The False Self of Religious Performance (#513)

In the last podcast of the year, Wayne lets the listeners have the microphone as he reads email from others finding increasing freedom and joy in their journeys. He begins with some observations from his recent trip to Orange County, CA and then the subject turns to how easily religious performance can force us to create a false self to fit into the program and think ourselves better than others. Freedom comes as we let God untwist the false self we have created in our religious performance and find ourselves resting in the reality of who he made us to be. He also talks about the beginning stages of recognizing God's voice and his fingerprints as he draws us into his reality.

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  1. The thing I loved most about this is the people mentioned all heard directly from God. God spoke to them individually. Yet religion tells us to not trust that voice, listen to your pastor, read your bible, this is how God will speak to you. It’s crazy. God speaks to us, us, us, me. God speaks to me, he walks with me and talks to me and loves me.
    Great message Wayne!

    • Terry, religion HAS to tell us not to trust the voice of the Holy Spirit or that machinery would be totally unneeded. At some level all religion of man plays the “vicar of Christ,” taking Jesus’ place in our lives – its just mini-Popery.

      A wonderful sermon for my heart this morning – I needed to hear this. Letting go of performance-based religion is so hard, yet so wondrously needed. I LOVE the phrase, Let us labor, therefore, to enter into His rest! Ceasing from our own works to enter His rest – what a deal!

      Heb 4:9-11 There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.

      God bless you all, and Merry Christ’s Worship!

    • Yes Terry, That is what I loved about this message. Wayne just gently explained how we hear from Jesus.

  2. Thank you for this! Personal testimonies are often the best sermons. I will be sharing on all my pages. Merry Christmas & Blessed New Year! #EMMANUEL

  3. This podcast totally resonated with me. On a long drive home tonight I was processing my journey, and the image of an astronaut popped into my head. I was picturing my need of an oxygen mask to survive the onslaught of religious-centered relationships in my life, because in those encounters I can’t breathe right now. Then I turn on the podcast and hear the line about “once you breathe oxygen you can’t go back to carbon dioxide”. That’s it exactly!

    My journey away from religion and towards relationship with Father began about 10 years ago, with phase 1 being separating from the institutional gatherings and such. While that phase was a great blessing, it brought on phase 2 which was realizing the grip religion had on my soul beyond the institution, and my entire identity began unravelling. I believe I’m in the throws of phase 3, which is realizing the extent of my twisted-ness associated with my family (my parents/siblings). And breaking free from that has been a similar, yet even more challenging, process than breaking free from the institution.

    I was the “good boy” in Sunday school with all the answers and the accolades and the prestige of being the minister’s kid. The degree of falseness that religious performance created in me is staggering! I could never be walking my way out of that without Father’s gentle hands guiding me.

    I’m married with kids of my own now, and as Christmas approaches we find ourselves in the midst of sorting out this family dynamic as it relates to holiday family gatherings. And that brings me back to the oxygen mask. I feel like so much of this journey over the last 10 years has been about Father coaxing me to take off the mask and learn to breathe freely.

    I’m just recently realizing how suffocating it is for me (and my wife and kids) to be around my parents/siblings right now, so much so that we are declining invitations to Christmas family gatherings. We definitely anticipate the hurt and rejection, but also the freedom with truly believe Father is leading us into as we choose not to be manipulated or enslaved to there opinions of us.

    Wayne, I often hear you tell people it takes “a few years” to find your feet outside the institution and find your way into Father’s arms. For me, and I assume others too, it’s been a series of phases each lasting “a few years”. Although each phase has taken me into deeper and darker spaces of my soul, every step along the way has prepared me for the next increasingly difficult one. And now as I’m facing my darkest demons yet, I feel more loved and more free than ever!

  4. Bj, thanks so much for your words. Some of which resonated w me so profoundly. The expectation of being done in a short amnt of time is slowly being displaced in me. There’s much He unravells and how much better to trust His wisdom and love than our own best insights. Blesimgs, Sue

    • Sue, yes letting go of any time frame and letting the process unfold is not easy! Thanks for sharing.

  5. Oh man, I can relate to this podcast on so many levels. It will be three years on Jan 4 that my kids and I have been out of the religious institution.

    We were at this last congregation for four years and I was quite involved. Actually it was over a period of a couple of years before leaving that the Lord prepared my heart to make the final break. When we did leave it did seem quite abrupt and I do have some regrets about how we went about it but then again I know that I was not in a healthy place emotionally to exit the situation any differently. The leadership had a hold on me and I would not have been able to navigate there questions with the wisdom and grace that I wish I could have had at the time. There was a high amount of manipulation there and every time I would attend my anxiety levels would be through the roof. I did not understand then about having a “yuck meter” and so I could not put into words what it was I was feeling I just knew something was terribly wrong.

    The initial coming out was scary but exciting all at once. I was so gung ho on what I believed the Lord had shown me about the religious system I wanted everyone to know. This lasted for a few months until I felt the Lord was asking me to just stop trying to convince people, that this was not my place. I then felt He was asking me to step away from all social media because I was becoming overwhelmed by all the voices and opinions of people on the “outside”. I had no peace when I focused on all the thoughts I was reading about on the internet and I knew that the Lord desired me to have peace. So I stepped away from it all for about a year and half.

    He has had to do a lot of untangling in my heart and mind. I had a tremendous amount of fear and shame that was hindering me from settling into His love and rest. Feeling all that junk was something I needed to do instead of trying to escape from it which I was always trying to do in some form or fashion.

    In the last several months I have noticed that I am much quieter inside when before there was a constant struggle going on but now there is this sweet quiet assurance that He is with me and for me and the fear is gone! I’m so grateful for where He has brought me from and I know this wonderful journey has just begun!

