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Aug 06, 2009

Giving Up

Almost eight years ago I preached a sermon called “Losing Your Religion” that has gone on to become the most listened to sermon we have. (You can find it on my myspace page -- At the beginning of that sermon I asked the people what they were willing to give up in order to truly know the heart of God. What, in their system of beliefs would they lay down if it meant that they could know God just a little more? Little did I know, that was the question of the hour. That very question would be the theme of my life for the next 7 years.

About nine years ago when I started preaching the “Love Series”, I recall sitting in my office alone one day realizing in one life-changing moment that EVERYTHING I had been taught about the heart of God was wrong. I remember coming to the realization that I was going to have to learn an entirely new language. My speech was inundated with phrases, clichés, tones, expressions, slogans and sayings that were all tightly woven with “Churchyness.” Even the way I told a story or related an experience that had happened to me was accented by a Churchy religious drawl. I had what I refer to today as an "Institutional Accent." Unknowingly, I had developed an entire language, attached with mannerisms, expressions, reasoning patterns and voice inflections that were typical of the religious world I came from. Even inner things such as how I processed information or the way I thought and reasoned in different situations was patterned according to the institutional mindset. I realized in that one altering moment alone in my office that I was about to learn an entirely new language, and in doing so, I would have to recover from years of having a spiritual speech impediment. It was as if I was a stroke victim and I was faced with the daunting task of relearning everything from the ground up.

The world has learned to identify this religious accent almost immediately. If you watch shows like “The Simpsons” you can see it recreated beautifully in the “Reverend Love Joy.” He sounds like a typical mid-western Christian pastor. His thinking, his reasoning, and even the way he talks is representative of an entire generation of “Christianese.”

Christianese is more than just a few catch phrases and clichés. It goes way deeper than that. This culture actually invades your individuality and causes you to begin to behave like a clone from the inside out. It affects your inner being if you let it. Before you know it, you can't tell the difference between tradition and scripture. This was my biggest discovery as I entered "the wild." I was amazed at how heartless I had become because of my religion. I knew I needed something to revive my heart, and I needed it bad. It had been fed a steady diet of tradition for ten years and had become blind and deaf to God's heart.

I remember reading how Jesus would rebuke the Pharisees for doing things "for the sake of their traditions" rather than from the heart. I also remember thinking to myself, "Boy, I'm glad we don't do that today." Little did I know at that time almost everything I was doing was tradition. The more I began to actually study what was in the Bible and what wasn't, I found that pretty much all of the stuff I had believed was nothing but church tradition.

When I was willing to give that stuff up, I finally started to see God with more clarity. The better my vision got, the more I started to realize that I never knew Him at all. He wasn't anything like what they had told me my entire life. He didn't even resemble the god of church. He was something so exquisitely different that the church god looked silly in comparison.

I would never have seen these things unless I was willing to give up what I thought I knew. For me personally, it was a journey of separating out things I "held to" because I was told they were the center of Christian faith, from things I actually had experienced first hand and believed because of that experience. In the process of that separation taking place, I slowly and embarrassingly found that the stuff I "held to" far outweighed the stuff I "believed from experience." Actually, that's an understatement. I really found that about 99% of my religion was stuff I "held to" and 1% was stuff I had actually experienced.

It seemed that the stuff I held to, was getting in the way of my having an actual experience. The lines of tradition wouldn't allow life to take place outside of their boundaries. Consequently, nothing took place. I came to a point where I had to take one thing at a time, analyze it, compare it to actual scripture or personal experience and either toss it or keep it. To my amazement, I found myself tossing almost all of it. The more I tossed, the more I could see God's true heart.

Shedding your institutional accent can take a lifetime, but at every point when we drop something dead, we pick up something alive. Living in the wild requires a steady diet of life.

