In my last post on this subject, I looked at my personal journey and how God set me free from guilt-based religion. For me, that liberty came many years ago during my medical school days. I've not always lived in that freedom, but it has formed a basic backdrop for my life.
My advice to people wanting to be set free from legalism and guilt/shame-based religion today would be a little different.
Guilt-based religion relies on keeping a series of laws whether external (a good Christian is expected to have to have a daily quiet time/speak to other people about their relationship with Jesus/ pray at least one hour per day) or internal (I'm going to get closer to God; therefore I will pray for one hour every day/read my Bible through in one year etc.). Note these are all good things that will enhance your walk with the Lord. And over the years I've made many a promise to myself to do them, tried for a few days/weeks and then lived with the guilt of letting God down.
These days I do it differently. I make an active practice of listening to God.
Most days I try to journal. This is a skill I picked up from a book by Mark Virkler many years ago called "Dialog with God." He outlines four basic steps to hearing from God.
- Free yourself from distractions
- Focus on Jesus
- Listen for the flow of spontaneous thoughts
- Write down what you hear
After I have written down the flow of thoughts, then I go back and weigh what I wrote. Is it Scriptural? Does it bring a sense of peace? (Col 3:15)
Most of the time when I journal, what I write is good and Scriptural but not earth shattering. Often I sense the Lord expressing his love and approval of me. Sometimes I ask him specific questions and get very relevant answers. Sometimes I sense him telling me to focus on a particular subject which will form the basis of my studies in the Word for a while. Sometimes I go back through what I have written and put a large question mark beside it because I'm not convinced I heard the Lord accurately. Sometimes I write things that make a profound difference in my life.
For example, a few months ago, I sensed the Lord saying, "Lean into me," with the sense of having to rely on him for strength, courage etc. Within a couple of weeks, I found myself in the middle of all kinds of events I couldn't have foreseen including being with my mother in the UK as she went through major cardiac surgery, a cardiac arrest, collapsed vertebrae and a house move, Tony's mother in a coma for a few days (both mothers are now doing well), a week trip to India without Tony speaking for several hours a day at conferences and so on. The number of times I said to the Lord during that time, "Father, I don't have what it takes, but I lean into you!" were too numerous to count.
For me, listening to God (and doing what he says) is the antidote to legalism because it creates a two-way relationship. Jesus said to his disciples, "No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you (John 15:15).
Having a friendship with Jesus is not a chore or duty. It's a desire.
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9 replies on “How to set yourself free from guilt-based religion”
Great insight Felicity. Thanks so much for sharing.
This is really great, Felicity. Especially the part about letting the stream of consciousness flow, and verifying the result with scripture!
Your blog is such a gift, I love it!
It often challenges me but today I’m excited because I totally get it and agree with you.
Listening as a practice is addictive, it is more freedom and more intimacy with God than I ever imagined
possible and for me has broken down the old performance guilt and law abiding restrictive mindset I used to be stuck with.
Maree, thank you for sharing your experience. It helps to know that others have found the same freedom. And thank you for the encouragement about my blog.
Hi Felicity – I am reading 4 keys to hearing God’s voice at the moment – essentially the same book, rewritten. I have found it so amazing that by learning to listen to the Lord using these skills how the guilt and performance just simply “drop off”. Finally, I can see the abundant life that Jesus promised,coming from a beautiful place of listening and resting in Him. Thank you for sharing this.
I enjoyed this. I remember some years back reading about Brother Andrew or maybe an article by him. He said the Lord impressed upon him to carry a pad around and write down whenever an encouraging thought came to his mind. I do this now except on my iPhone and it’s amazing to go back and read later. There’s no limit to His goodness and He doesn’t limit Himself to us. Jesus is continuously amazing.
Sharon, I gathered the book has been rewritten. Mark Virkler has encouraged many people into a new dimension in their walk with Christ.
Patrick, that’s a great idea!
oh this is such a great entry, thanks again! 🙂