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The Worst Part of Religious Thinking

Jake’s story is a compelling journal that chronicles thirteen conversations with his friend over a four-year period and how those exchanges turn Jake’s world upside-down.

In this story Jake meet a man that  provokes in him an insatiable hunger to find out more about Jesus. He inspired him reread all of the Gospels again—this time looking beyond the lessons Jesus taught to see just what kind of person he was. Jack  had been a Christian for over two decades but the harder he tried the more frustrated he became. He threw himself headlong into ministry, hoping to bury the hunger and the questions.

Jake  journey is about unfastening the shackles of the past and becoming all one can be in Christ. And the book is available free. Here is an excerpt.

The Worst Part of Religious Thinking

“That’s the worst part of religious thinking. It takes our best ambitions and uses them against us. People who are trying to be more godly actually become more captive to their appetites and desires…

“Paul recognized there are three roads in this life, when most of us only recognize two. We tend to think of our lives as a choice between doing bad and doing good. Paul saw two different ways we could try to do good—one makes us work hard to submit to God’s rules. That one fails every time. Even when he described himself as following all of God’s rules externally, he also called himself the worst sinner alive because of the hate and anger in his heart. Sure he could conform his outward behavior to fit the rules, but it only pushed his problems deeper. He was, you remember, out killing God’s people in God’s name.”

“Yes, but Paul is talking about the Old Testament law there. We’re not following the law. We’re seeking to live by New Testament principles.”

“No he’s not, Jake. Paul is talking about religion—man’s effort to appease God by his own work. If we do what he wants he will be good to us, and if we don’t then bad things will happen in our lives. On its best day, this approach will allow us to be smugly self-righteous which is a trap all its own. On its worst days it will heap guilt upon us greater than we can bear. Your ‘New Testament principles’ are just another way of living to the law. You’re still caught up in the process of trying to get God to reward you for doing good.”

“So trying to do good can be a bad thing?” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

“If you go about it that way, yes. But Paul saw another way to live in God’s life that was so engaging it transformed his entire life. He knew that our failures all result from the fact that we just don’t trust God to take care of us.

As Paul grew to know God better, he discovered that he could trust God’s love for him. The more he grew to trust God’s love, the freer he was from those desires that consumed him. Only by trusting Jesus can anyone experience this kind of freedom and those who know him do. It is real freedom.”

“Won’t people just use that for an excuse to do whatever feels good and ignore what God wants?”

“Sure some will. Many already have. But those who really know who God is will want to be like him.”

“We have to have a standard, though, so people can know what that is.”

That’s when he dropped the bombshell that exploded every remaining preconception I had of this Christian life.

“Jake, when are you going to get past the mistaken notion that Christianity is about ethics?”

What? I looked up at him and could not get one coherent thought from my brain to my mouth. If it isn’t

about ethics, what is it about? I had been raised all of my life to believe that Christianity was an ethic for life that would earn me a place in God’s heart. I didn’t even know where to put this last statement, but he seemed content just to let it hang there.

Finally I found something to say. “I don’t even know how to respond to that. I’ve lived my whole life in Christ thinking this was all about ethics.”

“And that is why you’re missing it. You’re so caught up in a system of reward and punishment that you’re missing the simple relationship he wants to have with you.”

“How else are we going to know how God feels about us if we don’t live up to his standards?”

“That’s where you have it backward, Jake. We don’t get his love by living up to his standards. We find his love in the most broken place of our lives. As we let him love us there and discover how to love him in return, we’ll find our lives changing in that relationship.”

“How can that be?” Don’t we have to walk away from sin to know him?”

“Walking toward him is walking away from sin. The better you know him the freer from it you will be. But you can’t walk away from sin, Jake. Not in your own strength! Everything he wants to do in you will get done as you learn to live in his love. Every act of sin results from your mistrust of his love and intentions for you. We sin to fill up broken places, to try to fight for what we think is best for us, or by reacting to our guilt and shame. Once you discover how much he loves you, all that changes. As you grow in trusting him, you will find yourself increasingly free from sin.”

This is an excerpt from the  rough draft of Jake’s story in html and the final draft in a variety of formats. Don’t miss it!



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  1. YES!!! This is soooo true! Thanks be to God! After years of being a “good” Christian, I’ve finally understood that the last thing He needed was more Christians living their lives for him – that’s how the crusades happened. Instead, God wants to live His life through us. Repeadtedly Scripture discusses our death so that He may live – not so that we may live better. Problem is that most churches today don’t teach us our true identies as new believers.

  2. Tara in VA

    The book looks great! Can’t wait to read it! Awesome!

  3. Eve didn’t want to be like God (more God-like or godly) she wanted to usurp authority and willfully disobeyed her husband to get knowledge which wasn’t rightfully hers. Remember, while it was Eve who was deceived, it was Adam who disobeyed. This is why sin was passed through the seed of Adam, not Eve.

