I also find myself, at times, gripped by an intense dislike of religious people. Sometimes those people are people I see on TV; sometimes they're my friends; sometimes they are me. Sometimes I catch myself acting self-righteous, looking down on people who aren't as "Christ-like" as me, who are foolish. Sometimes I find myself rolling my eyes at my friends' earnest pursuit of the Christ-life, mumbling to myself "quit being such a Tebow." That's religiosity and, man, do I flippin' dislike religious people.
We become this sort of person - close to the kingdom, but, oh, so far away - when we lose perspective. Here are three ways we lose perspective:
1) We fail to see God doing anything while we're "training wisely." If our perspective is so narrowly focused that we can only see our own efforts, why wouldn't we become the arrogantly, self-righteous down-the-nose-looking religious nut jobs that we all dislike? We can take credit for our own holiness, our own good deeds.
If, on the other hand, if it is "God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose" and we are truly "God's workmanship," then we should expect some healthy "fear and trembling" and the refreshing awareness that "no one can boast." (see Ephesians 2:8-10 and Philippians 2:12-13). It is following this train of thought that Paul eventually winds up saying: "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 1:18-31).
2) We fail to see God's command to "train wisely." If our perspective only notices God's promise to perfect us and is only aware of his grace, we miss out on his frequent commands to work for the kingdom. In our efforts to fight and re-fight tired, old Reformation battles, we end up with what Dietrich Bonhoeffer calls a "cheap grace"
Cheap grace means the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner. Grace alone does everything they say, and so everything can remain as it was before. 'All for sin could not atone.' Well, then, let the Christian live like the rest of the world, let him model himself on the world’s standards in every sphere of life, and not presumptuously aspire to live a different life under grace from his old life under sin...
But over and over again, God says, from Leviticus to 1 Peter, "Be holy". God wants us to live in raging pursuit of spiritual discipline, to train wisely, to live life as Jesus taught and modeled it. So, my eye-rolling and exasparated grunts betray a perspective-failure, a perspective that fails to see God's command.
3) We fail to see why God wants us to "train wisely." God isn't just cracking the whip because he wants obedience. God desires relationship. This is a huge part of the story of Jonah, if you remember that series. In our pursuit of discipline, we are connecting with and getting in on what God is doing in our lives and in the world. This is something that we can do together.
And this is why the religious person in me is so horrible. He pushes God away. "I've used you already." of "I'm doing it on my own." Both of those religious perspectives cause us to miss this huge opportunity, to connect with God. Someday, God will perfect this work. Maybe it will happen while we're sleeping. We will have worked with him on this project for days and weeks and montha and years and decades and one night while we're sleeping, he'll finish it. It's not the glory of getting the work done that we're after, but the relationship and intimacy we experience along the way.