"But their minds were hardened, for to this day, when they read the law, the same veil remains in place,
for only Christ can take this away.
When we turn to the Lord, the veil is gone,
for where the Spirit of the Lord is at work,
there is freedom!" 2 Corinthians 3:14-17.
I've often wondered what would happen if people really began to understand God's true requirements of righteousness as they practiced their religion.
A basic requirement in most 'religious' * practice is some form of repentance - of genuine understanding of our predicament, because we recognize a point (level) of virtue and goodness that we don't achieve, so there is a need to honestly evaluate ourselves in the light of this, to seek to 'adjust' ourselves in the light of what isn't true of us, but what is true of genuine righteousness (i.e. the character of God).
Christ calls us to such repentance - to recognize our failure to be righteous - so it's a call we 'hear', even if we chose to, in practice, ignore it, because we know that we are indeed people who repeatedly fall short of what we know is good and true.
This call petitions us - to soberly realize who and what we are and to take action (turn to God for mercy) accordingly, hence "God expostulates with men on the basis of their own (inner) concepts of gratitude, fidelity, and fair play; and puts Himself, as it were at the bar before His own creatures (as they reflect on this)" (C S Lewis - Divine Goodness).
So, if we know we need to change, and we pursue "religion" (in everything from our ache for a healthy body to a plethora of new age spiritual gymnastics) because of that imperative, how is it that our devotion isn't driving us all into the safe haven of God's love and care given in His saving grace, but often leaving us in a cul-de-sac of contrived self worth and beguiling self assurance?
The answer is simple.
Once we encounter that tussle with truth we then avoid the ramifications, choosing instead to jury rig the standard by which we judge ourselves so we consider ourselves to be doing fine... and therein lies the poison of religion. Rather than leading us to true freedom, it becomes the means whereby we add more chains to our impoverished depravity.
Paul tells us in various places that the standard given in the Mosaic law wasn't provided so we could cosy up to this by thinking we were somehow making the grade - the law should be leaving us totally perplexed about where we're at, causing us to look for a remedy outside of our own shame (hence, when the law was given, so was a system which showed that true remedy to our troubles was only possible by sacrifice of life for sin, which brought about cleansing, forgiveness and atonement).
Religion devised by us places us in blinkers - we can no longer see our true misery and emptiness because we've chosen to, instead, contrive a measure and form of 'goodness' we think we are achieving.
It's very bad news.
It leaves us wearing the same shoes as those who sought to kill Jesus, because He constantly showed them they were lying to God and themselves - false religion hates to be put under that spotlight, and shows its true colours when it is.
Christianity calls us to a very different place. It shows us that true repentance is equally about understanding who we are - unable to meet the grade - and who God is - the one who shows us totally unmerited and unparalleled mercy and goodness in the sacrifice of His Son, laying down His life for us to make us truly free.
The goal here isn't to modify our behaviour so we can dutifully pray x number of times a day or loose a few bounds. It's to begin to make us the people that we were designed to be - who begin to engage with the full worth, weight, wonder and joy of what it really means to be a person made to know and love their Father and all of His creation; an unfolding of life that is so wide and deep and rich that it's going to take eternity itself to begin to truly taste and explore its splendour.
How unreligious is that!
If religion causes you to stop and ponder, soberly, where you are, then it is doing something good, but if it's just a ruse to keep you on your own sanctimonious treadmill of "I'm just fine", then it's a savor of death.
Take off the blindfold and step into the brilliance of God's love found only in the saving care of Jesus Christ.
* Jordan Peterson really shows here just how 'religious' people are!.