    Thank you Wayne for this podcast it has been a great source of encouragement for me, my son and daughter. God Bless you and your family. And God Bless all my brothers and sisters who are also on this journey.

    • Johanna,
      When I first started coming out of the big I, I was so confused by all the voices coming at me. I remember confronting the pastor (actually quite nicely – this time 😉 ) about 4 wrong doctrines he had just preached on. For each one he said, You must read this book by so-n-so to understand this doctrine. He did this 4 times, one for each doctrine. I said, XXXX you just pointed me to four different books and none of them was the Bible. Why all this second-hand info? He said we have to have men take God’s Word and bring it down to where we can understand it. WRONG! I was dumbfounded, truly.

      I told God, I am soooo confused, I don’t know what to think anymore! I vowed to not read anything but the Bible for 12 months – I had to, just to get my bearings. I spent the next 18 months reading only the Bible, no other religious reading material. That was one of the best things I have done sense I became a child of Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Eternal Father, Emmanuel, God with us – our Loving God, Jesus Christ.
      Thank you so much Lord for your undying love to us!

  6. Wow! I am amazed at how so many of us are on the same journey with the same struggles and thoughts! The words- “suffocating, unraveling, years (of God working this out), darkness, anxiety” all resonated with me and are words I have used to describe the past 10-12 years of my life. I was a “good girl” who grew up in church and tried so very hard to follow all the rules. Looking back I realize I so wanted love and acceptance and I wasn’t sure I would have that if I failed to jump through the hoops- church attendance, Bible study, quiet times, witnessing, visiting those in jail, teaching a class, working in the nursery, hosting a home group, and of course being morally upright. I honestly was so used to putting on the masks everyone handed me that I had no idea who I was or what I wanted. I remember about 5 years ago sitting in church and suddenly realizing the only thing I knew about grace was the acronym “God’s riches at Christ’s expense.” It meant nothing to me. This undoing, untangling, unraveling has been painful and long but from time to time I get a deep breath of “oxygen” and my heart feels like it’s alive.
    I am sorry to ramble but am so excited to find others who can relate! As Wayne talked about “hearing” from God in sort of unexpected times I have found the same. It is not usually when I am trying so hard to hear that I do! I literally remember sitting in Walgreen’s parking lot and hearing God say, “Amy, you don’t trust me.” (That was at the start of the “unraveling.”) I argued with God and told Him or course I did. He didn’t engage in the argument 🙂 but He did begin to show me all the ways I trusted in myself and in my “goodness” and performance. One day as I was reading Exodus I did sense God saying, “Amy, you are in bondage and you don’t even know it but I will deliver you.” For a brief moment I did feel joy but in the years following I experienced the greatest darkness, anxiety, and sense of hopelessness I had ever known. (I don’t know why this surprised me. When I think of the Israelites being delivered things got worse for them when Moses came back to lead them out.) I literally begin to feel nauseous when I sat down to do my Bible study. it may sound weird or offensive but I truly believe God wanted me to lay even that aside. I had been on a constant pursuit of knowledge and I was not spiritually healthy. I cried so much and felt so anxious. I begged God to show me He loved me. For a very long time I did not recognize His provision. Sometimes He would speak to me through a song, a book, a friend, an unexpected phone call, …. But it wasn’t what I wanted or had asked for so despite the “manna” He was providing in my wilderness I was starving to death. I have had to learn to receive what He gives and know that it is not just enough but exactly what I need. I am learning to live moment by moment in dependence on Him. I am learning to trust Him. It was not until many years later that I finally said, “God said he would deliver me. It doesn’t look like or feel like it but there is one thing He cannot do- He cannot lie!” So I began thanking Him for his promise of deliverance and it wasn’t all at once but I did begin to notice that I was no longer waking up with a pit in my stomach due to my fear and anxiety and begging and trying. I could literally share so much more but I want to leave you with this thought that I remind myself of often, “It is not about trying, it is about trusting.” HE WILL DO IT! HE is faithful when we are faithless!

  7. Love your story Amy. Thanks for sharing it with others. This path to freedom is filled is well worth the risk to follow it. Blessings to you.

    • Thank you, Wayne, for your kind and encouraging words! We may or may not ever meet in person but I want you to know that your story has touched me in a profound way. Many years ago in the midst of my struggle a friend recommended your “Transitions” series. I bought the cd’s and listened to them many, many times. You were the first person I had ever heard be so honest about being a “recovering Pharisee.” I remember telling my husband (during my “undoing”) that I felt spiritually schizophrenic! You used those same exact words in your story and it gave me hope in my despair! Your story let me know that I wasn’t alone and maybe I wasn’t crazy either! God used you to provide “manna” when I thought I was going to die! Love and blessings! Amy

  8. “Freedom is an incremental process.” Breaking my false belief that I had to get God to give me my answers was one of the great steps into freedom. I remember speaking out in frustration after over 6 months of nothing from him, “You’re not answering me,” and his reply before that shout ended, “You’re not listening.” Wayne, you’re completely correct, the greatest conversations with God have come when I was not expecting them. Remember, everyone, this will take time and I now know that his timing is perfect. I am so happy to awaken everyday waiting for my next opportunity to grow and learn and love, because I know that Papa’s plans for me are better than anything I can dream up. The last ten years have been great growth, although, I know I have very far to go still, but I am also aware that I have been growing to understand his love for more than 40 years now. Not disappointed anymore at the pace of it, but rather just loving the knowledge that I have a loving Father, a wonderful Brother and a Spirit of grace and wisdom to help me see. When it gets better, Lisa, it will really get better.

  9. What an awesome discovery, William. I think God is always talking to us, he’s just not always saying the things we want to hear so we don’t “hear” him. In truth, we simply don’t recognize his thoughts…

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