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Religion: A Golden Shackle

Updated: Aug 26, 2021

Will you believe it, that despite our natural desires to lead, deep right inside every one of us is the urge to submit? That, even though we might not be conscious of it, burrowed in our souls is a yearning to worship a superior influence? That what essentially differs is what each of us finally yield ourselves to! How do I know these? I have the same yearning. I see the cravings in others, either tagged religious or irreligious. But more importantly, we all submit to what we perceived as superior mainly because we were made in the image of God. Wouldn’t that then mean God also has this subservient need to submit? Yes, He submits, but only to Himself.

We begin to see God’s need to submit to Himself met in His expression as a family. As the Father and Son born by the Holy Spirit whom if you will, can call the Mother. As strange as that may sound, the point here is not even to distract us into the Holy Spirit assuming the role of a Mother; given that Virgin Mary was overshadowed as surrogate, given that the Spirit being the Helper portrays the feminine helpmeet, as the comforter or El-shaddai the multi-breasted one, all which proves that God indeed made male and female in His own image and hid Eve in Adam before finally revealing her same way the Holy Spirit was revealed. The point is how really did God worship Himself as a family?

As the Father, which by itself means the spiritual source, He magnified His Word above His name. Yes, if you interpret that as, ‘Word above the Father’, you are right. But while you hold that in one hand, you quickly want to remember that He is the same Word right in the beginning. Ah ah! So, when this same Word came out of Him, and became flesh in Nazareth as His only begotten Son – which means the direct physical expression of the father, He gave the same Word a Name above all names, Jesus. That brings us back to the Name above all even the names, including the name of the Word. I‘m excited you spotted that mutual worship between the Father and the Son? The Father submitted His name to His Word, and then gave the Word a name Above all. Now, it didn’t stop there, for anyone who is naive like I was, still thinking the Holy Spirit is fighting for the third place in the Godhead, you will realise that the same Son would further forewarn that all sins and blasphemy are forgivable, even those against the Son except blasphemy against the Spirit of God, that is total submission to the Spirit. Little wonder He said God is Spirit.

Which means, if we flip it any way, God worships Himself. And that exactly is what defines God, in the very least. Anyone who could worship self and having no one else above them, is indeed God. Then one question quickly jumps to mind, can a creature play God? Very well, which is what powerful leaders attempt to do every so often. And that’s where religion begins from. Lucifer attempted to worship self and become God, only to become a Serpent of old - Satan the god of this world. Nebuchadnezzar also worshipped self, influenced others and became animal. Whereas God has made His children, people born of His Spirit as gods of Himself - Pls 82:6, the highest we attain is being gods worship God, not playing God, for He’s jealous about that. But what‘s even more more touching is that, as gods of God, we still find ourselves worshiping lesser gods, religion again.

Even when we deny it to ourselves, that quiet yearning to worship can be so compelling such that it can only be explained away by ego. Yet, so volcanic is this void to worship that it’s often not as empty as it seems, it is jostled for by different gods. Which are not necessarily visibly graven images, but ranges from inanimate ideologies such as beautiful nature to most unbelievable ones such as fellow humans called legends and demigods. This mind of ours can be so biddable to worship anything that the question only remains, to whom one submits their worship?

Whereas the most notable worshippers we see around are the zealots, firmly tied to their martyrdoms and convictions that they have found God. And sometimes that God only exist in their boxes, some religions are cult. While some worshippers are innocently born into their religious dogmas, many have remained defiantly enchanted to doctrinal rites and the commandments of men submitted as sacred creeds to worship an higher deity. And a few have defensively grown so intolerant to how else God can be presented to them. In fact, anything outside what the lifestyles their parental and ancestral bylaws have shaped them into is an sin. And with all due respect to our free rights of religion, it’s no longer shocking how that we have become a part of the excuse atheists would flash at the very mention of God.

