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Has Religion Kept You from God?

Religion can discourage, even deter... BUT GOD Soul armor, Piece Five – Ephesians 6.10-17 It is not uncommon for people to turn away from God because they have been turned off by religion, specifically the church. Let me show you what I mean by telling you a story about a dear man. The hospice nurse got word for me to come right away, realizing her patient was facing some fears that I might be able to relieve. Just a month before, his dear daughter had called to tell me Rey was in the hospital, asking if I could come. Rushing from my son's soccer tournament, I found his family gathered round. Immediately, I was drawn to Rey's winning smile, warm eyes and beautiful shock of white hair. Heck, I barely noticed his standard-issue blue gown or surroundings, though they were indicative of a serious medical situation, actually a terminal one. On that day, we had quite a discussion, as he told me how ‘religion’ had kept him at arm’s length from God. 'But religion is just a manmade construct, don't you see, Rey?' I asked, and then drew him back to Jesus. He listened as I shared the various proofs and evidence(s) for the historicity of Jesus Christ. On that day, the Lord was bigger than religion and Rey prayed to make Jesus the Leader of his life … or as he said, ‘the Master of his life’. It was an amazing time. Once he returned home, I was blessed to see him a lot, though his decline was steady and rapid. Each time, we talked about the hope and the reality of Heaven, as I described it from Revelation chapter 21. My prayers brought him a lot of comfort, along with the reassurance that he would never be alone again. “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you,” God promised.1 But on one particular day, he was curled in the king-sized bed he shared with his wife for decades, and I asked him if he was afraid. He nodded. ‘What is it, Rey? What is troubling you?’ I lay down alongside him, so he would not have to crane his neck to look at me—‘Rey, what is it?’ He swallowed and soberly looked at me and said, ‘What if he rejects me?’ ‘Oh, Rey, he won’t reject you! He loves you, enough to give up his only Son. Truthfully, Rey, right now, it seems to me that the toughest thing about you coming to faith so late in the game is that you have not had a lifetime of experiencing God’s love.’ And then I set into tell him of how I came to understand his love for me, especially through his presence and direction in my life. I told him of God’s forgiveness, his mercy and answered prayer in my life. It seemed like time stopped, as I recounted stories of how God had ‘shown up’ over and over, demonstrating his great love. ‘Rey, don’t you see?’ . . . I read David’s words from Psalm 91, “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty…” assuring him of God’s protective love. We covered a lot of ground, and it seemed that the tension in him eased a little after that. If Paul had been sitting next to Rey that day, he might have drawn from his letter to the Romans, quoting chapter 5: “since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.”2 ‘Catch that? We are made right with God through our FAITH; we have PEACE with God because of what JESUS DID, not because we deserve it. We can be confident and joyful of ETERNAL GLORY with God . . . Christian, you—like Rey, can be full of faith, and joyfully expectant of your eternal future. It is really a shame. Truly. People want to know God, but some have had it with the Church and so they turn aside. Others trust him as the leader of their lives, and yet … they are not sure--do not read enough of the Scripture to grow in their knowledge of God and his ways, and fear creeps in. ‘ What if I am not good enough to get into Heaven?’ Paul named the fifth piece of soul armor the Helmet of Salvation because having the assurance that we are saved/our sins forgiven by God is strong protection from disparaging thoughts that we are not good enough or that God will reject us. One more thing… Rey wondered--was it really possible to come to saving faith at age 75? What about all that came before? Was there a way to be sure? Yes! Jesus said, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.3 The next time I see Rey will be on the Other Side. I doubt he can hear me now, but just in case, I would like to say, “See, I told you . . . He claimed you—he did not reject you. And, hey Rey? I’ll see you soon.”4 So Christian, put on the Helmet of Salvation – the knowledge that God has saved you, the assurance of what God has done in you, how he is changing you to become more like him and the assurance that you will be with him forever—because your salvation is eternal. Need more on that? You Can Rest--truth sung by Hillary Scott: Because He lives, Christine

1) Hebrews 13.5 2) Romans 5.1-2, NLT 3) John 5.24 4) from January, 2011 – beloved Rey

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