Gospel Joy

Many people do not understand that Christianity is not a religion. It is a relationship with God that is established through faith in the death and resurrection of the Messiah Jesus. However, God used religion to birth the Christian faith. The foreshadows in the Old Testament regarding the temple sacrifices, the rituals, ordinances and ceremonies were merely an organized preparation for their fulfillment in the Messiah Jesus.

It’s a little like the parable we see in nature of a butterfly and its cocoon. The cocoon represents the religious container that was used and was necessary at one point in time to form the butterfly. Then comes the glorious moment when the butterfly is released from its encasement and is free to fly.

We don’t need the rituals anymore. We don’t need the ceremony. We are no longer restrained by tabernacle ordinances that no longer serve a purpose. We are free to fly away from all of that because of the indwelling presence of God and the Messiah Jesus, who are in us through the Holy Spirit that gives us wings.

The temple and its sacrifices were destroyed in 70AD because God was putting an end to a religious system that was no longer necessary. It had served its purpose. Jesus is the final sacrifice for sin. Through faith in His death and resurrection we receive His Holy Spirit. Believers now become the living residence of the Spirit of God. He operates through His people to change us into His image, which is the image of His Son.

We are free to fly and enjoy this new, intimate relationship with God that the previous system of religious service was incapable of bestowing. Our wings flutter in the sunlight of our brief existence in this realm, rejoicing that the brevity of time that we are allowed here now, will expand for us into an eternity of everlasting life as we continue to rise upward toward its fulfillment.

How sad that the freedom of experiencing God’s presence on a daily basis is still being resisted by others who want to herd the butterflies back into an empty cocoon of lifeless religion.

The joyful explosion of Christianity upon the world’s stage could not be tolerated by many. The same spirit of religion that dominated Judaism was transferred to another form of formal religiosity within the Christian camp. Robes and candles, ceremony and ritual, gradually solemnized the gospel’s joyous expression of hope and freedom from the bondage of sin that Jesus died to give us.

The butterflies were told not to fly. The spirit of life that ignited their wings at Pentecost, was quenched, causing many of them to forget that they had wings at all.

The butterflies were taught to believe that God could not be enjoyed outside the walls of a stained glass cathedral. The darkness of that man-made cocoon, forced the butterflies to see God by the dim light of man’s words that many times overrode and camouflaged the true brilliance of the scriptures. And the butterflies were taught that worshipping God inside the cocoon was normal and the way it had been ordained to be.

Flying was no longer permitted. Those who refused to comply, and attempted to soar outside the restraints of man-inspired religion, were sentenced to death or imprisonment unless they agreed to fold up their wings and return to the cocoon.

Many years have passed since the joy of the gospel spilled out from the temple’s severed religious vail and propelled the butterflies to share the gospel’s joy into the hearts of humanity. Yet, the fight to return the butterflies to their previous darkness continues.

Many will demand that the butterflies be silenced, their wings destroyed. Ah, but these ones who have experienced the joy of flight, are held in the strong currents of the Spirit’s breath, and He will never let them fall to the ground. He will blow, and the weary wings will lift high once again above the heads of their enemies.

The joy of the Lord is your strength.

Copyright 2020 by H.D. Shively

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