Darin Hufford

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  1. Gravatar
    David Backus

    Well praise God Hallelujah brother! you just gotta stay in the word!
    I am reminded of a verse that says "Let us throw off everything that easily entangles and let us run the race marked out for us." I think that is getting to be the theme for my life as I enter, even now, boldly into a new world, a new mindset, a new way of living and thinking. It can actually be quite terrifying.
    "Farewell and all goodbye's to the shoreline" --Mark Solomon (Stavesacre)

  2. Gravatar

    "It can actually be quite terrifying." hahaha, David, I can totally relate. I remember being quite terrified at times. But at the same time I was compelled by God to go down this path. I HAD to know what was down this road. It smelled like freedom......the kind of freedom I'd never known before. And I have not been disappointed for even a moment. I would not trade this life for all the friends in the world. I don't know what else it might cost me, but when I get God in exchange for 'whatever', there's really no choice. He's all I want or need.

  3. Gravatar

    Hey Darin,

    What, in your system of Christian religious beliefs would you lay down if it meant you could know the real God and experience his love in a meaningful way that makes sense? Maybe the question of the hour is not can we be taught; it’s are we willing to un-learn.

    I wasn't willing to un-learn until I was unwillingly, suddenly deaf, dumb and blind. Even then I wanted God to push the pause button, erase, fast forward and reformat—but like you…it's been a 11-year spiritual journey, adventure really, of "getting to" know the real God in a way I never learned in church. Yippee!

    thank you, thank you, thank you for being so dang real!

  4. Gravatar

    Darin, you make me hungry and thirsty for more. I want more of this God who is NOTHING remotely like what I was taught and modeled all those years till recently. The residue pops up every now and then and shocks me. This isn't a play I'm acting in; it's a matter of real life and real death. I won't be satisfied with anything else but the REAL Father, the way he really is.

  5. Gravatar

    With the rise in popularity of Facebook, I notice the culture clash more and more each day as I read things written by my religious and nonreligious friends. I find myself hiding and deleting my religious friends, but seldom my non religious friends. When I see the pious, condescending and religious speak being posted by my religious friends I can't help wonder what my non-religious friends must think. It's embarrassing, so rather than apologize I hit the 'hide this person'(the religious one)button.
    It seems fundamentalists think that people outside their faith can't possibly understand spiritual things and that God doesn't communicate with people unless He does it thru them.

    My kids say I would appreciate watching the Simpsons...I might try it, I need some common sense in my life:>)

  6. Gravatar
    Jim Badger

    Religion is the poor substitute for LOVING GOD...this is where the churchians get it wrong...We have to break things down (sort of like The Message does) to what they are. For me, I don't like to talk to people about "righteousness", I'd rather say "being right" or "being wrong". We have an excess of religion in our country and a vacuum of LOVING GOD through Jesus, His son...

  7. Gravatar
    Jim Badger

    I recommend both The Message and the Philip Yancey book The Jesus I Never Knew to anyone who wants a different take on what it means to be a follower of Christ. (I recommend any book by Yancey but Jesus book is the best place to start)

  8. Gravatar

    I too can relate to Darin. I remember going to church and wanting to be holy like the people were in the church and pleasing them because after all that is who I thought JUDGED me.

  9. Gravatar

    Oh sigh...I'm on the verge of giving up even more. Intimidating yes, but not like it once was...And as Sherri said, smells like freedom.

  10. Gravatar
    Shannon Brown

    "He was something so exquisitely different that the church god looked silly in comparison."

    SO very true Darin!!!

    Sherri, I can really relate to what you wrote. "I HAD to know what was down this road." I too was so compelled to find the REAL God, no matter how dangerous the path seemed. Thank you for putting words to what I have felt.

  11. Gravatar
    Steve Peters

    Glad to have found your comments. I just ran into you today on Bible Blog and googled to find if you were saying anymore.
    I also had a "life changing moment" nine years ago. Though the moment was instantaneous, the full unveiling of the revelation took months to become clear.
    The reason for that was there were so many things that I believed that held me from seeing clearly.
    I had been a Christian for almost 30 years of which most of them had been spent studying and preaching. But because of what I believed about faith and receiving, it took a bit of undoing to get into the position of being able to receive.

