From Functional Religion to Transcendent Faith

By J.D. Walt

Prayer of Consecration

Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.

Jesus, I belong to you.

I lift up my heart to you.
I set my mind on you.
I fix my eyes on you.
I offer my body as a holy and living sacrifice to you.

Jesus, We belong to you.

Praying in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.


Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

Romans 12:14–16 (NIV)


Consider This

So Romans 12:1 contains the CTA for the whole letter (again, if not the whole Bible). CTA = Call to action. It is to “offer your bodies as a living sacrifice.” Romans 12:2 contains the cause of action, who is Jesus through the Holy Spirit, the very mercy of God himself. It’s why the text says, “but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” It sounds passive on first hearing. The point is to say Jesus is the actor here, not you and me. We do not transform ourselves. So many of us, present company included, have spent years trapped in what I call “functional religion”—trying harder and harder to do more and more to be better and better. It is a religion of striving after God. It is futile and frustrating and ultimately fruitless. It produces self-righteous so-called saints who measure their progress by comparing themselves to others. In other words, they lift themselves up by putting others down. We do not mean to do this, but until we get our eyes off of ourselves and onto Jesus we simply can’t help it. 

To “be transformed” is to move into the realm of what we call “transcendent faith.” This is the way by which the “righteousness of God” comes to us as a gift. Our only work is that of receiving. People tend to reject this because it feels like passivity, which we tend to despise. The operative term is not passivity but receptivity. This is where we are most broken—our ability to receive love—from God and from others. It is hard for us to be embraced just as we are because we refuse to embrace ourselves as such. It is far more comfortable to try to live in the broken paradigm of “believing and behaving.” The mystery of grace comes when we shift into the approach of “beholding and becoming.” We behold this miraculous vision of mercy, who is Jesus. He imparts to us the miracle of grace, and we mysteriously begin to become the mercy and grace of God ourselves. This is why grace is deemed amazing because it breaks through our brokenness and heals us. Many people have accepted a religious truth and considered it salvation. Fewer have actually received mercy and grace—who is the living, risen Jesus Christ. 

As the Scripture says, BEHOLD! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. (Rev. 3:20)

Many of us have heard the knock and said, “Come in.” We actually have to open the door. This is the shift from believing to beholding. It leads to the ongoing miracle of actually becoming like him whom we behold. This dear friends, is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.



Abba Father! Thank you for mercy and grace, though I scarcely can even grasp the meaning. So thank you for Jesus, and that he has come to my door and that he stands there and knocks and keeps knocking. Thank you that though he hears my meager reply to “come in,” he waits for me to come to the door. I want to come to the door and swing it wide to Jesus. I know you aren’t looking for me to do something, but rather to open wide the door of my heart more than I have before; to let go of my former religion and enter into a real and ever deeper relationship. Come Holy Spirit and interpret this to my soul and lead me in this way of the will of God. Praying in Jesus’s name, amen.