I stood before an audience of women, in awe of how many raised their hands to trust Jesus for salvation; they’d chosen to follow Him. I paused for a moment to speak to those women. “Dear Sisters, we’re so honored to have you in the family of God. You are secure in Christ, Jesus! Read His Word. Find a Bible-believing church. Engage with God’s people. Cultivate a lifestyle of enjoying God’s presence and listening to His voice. And, if you run into a self-important Christian with folded arms and turned-up nose, and he or she tries to tell you what a ‘good Christian’ should look like…turn around and run the other way!”
Women always laugh when I say that, but I’m quite serious. When new believers get their start, they’re tender, teachable, and impressionable. We must teach them that transformation takes place from the inside out and that the Word of God and the Holy Spirit within them are their greatest treasures. We’ll save them from much heartbreak and unnecessary effort.
Religion applies outward pressure to perform, whereas a relationship with Jesus inspires an inward desire to yield to Him and follow in His way. Religion is all about obligation, whereas relationship is about the invitation to know God intimately, to trust Him, and follow Him because He loved us first.
Recently on Middays with Susie Larson, I spoke with author and Pastor Vance Pitman about his book, “Unburdened: Stop Living for Jesus So Jesus Can Live Through You.”
Early on (like many of us), Vance worked hard at the Christian life. He strived, performed, and ended up tired and discouraged. Then he met a man who mentored him and helped him grasp the grace of God and the importance of letting Jesus live His life through us. His mentor even said this about new believers:
“Unless a new believer is carefully taught and guided after conversion, he will embark upon a journey of self-will and determination to live the Christian life, a journey which will only lead to disillusionment and disappointment.”
Vance went on to write:
Do you know God personally? Do you have a relationship with Him? Or are you pursuing a system of dos and don’ts, rights and wrongs, rules, and regulations? One of the greatest discoveries you’ll ever make is that God didn’t invite you into a relationship with Himself because of what you can do for Him; He invited you into a relationship because He loves you.
Jesus paid a high price to save you and set you free. Refuse to be burdened by a list of dos and don’ts that shame you into action. But don’t interpret Jesus’ invitation to live any way you want to live. We tend to bend one of two ways: toward rebellious sin or prideful performance. Jesus invites us to live Holy-Spirit-led, powerful, humble, submitted lives. Jesus invites us to trust Him with every aspect of who we are so that He might change the world through us. Our calling is a high one, indeed. But every sustainable change comes from Christ within, our hope of glory.
It was for this freedom that Christ set us free [completely liberating us]; therefore, keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery [which you once removed].
I have been crucified with Christ [that is, in Him, I have shared His crucifixion]; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body I live by faith [by adhering to, relying on, and completely trusting] in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.