Atheists, on their part goes on to glory in the applause that they bow to nothing. Whereas, they also worship the knowledge that every other knowings is inferior to theirs. As hard as some might find that to believe, most don’t know that self can be ones god. Most, stacked up with their philosophical doctrines haven’t yet realised they too are consumed by the ego to be worshipped. This is where religion changes forms, from one that brags it has all of God to those that deny they have none of it. But all can be found locked in shackles of rites.

To my dear agonists, who still doubts the existence of the higher power of God, Paul was able to identify their passion to fill the worship void when he met the academia in Athens which sought to worship the unknown God. While this liberalist sect might come across as cities without wall, their open minds worship any thing that comes by, but convincing enough. There’s a chance that one idol displaces the previous, risking their minds as up for grab to the highest bidder. It is also a religion. While this freelancers of religion are sweetly tolerant, it’s kind to understand with them that most religions actually set out to map their best way to God the creator and often didn’t start out hard to worship gods.

What then do we say of Christ Jesus, religious? Have we not just made a worship of a star man? Though the worship of Jesus appears religious to many, especially that various religions are built for and against Him, but how would you like to know that Christ isn’t religious! This is one reason this edition started out by introducing Him as a son in a God relationship with father, born by the Holy Spirit and having no one else to worship but Himself as a family. That He didn’t come to straightjacket us into any religion is what this edition is all about! Which is why some of us meet conventional fill-out forms asking us to thick religious status with smile but only check for convenience.

You begin to wonder if Christ was religious from His face off with the Sadducees and Pharisees. You sense a hint of Him being after us joining a God’s family in all He did. You realise Jesus didn’t come to lay down some sets of manmade codes and conducts that refocuses us away from the commandments of love. Right from being born in the manger yet with expensive birthday gifts; born out of wedlock yet by a virgin; schooled through carpentry yet versed in His father’s Scriptural business; led a life hard to pick apart from his disciples yet recognised by the blind Bartimaeus; visited and dined with notorious sinners and leading them to godly sorrows that worked repentance, and betrayed by the kiss of death but the first flesh to resurrect tomb empty without dying again, think about it.

The Word fleshed into Jesus wouldn’t change. It didn’t change for Lucifer, whom God called a Son of the morning because He is a family. But Lucifer, in his heart chose to worship self in a failed coup d’etat of religion to usurp Gods throne. God was family to Adam and would come in the cool of the day, such Adam was reckoned as the son of God in Luke 3:38. Moses, despite seeing the acts of God displayed to the Israelites still had a personal relationship with God and prayed, that he might know Him for himself, his laws became summed up in love by Jesus. The sentenced thief on right hand of Jesus might not have kept any commandment all his life but got the last minutes of his life right and was welcomed into the family of God. Paul might not have eaten in the same plate with Jesus like Peter, but got the relationship of adoption clearly. And to this age, Jesus the same yesterday, today and forever.

That Jesus rather freed us into a loving worship relationship with God is the drive here. That He remade us sons spiritually irrespective of our physical genders of God as exampled by Himself coming out begotten of God, that He made us heirs alike fashioned in Gods image, gods of God is everything relationship.

In this relationship, just like children of the same father aren’t entirely same physically. We might slightly differ but are unique in how we relate to back Him as parts of His body. To some, His healing is more expressed, some it’s His excellency; another His holiness, His knowledge, His discipline; yet another, His evangelism, His music, His giving – but God remains all in all. Being in family with God respects these varieties, accommodates them and follows the common principles of the unchanging father, the source. That He’s the father of all will not change, that Christ His Word became His only begotten Son of the Holy Spirit will not change no matter the character traits expressed in different heirs. What then is this religion we have mentioned so far?

