So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1
It was the summer of my rebellion. I know, some people are born compliant and some are born a little on the rebellious side. I was born compliant. I have always been a rule keeper—well, at least most of the time. I suppose that is why I took to religion so well. You see religion is all about keeping the rules. The idea is if you keep enough of the rules then people will like you and most importantly, God will like you. And sure enough, it worked—well, at least part one worked. In my younger years, most of the adults thought I was a good boy. Church? Got it. Drinking? Not a drop. Drugs? Nope. I can hear them saying it now, “That Dewayne is such a nice boy.” And, I suppose outwardly I looked pretty good, but pretty good won’t get you to heaven.
You see the second part of the religion mantra is that you can make God happy by performing—by keeping the rules. That one is 100% false. There is no one, except Jesus, that was good enough to go to heaven. Yet it seems so many church people say they believe that rules won’t get you to heaven, but act as if they will. They carefully do this and that and boy, if you happened to be one of the ones who didn’t keep the rules, you were tried, convicted and sentenced. That’s why I had to keep my cussing summer quiet.
I think maybe all the rule keeping must have finally got to me. The bottom line is during the summer between my junior and senior years of high school—I started cussing. I had a job at an apartment complex down the road from our house and I worked with the son of the head maintenance man. He was not a Jesus person and he did like to cuss. So, one day, I just started cussing too. I had heard enough cuss words at school to know most of them, so I didn’t have to have any lessons…though I did have to work on my voice inflections.
It was a very tricky time in my life because I had to turn the cussing on at 8:00 am and I had to be sure and turn it off at 5:00pm. That’s what you have to do when you are living a double life. Under no circumstances did I want to spoil my good boy image at church or with my Mama and Daddy. I do remember one time I let a small one slip and Mama looked at me with eyes that said, “Where did that come from?” Of course, I didn’t, I couldn’t let her know that her baby son was a cusser.
And, as quickly as it came, it passed. At the end of the summer, I had to go back to school and therefore had to quit my job. All I know is that the cussing stopped and my rule keeping world got a little easier. I managed to please a lot of people, but I knew I was far from pleasing God. It would be several more years before I finally figured out that rule keeping didn’t work and religion didn’t either. When I was 21, I finally found grace and boy was that a game changer. Honestly, it is taking me a long time to shake the deep roots of rule keeping and religion. I’m still working on it.
You might ask, “How do you know if you are under the influence of religion and rule keeping?” Well, its two main indicators are self-condemnation and a tendency to judge others. Rule keepers are acutely aware when they or others around them break a rule. Rule keepers (and religious people) like to point out other people’s sins and faults because it makes them feel better about themselves. If they can make you feel bad, then it makes them feel better. It’s a pretty twisted world.
God’s way is so much better than religion and rules. Did you know His Book, the Bible, actually says that when someone believes in Jesus and becomes one of His followers that there is no condemnation—none—nada? I mean when the prosecuting attorney and the judge both acquit you—the trial is over. I’m slowly learning just how valuable that is. There is an audience of One that Jesus followers have to live for and that is God…their Heavenly Father…their Abba Father…their Dearest Daddy. I love what Toby Mac (a contemporary Christian singer) said, “I gave God a million reasons not to love me. Not one of them changed His mind.” I like that!
Well, I’m glad my cussing summer is ancient history. I still look back at those two or three months and wonder what in the world was I was thinking? The truth is…I probably wasn’t. But now, by grace, that, and all my other failures, warts and sins are forgiven…all because of Jesus. I’m so grateful for that. If you have never discovered grace and forgiveness, especially God’s kind, I hope you will check it out. Don’t get confused with religion and rule keeping like I did. God’s got something far, far, better than that. Think you’ve messed up too much to be forgiven? Nope…don’t give it a second thought. Trust me…He’s got this.