into the “religion” trap?


  1. Amazing how God works. I am about finished with my series “Branded.” Doing 2 & 3 John the next two weeks. After FD I am preaching a series on Grace through the summer. i worked on the first one some more this morning and am making the point that grace does not depend on us (no matter what Joel may say. God isn’t waiting on me to move before he will act. he doesn’t wait to see my resolve before he “releases his favor.” (and for the record: I do leave his name out of the sermon). That is pure hogwash. It is also works religion…just what you are talking about. it is a delusion. Go get ’em!
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    • Thanks Bill! I wish these lessons would stick in me a little better because they’re so life-giving! It’s so counter to the way the world (and much of the church thinks and responds). So thankful for REAL grace (as I know you are too). Thanks again.

  2. Thank you, Jason! Amazing message! God’s grace is so beautiful and special. God Bless!!!

    • Yes, it is! God bless you too, Jaylynn, and thank you!

  3. Jason, you touch here on one of the topics I tackle in my novels: It’s not about religion, it’s about relationship. If we are in relationship with God through Jesus and the Holy Spirit, we will want to follow His laws and be aware of His grace that flows to us continually from Him.
    Blessings, and thanks for the inspiration!

    • That’s awesome! And it’s so true. Despite how we may feel (or are conditioned to feel), it is not our self-effort that produces but His grace through relationship. So good! Thanks so much, Martha.

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