Religion picks on any of those traits of God seen to have truly worked, and tend to bend all the children of God to that single trait, even when the extreme deviation of such trait runs against God’s principle of worshipping in love. Imagine that all the parts of your body are feet just to express how beautiful are the feet of them that carry the gospel is! Religion stands on denomination, yet relationship is on it’s knees saying that they might be one. This relationship with God recognises that Paul planted, Apollo waters but neither brings increase but God. Where Religion monopolies Jesus, encrypt Him so that the name of Jesus is only franchised by it like the disciples rebuked some in the face of Jesus for using His name, this relationship says whoever is not against us is for us. Religion brings the knife of Peter to Gethsemane and will bleed anyone who blaspheme the name of it’s martyr, relationship will sheath the sword and heal the attackers and they become family. Religion preaches the fear of hell, personal relationship with Christ preaches the love of heaven. Religious self righteousness casts the stone of condemnation at its caught sinners, relationship weakens the grips of the uncaught sinning stoners. Religion seeks a kingdom in a far place, relationship reveals the kingdom in you. Religion gives you the prerequisites for miracles, relationship breaks the protocols of wonders and upsets the chaining creeds that defines religion.

By religion, wine isn’t to be touched, not by a Nazarite; relationship of marriage turned water into wine by a Nazarene. Little wonder the Nazarite couldn’t touch the dead but Jesus the Nazarene did so to resurrect them. Pious Religious touch-nots are cleansed by the cleansing contacts of relationship. Religion teaches that you are made for its temple, personal relationship with Jesus says you are the temple. That’s why David ate in it when he was hungry. Relationship with Jesus says it is the Lord of the temple that is worshipped and not the temple of the Lord. Relationship says that the Sabbath is made for you, not you for the Sabbath as Paul later revealed, the Lord of the Sabbath that is worshipped and not the Sabbath.

Whereas religion is set on keeping to a character trait of God that might have worked truly, relationship with God is built on the unchanging principles of a dynamic God. Religion says because Moses had crossed the Red sea by stretching his rod, Joshua too must stretch it after taking the baton from him. Religion says just because Joshua asked to part the water by the feet of the ark carriers stepping into the water, Elisha too must use his feet. Religion says just that Elisha parted it with the reins of Elijah, Jesus had to do same to cross the sea. Meanwhile, relationship with God says he didn’t have to divide it, He could just walk on it! And at another time, He could just sleep in the boat and row with the disciples across it. The principle remained getting to the other side with the Word.

Religion has a common way of picking on traits of God expressed by relationship and making a god of it. It will pick the pillow stone of Jacob and make a mountain of it to be worshipped. Religion sits at the well of Abraham and call other water sources sick. It worships the rods of Aaron, the brass of snake of Moses and the cross of Jesus. Religion is a museum of emblems without the theatre of signs. It is drowned in the water baptism without generating the baptism of fire of the Holy Spirit from the water of the word if you knew how hydroelectricity works.

After a true relationship encounter with God, religion wants to build a tabernacle on the mount of transfiguration. It tears the seamless robe of Jesus and battles over it. It will make a long Pharisee apparel of the healing handkerchief of Peter. Religion idolises the sacrifice of rams, sheep’s, goats, bulls and turtle doves in the temple and denies Jesus’ sacrifice on Golgotha. If you are still religious, you know it by now. Religion merchandise the anointing oil and loses the anointing. It’s a virgin of theocracy bearing the lamp of the word but burnt out of the demonstrating power of the Holy Spirit. Religion will want to buy the Holy Ghost for show off. Like a shadow that denies its substance, religion kisses the door of life eternal and misses the entrance. It retains a form of godliness and denies the power, the very dynamics of God. Religion is a form; a set of tenets made by man to find God, yet in this relationship that is not delusion but demonstrated by His power of transformation, God found us and is founded in us. This relationship of sonship, heirship by adoption into God’s family is Jesus visiting sinners and dining with them in their houses intil they in turn abide in Him.