  12. Gravatar
    Steve Peters

    What was I willing to give up? It turned out to be almost everything. I preached faith for changing your world, but over the years the one thing that I noticed that did not change was me. I was still a slave to the very sins that held me captive when I got saved. Only now, because I was very familiar with the scriptures, I found the very truths that I thought were supposed to set me free were literally killing me. Yes, I believed in righteousness, holiness, sanctification and love, but as I believed for these things to be manifested in my life I saw sin rising up in me and making me relive daily Paul’s Roman chapter 7 experience.

  13. Gravatar
    Steve Peters

    And so I did what most Christians have done. I gave up. Quit preaching and retired within myself. I hoped that I would die an early death and that the ones that I met would not be able to see the raging inferno inside of me. I didn’t want to disgrace God anymore. My life was anything but a witness of the power of God in a person’s life to transform them. That went on for 5 years. Not a very good time in my life.

  14. Gravatar
    Steve Peters

    But then in the year 2000 I ask God if He wanted to change me. I told Him that I believed that He could, but did He want to. I was the leper coming to Jesus. “Seen what you can do, but does your mercy extend to someone as filthy as me” I’m glad to say that just like with the leper, He reached out and touched me and said “I want to” and he cleansed me.
    But the problem with experiences is that they seem to get lost after a while when the glory wears off. So He showed me the truth and that truth set me free.

  15. Gravatar
    Steve Peters

    You see, I was always waiting for righteousness and holiness. I was always in the act of “and ye shall receive” waiting. Actually I was hoping for these things to be manifested in my life.
    He showed me who I was IN Christ Jesus and who I am in Christ Jesus. He showed me not His, but my death, burial and resurrection in Him. I didn’t have to wait for these things, because I became these things 2000 years ago.

  16. Gravatar
    Steve Peters

    And now I rest in Him. You see, He is the truth. You can know the Bible forwards and backwards and not be changed one iota. But there is one Truth and He is a person. Just as you said in the Bible blog, the Pharisees knew everything there was to know about the messiah, but when He stood before them they missed Him. Truths don’t set you free, no matter how hard you believe them. You can quote scriptures right and left, but if you don’t introduce them to the One who is the Truth then they will not be saved. I know the Truth and He has set me free.

  17. Gravatar
    Steve Peters

    One of the reasons for this long comment is that when you know the Truth, you can see Him in what others write. And I “sensed” this in your blogs. Don’t like the word “sensed”, so will say witnessed with your witness.
    Thanks for your take on matters. Don’t know what all you have spoken on, but think we agree on Him.
    Your brother,
    IN Him.
    Steve from Ohio

  18. Gravatar
    Jim K

    15 years away from the church after a divorce. 20 years before that never feeling like I was in the right place. These comments may be starting to shed some of the first light I've felt in more then 3 decades. I've almost given up completely but still have just a thread of hope- thanks for the insite. I'm asking God to reveal more, means much to me and what's left of my life.

  19. Gravatar
    Lyn Myers

    Oh boy... can I relate! He shut me down... not a Word, not a bit of feeling.. became so un-feeling in fact that I couldn't identify any feelings... He was so silent.. I became so afraid.. and (religeously) thought He had left me! But He was trying to get me to walk in the wild111

  20. Gravatar

    What a challenge!

  21. Gravatar

    I used to find myself in an incredibly wrestless state because I couldn't reconcile religion and christian traditions with my own,"true experiences" as you refer to in your post.At times I would think I was a strange Christian because I loved Christ and Believed he died for me but I couldn't stand churchyness alongside with its christianese.I mistook this for me not being cut out for christianity and I was very close to giving up my faith.Because of the above post and comments I now understand that this was me being put into the wild and not out of my relationship with Christ, because it is not defined by traditions and a few catchy phrases.

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