No sooner had I shared with you my insight that the Gospel words suggest the Lord meant to abolish the notion of sin than I realized there was another thing He seems to have meant to consign to history. This one is a harder call, so I wondered if I should mention it now; but I have come to see as I have written this for you that perhaps this further stumbling-block is even worse than fear-based sin as a barrier to our spiritual growth!
Jesus meant to raise in us a dissatisfaction with religious faith, and to teach us instead to seek and find a more solid spiritual certainty. What else can He have meant when He said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (MT 7:7-8)?
My difficulty in trusting the evidence that Jesus spoke against religious faith seems mostly to have stemmed from the fact that He used the word “faith” or “faithful” so often, and in three different ways:
In none of these cases does the word “faith” refer to believing in any religion. Arguably, in the second and third instances He is talking about belief in the powers of our minds being essential to our being able to use those powers, which was a concept His listeners could not have understood, but it does make sense to us today. Realizing the yawning gap in understanding that existed between Jesus as an ascended being and the primitives He was teaching gives you a lot of sympathy for Him! It makes you all the more admire His determination to overcome their ignorance and educate them to the point where they might bring the kingdom of God on earth even in that ancient, more primitive day.
Only once in all four Gospels is Jesus quoted as saying, “Have faith in God,” and even that sole example is another reference to our need to believe in the powers of our own minds. “Peter said to Him, ‘Rabbi, look, the fig tree which You cursed has withered.’ And Jesus answered saying to them, ‘Have faith in God. Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, “Be taken up and cast into the sea,” and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him’” (MK 11:21-23). Surely Jesus is not saying that if we have sufficient religious faith then God will at our command perform the parlor trick of moving a mountain? Of course not! We know now that He is talking instead about the vast creative powers of our minds, those same powers that He often says He is using to assist Him in healing those who approach him, hoping to be healed.
Nowhere in the Gospels do we see Jesus using the word “faith” in a religious sense! On the contrary, Jesus sees religions beliefs as stumbling–blocks between us and God, and He rails against them as obstacles to our obeying God’s command that we learn to love perfectly. He says, “Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men… You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition” (MK 7:8-9). And “Why do you transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?… You hypocrites! Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far away from me. But in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men’” (MT 15:3-9). The fact that practicing any religion so often produces people that you would rather not be around was something He saw as a tremendous strike against religions as a whole. He said, “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits” (MT 7:15-20).
That was the Lord’s opinion of religious faith, as painful as it might be to read! Jesus told us two thousand years ago that it was time for us to move past mere belief in man-made religious dogmas, and to put into practice His own teachings so we could begin to live God’s perfect truth. He said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (JN 8:31-32).
So it does seem likely that yet another thing that Jesus came to do was to eliminate religious faith. The question then becomes, why did He think giving up our faith would be a necessary prelude to the dawning of the kingdom of God on earth? Here are some thoughts:
So to summarize our discussions of the past few weeks, Jesus tells us in the Gospels that He came to abolish religions, teach us to relate to God on our own, teach us to be seekers and teach us how to grow spiritually, and also teach us to abolish fear-based notions including sin and even religious faith, all so we will be able soon to bring the kingdom of God on earth. It feels astonishing to read this list! Yet the evidence of what Jesus came to do is stated in the Gospels in plain words that make sense and come together well even after two translations over two thousand years. The fact that Christianity has largely ignored those Gospel words has only delayed the moment when we can at last empower the Lord to speak to a people who love Him enough to hear and respect what He is saying! Without religious dogmas in the way, we can come to know the true Jesus. And through Him we can come to know at last the genuine, eternal God.
Knowing what we have been learning from the Lord, you and I can much better see that the forty-thousand-odd versions of modern Christianity must be anathema to the Jesus of the Gospels! Knowing that the death of Jesus on the cross has never made an afterlife difference for a single human being, and knowing how important our following His Gospel teachings is to the genuine Lord, we can see that every living Christian faces what might be for some a hard choice. We can cling to a set of fear-based dogmas that have nothing to do with the risen Lord, or we can instead become among the first true followers of Jesus and His Way. And in truly following Him at last, we can help Him save the world! Or to put it even more plainly:
Jesus was determined to remove from our lives every source of spiritual fear so our personal vibrations could naturally rise to the point where the love-based perfection of the highest afterlife levels could overspread the earth. And as I write, I realize there is one more thing that Jesus came to do….
Adam & Eve photo credit: www.ilkkajukarainen.fi <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/130333033@N08/41963999232″>6Q3A8287</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a>
Isaiah photo credit: Andrew-M-Whitman <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/23967095@N00/28816066756″>Victoria & Albert Museum, London</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a>