    The Law is impossible to keep, but that doesn’t mean we are exempt from keeping it. All people will still be judged according to the Law at the final judgment. Those who are “in Christ” will be judged based on Christ’s merit only. He was the propitiation (substitution) sacrifice which satisfied God’s judgment against those who are The Called. Everyone else will still be judged by every letter of the Law; no sin will go unpunished.

    The Law is in place to amplify our shortcomings and sinful nature so that we see our desperate need for a Savior. It’s purpose is to push us towards a total reliance on God, through Christ, who is the only one who can (and has) satisfied the Law.

    The freedom to be found in Christ isn’t a willy nilly “free to live as I please” freedom, but rather a sigh of relief freedom that we are not bound by every letter of the Law that Christ himself satisfied, AND a knowledge of our true desperate helpless state of being. We are freed from the religious pressure of perfectionism which we are unable to keep anyway. This was Jesus’ beef with the Pharisees. They were religious hypocrites who forced impossible laws down the people’s throats, but they themselves couldn’t even keep the Law.

    Jesus himself IS the Sabbath rest. Even all this squabbling over what day the Sabbath should be is a religious millstone. Jesus IS the Good News, he is the end, not just a means to an end. What a relief! Thank God for our gentle Savior, High Priest, and King.

    hparis’s last blog post..Need Motivation To Get Out And Walk? Join The Alzheimer’s Memory Walk

  4. Tara in VA

    My husband and I have spent the weekend GLUED to that book! I heartily recommend it! The conversational-style is wonderful and reminds me of the conversations I have with others who are on this same path. Many, many “aha!” 💡 moments to be had between its pages! My husband emailed the link to a friend of ours who is a missionary and church planter in Siberia. He loved it too and emailed us that he sent the Russian translation of the book to all his contacts in Siberia!

    It is amazing how God moves 😀

  5. Satan tempted Eve to be like God. Genesis 3:4-6 “The serpent said to the woman, ‘You will certainly not die! Really, God knows that on the day you eat from it, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.'”

    Jake’s story doesn’t negate the law or talk about being free without responsibility; Its about religion vs relationship.

    We are not without the law but under “the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2). The New Testament verses concerning God’s law explain that those who love God will follow God’s instructions—His ways, His paths (Romans 2:23; Ephesians 6:2-3; Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16; Hebrews 10:16; James 1:25; 2:11; 8-26; 1 John 2:3-4, 24; 3:22; 5:2,3; 2 John 6; Revelation 22:14). The law was never meant to save—only to guide. Without God’s instruction, it would be impossible for people to live together. Without God’s law, there could be no grace. As David said in Psalm 119, God laid down precepts that are to be obeyed. He said he meditated on God’s precepts and ways, and if we walk in God’s paths our hearts are set free.

    Jake’s story asks,”Is the church in America what Jesus had in mind?” and how to escape the walls of religion to a free and delightful walk with Christ. It is balanced.

  6. Jake’s Story one of the best books I have ever read and I’ll tell you why.

    I’ve been all about the Church for most of my life. I’ve been a pastor, a denominational official, a Church Administrator, an Elder, a Chairman of the Board and while I’m not currently in a formal Church Ministry role, I’m finishing up a Master’s degree in Organizational Leadership and writing a Master’s Thesis on Leadership Styles and impact within the organization of the Church.

    On some levels, I’m sick and tired of the organization of the Church. Many of the criticisms leveled at it for being impersonal, political, manipulative, disingenuous and full of petty people are unfortunately true. There are literally millions of people who comprise the walking wounded who have brushed paths with many Churches and have sworn that they are never going back to such a place because it is full of hypocrites and toxic people.

    I understand that. I’m reminded of the man who said all the things above to his wife and ended up with the comment, “And I’m never going back there again.” His wife responded, “But you have to go back. You’re the Senior Pastor ……”

    For all who have felt this way, this book is for you.

    Through the masterful use of dialogue in the context of a fictional setting with a pastor who has been wounded, this book touches on all these themes and brings the reader through to the end with an alternative view of Church.

    It’s not about the organizational Structure. Some imagine that if we just structured the Church right the problems would be solved. I can vouch from a level of involvement that exceeds many, that sadly this is not the case.

    The church will never be perfect in this age because I am not perfect.

    What is needed is a new view and understanding of the Church. This book does an excellent job of illustrating where hope lies.

    I recommend it highly!

  7. D'Anna

    Thank you so much for this link! I can’t tell you how freeing it was to read – – just amazing to hear everything so clearly in one story! It has called me back to relationship with God! I am so thankful to you for posting this!
    Bless you!!!

  8. Amein!!

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