If Christ was religious, He wouldn’t have blended so well with the disciples that He had to be betrayed at the peak of His ministry with a kiss of death to spot Him out. It is why disciples’ relationship with Jesus made them look like Christ. And in fact, it was this lookalike that religion coined Christianity from in Antioch, which looked good. But down the memory lane, we have Christianity that looks anything but like that same Christ it was named after. Whereas this relationship with Christ isn’t cancel culture, the heart of God in religion has been watered down by many traditions to the extend that Jesus said they make the word of God of no effect in their tradition. Consumed by vanity it preached against, religion is more tribal than kingdom realities seen done on earth. Relationship with God instead have effect on your traditions. You know you are related to God when it begins to brake your tribal tendencies, Jews or Gentiles, you begin to see everyone as a family.

While Religion worships the gifts of God, a relationship with God worship the God of the gift. Please see this beyond the rhymes! Same goes for the music of God and the God of the music, it’s when the music fades that untruth worshippers pales. Religion can be vocal, may come in the philosophical enticing words of man but not in demonstration of the power of God, Paul called it superfluity of naughtiness. It can take a form of jamboree of oratory, skits of writings, unbridled tongue of lip service that suppresses the spirit that works in us both to will and actually to do. Religion revels in the gift of tongues, yet it’s like a sounding brass; its faith might move mountains, giving oneself to be burnt, yet devoid of the heart of love. If you think that I’m referencing 1 Corinthian 13, you are absolutely right, for this relationship is all about love. Even Jesus summed the law of the worship into that which love the Lord your God will all your heart, your soul and mind, it’s not slavery.

While relationships will make a widow still give her last dime in secret, religion plays philanthropy and sadly so, can give all its belongings out to the needy but not out of love but defiled with showbizt. Perhaps why Paul said, if you insist you must call your worship of God a religion, well then, just let it be the one that is borne out of wordlessness, a bridle of tongue type of giving that doesn’t show off, one with a thick cord of relationship such as Jesus’ which reveals God as a parent to the orphans and husbands to the widows. In his words, “If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” – James 1:26-27.

Religion is the worst near miss ever. It is the very fall of the mighty who fails to examine themselves if they are still in faith; if they still have blood relationship with the Son, abide in Him and resemble Him and adopting others into the family which is what this relationship means. Religion instead lusts on the traits such as the gift of God which are without repentance or Gods resentment. It’s carried away by gifts of casting out demons in His name but will be rudely shocked when Christ says He doesn’t know it and tag those works the works of iniquity. Ah! Whereas, one in relationship with God rejoice first in the knowledge that their name is written in the family book of life. Religion is like a branch cut off from its root, but still basking in the twilight glory that it’s leaves are green, relationship abide in him, and its fruit of the spirit are evident.

Religion is a shackle plated in gold, it tends to box God as a burden to be borne on your shoulder but relationship with God unboxes Him as a family to you. “Then he said to the Levites who taught all Israel, who were holy to the LORD: ‘Put the holy ark in the house which Solomon the son of David, king of Israel, built. It shall no longer be a burden on your shoulders. Now serve the LORD your God and His people Israel.” Religion is a burden on zealots shoulders. You will know you are religious when the set of sect your life is patterned after are from another man who truly might have met God but kept you at that junction in their innocence or otherwise to point you to God. We learn from such but don‘t necessarily have to set them in the stones and worship them. When your pathway to God is becoming like a 12-steps or 7-keys one fit for all, not confirmed by two or three witnesses in the scripture but the dossier of a mentor, examine yourself. Or be it of a warrior, a legend, an hero or heroine and above all a martyr, be careful it’s likely becoming a religion – a form of godliness.

Shackles are shackles, no matter how gold-plated. It matters less if it glitters, but enslaving. That it’s gold doesn’t mean it’s Gods. Gold, the ceilings of the earth treasures is the flooring tiles of heaven. If it keeps bending you to itself and not free you to God, it’s a lie, a religion. It needs breaking you from it, and now, for the truth makes free and free indeed. Whereas the yoke of Christ is easy and His burden light, because it’s not by religious work of self-righteousness or might . If the yoke of your divine service is still hard and the burden of it heavy, you are still likely to be heavily laden and this is being broken by the anointing of relationship now.

- Olusola Olusanya

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