When I first heard Jefferson Bethke’s spoken word, “Why I Hate Religion But Love Jesus,” on YouTube about a year ago, I was truly stunned by it. He was the first person I have ever heard speak in a contemporary voice that clearly defined the stark contrast between Jesus and religion. He spoke in a language that quickly connected not only with me but with millions of others.
Jesus > Religion is the book he recently wrote, which will be released on October 7, expanding on the poem that rocked the internet world and drew people back to Jesus. Needless to say, I was extremely excited to buy his book. (So imagine how stoked I was when I received an advance free copy before its release date! Thank You, Thomas Nelson.)
Growing up in a religion bound in traditions and rules, it was easy for me to be self-righteous completely oblivious to the fact because I was blindly convinced that only by careful observance of rituals will I ever please God. Yet I felt lost and trapped.
Not too long ago, I became disillusioned with religion and began seeking for something beyond following a set of rules and obligations. In that season of pain and searching, I finally saw Jesus. I realized that He has been relentlessly pursuing me and has been pining for me to be in an intimate relationship with Him.
The Jesus I have come to know, the one who sought me with much ardor, and the one who chose me over and over again no matter how I messed up is the Jesus Jefferson Bethke wrote about in his upcoming book. He has been able to articulate difficult truths about Jesus and how contrary He is to religion. His words will pierce you, challenge you, and change you into seeing Christianity in the perspective of Jesus. He writes with raw honesty, candidness, and a readiness to share to his readers even his darkest struggles and pains leading to how it all brought him to Jesus.
Chapter 8 of his book is what spoke directly to my heart. Aptly titled, it speaks of God’s outrageous grace and how opposing it is to religion’s mantra of God loving you only if you fulfill certain things. To give you a taste of how crazy God’s grace is as Jefferson wrote on his book, here are a few lines.
I love you.
I desire you.
I delight in you.
I saw you were going to do that before I went to the cross, and I still went.
When Jesus went to the cross, he saw all I’ll ever be, all I’ll ever do (including that), and all I’ll ever want outside of him; but he joyfully came and got me. He looked down and said, “I want that one.”
I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it. But he freely loves me and gave me grace. Not only did I not deserve his love in that moment, but if anything, I deserved the opposite. But he chose to let his beauty and splendor pour out of him and into my ugliness.
That’s when it hit me: God’s grace isn’t nice and cute. It’s scandalous.
Jesus > Religion, page 134
He wrote these words after sharing a sin he had committed that had him reeling in shame and guilt. Jesus scooped him up and showed him something astounding. These very words shook me to the core allowing me to grasp that, indeed, God’s grace is scandalous.
How else can you explain it when He is uncompromising in releasing His grace despite the offensiveness of my sins?
I want to encourage you to check out and read Jefferson Bethke’s book, Jesus > Religion. You can preorder by clicking this link. It will profoundly touch you and reignite your love for the One who loved us first and pursued us like no other.
To end, I want to leave you with these words that speak of what I believe about God’s people.
We don’t have to hide the fact that we are messy because God doesn’t hide the fact that that’s exactly the type of people he came to save.
Jesus > Religion, page 135
October 4, 2013
© 2013 Kezia Lewis. All Rights Reserved.