Recently, I was listening to an interview with a former Muslim. When asked what the primary difference was between Islam and Christianity, he said: "Both are people of the book, but where Muslim's believe the Koran is a revelation from God, Christians believe the Bible is the revelation of God." He went on to say that, to the Muslim, this type of knowledge of God is impossible, and Christianity's claim to the contrary is offensive. Later in the interview, he made another point that really struck me and has stuck with me ever since...Islam requires no heart change. It is a system of belief and practice that does not require repentance or a change of "want to's"...one which does not change the person or deal with sin at all.
Couldn't that be said of most of "religion"? Even within Christianity, we have various forms of practice, which are primarily that...a system of do's and don'ts which do not require a heart change and therefore do not provoke any other sort of change in the person. People are who they are, year in and year out, struggling with the same sin, carrying the same burdens, going through the motions of religion and effectively keeping it from having the desired effect...a changed heart and a changed life.
"Religion" is easy to do...or not do...because it is about us doing things to try to appease God and make ourselves feel better. But so long as it is about us, we will do neither...and we will remain unchanged. As Christians, though, we are not called to religion...we are called to surrender our lives; to die that we might live; to show brotherly affection that we might love; to not fear what is frightening; to love our enemies; to believe what we do not see; to go out without knowing where we are going...to do the exact opposite of what comes naturally. We cannot do this ourselves. It is only possible by surrendering our will to another and having our hearts changed. In this way, "feeling" will follow action AND what we "naturally" want will be different.
This, and only this, makes for a people, for a religion, that knows God ... that changes lives ... that sets captives free ... and brings glory to Him.
This is my prayer this year, that none of those called by His Name will not be content with any "form of godliness" but will yearn with all that is in them to live surrendered, sanctified lives for His glory and His name's sake.