My journey to freedom from guilt-based religion

Freedom
My last few posts on non-religious Christianity (starting here)  provoked a couple of people to question, "How do you get from shame-based Christianity to living the abundant life Jesus talked about?" Knowing I was going to blog about it, Tony (my husband) and I had a lengthy early morning conversation on the subject today.

"How would you answer these people?" I asked him. "How would you describe your journey from living under the law to living a non-religious Christianity?"

Tony paused for a moment. "There are two things that come to mind," he said. "But neither of them would you want to write about!"

I guessed one of them instantly. In our early student days, one of our mentors, a guy named George Tarleton, had a famous talk that started, "The Bible is not the Word of God!" This had the desired effect of shocking his audience into listening to him, but he went on to describe how Jesus is the Word of God and we find life in  a relationship with him rather than in keeping a set of laws.

The outcome was that I determined that I wasn't going to live life by a set of  laws any longer, but I would wait until Jesus prompted me to do something. I was brought up in the era where "quiet times" were emphasized. "No Bible, no breakfast!" I felt guilty if I missed a quiet time. There was an unspoken fear that if I didn't spend an hour with God first thing in the morning, then my day would somehow be unblessed and unproductive, or worse still, I would be open to enemy attack.  I decided I would experiment. I would no longer have a quiet time by rote, but rather I would wait until I felt like it.

A year later, I still hadn't had a quiet time! But I'd spent lots of time talking with Jesus. At that point I decided I was going to spend regular time with him anyway whether I felt like it or not, and I found I was really hungry for the Word (the Bible) in a way that I hadn't known previously. And something in me had been broken. I wasn't spending time with the Lord out of fear or guilt, because I ought to, but because I wanted to.

Please hear me on this. I'm not suggesting that people quit their regular time with the Lord.  It's good to develop habits that cultivate intimacy with him. I would still train a new disciple in the importance of prayer and reading the Word. It's the motivation that makes the difference. Think of a marriage. How would our relationship be if Tony and I only spent time together because we knew that was what married people ought to do. No, we spend time together because we love each other's company. There's no person in the world I would rather spend time with than Tony. It's not a duty to share a meal with him. I don't spend time with him out of shame or guilt, but out of love.

It's similar with our relationship with the Lord.

If legalism is a problem for you,  ask the Lord, and he will show you the best way for you, as an individual, to be set free. More on this in the next post.

What have other people found that freed them from shame- and guilt-based religion?

10 thoughts on “My journey to freedom from guilt-based religion”

  1. I don’t think my christianity was ever all that legalistic, because I am an obstinate and rebellious so-and-so! : ( But for me the change was simply based on Bible teaching – I read the Bible and found that Jesus said we had a choice between OT law or NT grace (Luke 16:16), legalism or freedom, and Paul reinforced the message many times (e.g. 2 Cor 3:6, Gal 3:3-5, 25, Heb 8:13, Rom 12:1-2, Gal 5:1, 16 and Rom 7:6-7, where the law we are freed from is one of the 10 Commandments!).
    I still don’t think I practice this well enough, but I have a firm hold on the truth of it. Thanks for your perspective on it.

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  2. Hi Felicity,
    Your story of being freed from quite times matches my own. I thought I was the only one. I don’t talk about it much with people because the religious reaction is usually so strong. And yes, I do now have a daily time with the Lord in the Scriptures, but it is time with the Lord, not time in the Bible.

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  3. I grew up in a very legalistic church and I had a very hard time breaking free even though in my heart I rebelled against it. It took many years and many baby steps but I know God has been leading me here for quite some time. I still did not become totally free until I began to understand the Holy Spirit and was “baptized in the Spirit”. I think the most important step to freedom is just asking HIM for it and listening to see how and where he guides you to it. Each persons experiences are unique and Jesus rarely does anything the same way twice. One big joy for me was realizing that my rebeliousness was never against God but manmade religion. I always thought I was rebelious and it made me feel bad about myself. Now I rejoice in my freedom in Christ!!

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  4. Yes, Felicity, after breaking the religious habit years ago, I receive more revelations, have more insight, understand more mysteries, and enjoy much more intimacy by accident than I did on purpose. Blessings to you always!

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  5. Thanks for the comments everyone. So it seems that so far there are two other things that have led people to freedom: an understanding of what the Scriptures themselves say about this topic, and being filled with and led by the Holy Spirit.
    UnkleE, I love the fact that the Bible itself led you to freedom. The verses you have referenced are really helpful.
    Ross, that is exactly the reason why Tony said I wouldn’t want to write about my experience. It’s controversial! I totally agree with you about spending time with the Lord in the Scriptures rather than time in the Bible.
    JC., Tony mentioned two things that helped lead him to freedom. The second was “speaking in tongues.” This would be my experience too, so being led by the Spirit rather than following laws is huge.
    Marion, Amen!

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  6. Hello, this is my first time to comment. My husband and I are experiencing the same thoughts that you have expressed here.(and a couple other articles as well) My testimony is that I became free from legalistic view of so-called christianity, when me and my family left a long time attending mega church and started verse-by-verse bible study at home. I can’t express how the Book of Romans became so clear to me and how what Paul said in Book of Cor.6 made us realize that the choice is in our hand. God wants us to do right by being led by the Spirit not by some rules or obligations. We, as ‘gentiles’ weren’t under the obligations or laws or ordinances or whatever you wanna call it, to begin with. Very very excited to read your article here! Thank you.
    PS, i am going to send friend requet via facebook so i can see receive your feeds. I am not active on Twitter as Facebook 🙂

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  7. “Number18Girl,” thank you for sharing your experience. I love the fact that the Lord led you to freedom through the Scriptures. Looking forward to getting to know you on facebook.

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