Religion may make you feel good, but it doesn’t work. Religions tell you what you have to do to be okay with God. Religions give you the rules to follow so you can make the connection with God happen. But God says He makes the connection, that He will live in our hearts to bring us to life (Isaiah 57:15 – See “In a Nutshell”). But He doesn’t do that for the religious; He does it for the “lowly and contrite.” Religion gives you a score and tells you how well you are doing. Lowliness puts you in touch with the reality that you can never measure up to God’s standard of righteousness – not even close. Lowly people hunger for righteousness; religious people tend to think, “I’m not perfect, but I’m doing better than those other guys.” Jesus comforted and loved the lowly. He had fits with the religious.
This is not a new problem. 700 years before Jesus, God criticized the religious people because they were making up rules for people to follow to get to God. He said,
“For it is: Do and do, do and do, rule on rule, rule on rule, a little here, a little there.” Very well then, with foreign lips and strange tongues God will speak to this people, to whom he said, “This is the resting place, let the weary rest”; and, “This is the place of repose”— but they would not listen. So then, the word of the Lord to them will become: Do and do, do and do, rule on rule, rule on rule; a little here, a little there— so that they will go and fall backward, be injured and snared and captured. Isaiah 28:10-13
God intended for our relationship with Him to be characterized by rest, not rules. Coming to God was intended to be coming to the resting place, the place of repose. But humans wanted rules, so we could be in control and so we could keep score. So God said, “Very well then, have it your way.” And God’s Word for the religious became distorted into “do and do, rule on rule, a little here, a little there.”
But for the lowly, for those who know they can’t measure up by following the rules, God comes and lives with them, reviving their hearts. Jesus says, “Let Me be in charge; you come find rest in Me.”
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28
You can have it your way. Which way do you choose: rules or rest?