Religion is religion, and Jesus isn’t a religion, He is a relationship.
As a child, I was never allowed to even touch a bull. There was the temptation when feeding the cows and petting them to do the same to the bull. However, any advance toward the bull was met with a strong rebuke from my grandfather. He had hauled several and seen men gored; he never trusted any bull. The bulls in Spain enter the arena full of attitude, strength, and catlike quickness. They look for anything that is moving and immediately charge. The power is awe-inspiring to witness; they send every matador scrambling behind a thick wooden wall, and then they hammer the wall with their horns. I just had never witnessed that in a bull, nor had I seen that kind of endurance. It is impressive. Because of the bull’s strength and superiority, the fight would take hours if the bull were not slowed down. Nothing about a bullfight is fair (the only way to make it less fair would be to remove one of the bull’s legs). Carrying a spear, a horseman rides in on a heavily padded and blindfolded horse. The bull will immediately head for the horse. The first bull we saw actually knocked the horse over and was able to gore it, even as the rider, falling down, drove the spear deep into the bull. Next, four matadors begin to wear the bull down by having the bull make a series of charges at the pink cape. When the bull is sufficiently tiring, another matador will come with two colorful skewers. He will let the bull charge him straight on and then jump, driving the skewers into the back of the bull and maneuvering sideways just in time to be missed by the horns. This is repeated three times. Still, the stamina of the bull at this point is awing. The matador, with his large, red cape, will now come out to work the bull until it finally has its strength bled out of it. With an air of satisfaction he draws a sword; the great beast bows its head, ready to charge one more time at the rag that has given it so much grief, and the matador drives the sword into the heart of the great beast. Some are better at this than others, but ideally, the bull’s demise is quick, and it drops, immediately dead. The whole exhibition takes around 15 minutes. Personally, I think the matadors should wear little tight pants because they fight like girls. OK, why all this talk of bullfights? I couldn’t help but think about our fight against the “rulers, powers, forces of darkness, and spiritual forces of wickedness.” In Christ, the battle is won. On the cross He did not say, “To be continued!” He said, “It is finished.” We in Christ, like the bull, have the superior strength. However, the bull makes one fatal mistake by thinking the cape, a simple piece of lifeless rag, is the enemy, the source of its pain! I kept thinking to myself, If only you would stop fighting the rag, stop looking down, look up at the head, and move eighteen inches to the right! The battle would be yours. Even to its dying breath, the bull was eyeing the rag as the matador drove the sword deep into his heart. A physically superior creature defeated because of a wrong focus. How often in our spiritual battles the enemy has our focus on something other than him; we never pay attention to his ugly head. So many times I have talked to couples ready to divorce over absolutely nothing but a rag. However, the enemy keeps poking and making them think that the rag is what is hurting them. It isn’t the rag! It is the one behind the rag. Move eighteen inches to the right, go for the head, and you will see the truth of it. Many times, I will stop in the middle of a situation and just say, “The Lord rebuke you!” I know the issue isn’t the issue; there is someone behind the issue and I want to go for the head. The believer has the superior strength, but it will do no good if it is focused in the wrong place. So many just bow and let the enemy drive the sword deep into the heart. There will nearly always be the need for 20% improvement in any relationship (the rag). Why let the 20% steal the 80% joy? On any given day, you should immediately be able to say three things that are right about your situation and about your mate. Well, again, we need grace to go for the head. The believers in Spain, as in Portugal, have to labor. Christians are not embraced; Catholicism, with its religious spirit, has driven the least little desire out of the people to look for something spiritual. Therefore, Jesus just isn’t easily considered. I can’t say the people are hardhearted; it is just that their definition of Jesus includes suffering, crawling, misery, bondage, lack of joy, confinement, and total deadness. With that definition, why look any further into the prospect? Our friends have worked here for 12 years, and the end result, in part, is this little meeting that we are going to have in the morning. They have invited their friends and coworkers. They have done everything to make it a beautiful experience for them. We are to be in a small room in a new “meditation” lodge. We will have four hours of teaching and then a vegetarian meal. Nine people arrive. Two are unbelievers. I have been told by the Lord the direction to take in the teaching. I will spend the first three hours talking about how we live, how we feel, what we think, and the struggles of man. I will not mention Jesus until the end. After three hours, it was obvious that Jesus had, as He always does, the right people there. If He gets all the glory, then He must do all the work, and He does. As I talk about Jesus, everything must be redefined, for the words that we commonly use have one meaning to us but another to them. Nearly every term has a distorted religious meaning. I just stick to Jesus, His uniqueness, His love, His difference, His life, and all that He is. Then we talk about His being our life. Not praying, “Jesus, help me,” but praying, “Jesus, come and be my words, my life, my love, my joy, my everything.” I wasn’t saying anything that I have not said a hundred times before, and yet, when I looked up, there were only a few dry eyes. The one girl, an unbeliever, came immediately up to me, and crying said, “Something has awakened in me! I knew I needed something; I knew I was being called!” The fellow, who we were really surprised even came, was right into it. As we shifted to dinner, the topic was Jesus. One brother, with a beautiful heart, has labored for years and only has a few couples around Spain that have come to Jesus. He was excited and said, “This approach of life, of getting in the person’s skin, of showing in that context the need for Jesus, will be received. We will pray about putting a conference together for the couples I know around Spain.” Well, amen, I am also tagging along, building on the work of others. Next we move to the house. I wanted to show my friends how the approach worked individually. That was great fun. Then the two “former” unbelievers showed up with dinner. We talked about Jesus until nearly 1:00 a.m. As I was being driven home, my friend turned to me, “In twelve years, that is the most openness that I have ever experienced with a group of people. It is the deepest conversation that we have ever had.” It excited me, and yet it vexed me, for I could see how he and his wife had suffered here in loneliness, going it by themselves, how much they forfeited to be with these people and to labor in such a religious environment. Again, the ugliest religion in the world is Christianity. There is nothing that will kill the spirit of man like the Christian religion. Why? Every other religion is made to be a religion. Christianity is centered in a great God Who lives through us. Try to make it a religion of lists, and the standard will become so high that the people will be wiped out; they then will focus on some insignificant speck that they CAN accomplish, as though it were of ultimate importance, in order to avoid the fact of their failure to be “like” Jesus. It becomes so obvious that at some time and place during the history of the Catholic Church, it became expedient, to the carnal, to have a “Christian religion.” This religion would stir the pride of the masses and make them forget that they should not be fighting for the earthly kingdom of a man and actually forsaking Jesus. The whole thing tends to sicken us in light of the fact that Jesus is alive (mind you, we wouldn’t have that light without the revelation of the Spirit, and this will always soften our criticism). I have a silent disgust for all things religious. I suppose that I shouldn’t, in fairness, contain it to the Catholics, but Jesus is not a religion. He never wrote anything, and His emphasis was that there was no obstacle between man and God. Religion is religion, and Jesus isn’t a religion, He is a relationship. I Tim. 2:5, For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time.