One day when I was about 13 or 14 my mom looked at me and said, “Never discuss politics or religion.” I assumed that she made this statement because they can be very heated topics so I shrugged my shoulders and went on about my business. I didn’t have much to say about either topic so that was an easy request to fulfill, until now.
What is religion?
After being saved I began to wonder what religion was. Was religion different from Christianity? Apparently it was as I kept hearing others mention how disturbing and unrighteous religion is. It was then that I began to ask God to show me religion and furthermore, show me if there are any religious aspects in my life. I don’t want to know religion. I want to know Jesus.
Micah 6:6-8 (NIV):” 6 With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? 7 Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? 8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
Religion is very much explained in Colossians 2:23(NIV): “Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.” Religion is idolatry as it ultimately tries to edify man. Christianity, on the other hand, was never meant to be a religion. Christianity is the spiritual relationship with our Savior, Jesus Christ.
I had an interesting conversation with a young man yesterday. He mentioned how he believed in spirituality, didn’t believe in religion, but was still uncertain about his stance on Christianity. In the midst of our conversation he asked me what exactly spirituality means to me and if it has anything to do with Christianity. I started off by stating that we are a spirit with a body, not a body with a spirit. The young man continued to tell me about a school he once attended as a child. He mentioned how he was confused by the teaching there and how he was instructed to say, “Praise Jesus,” after every statement, literally. It isn’t funny but it is very crazy to me. I will admit that I laughed, only because I saw how religious that was. The young man described the school as being hypocritical while adding Jesus’ name on the end of everything to try to justify the dirt they were doing. The young man then began to question if religion is something new to our generation and I reminded him that nothing is new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9) and that even Jesus pointed out religion during His time on earth.
The Pharisees and the Sadducees were religious! They claimed to be holy and they claimed to be anointed but they plotted the destruction of our Messiah. Why? Because they were religious. In Mark 3 it states how they believed that Jesus was possessed by Beelzebub and that being the reason why Jesus had the power to drive out demons. Some of them were wealthy, some of them were educated, and some of them held festivals but guess what Scripture says? Amos 5:21-24 (NIV): ” 21 “I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me. 22 Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. 23 Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. 24 But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!”
There was a female who asked me a week or two ago if I was a Christian. After answering yes, we had about an hour-long discussion about Christianity. The young lady mentioned how much she didn’t trust Christianity but when I asked her why, she could only give me examples of religion. She mentioned how she and her family went to church with the focus of being the best looking family. She mentioned people exercising spiritual gifts in a questionable manner and proud hypocrites crowding the pews. 1 John 4:1-3 (KJV): “1Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.2Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: 3And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.” After hearing all of this I could only reassure this young lady that what she hated was religion since she hadn’t yet experienced Christianity. It was sad to see that her perception of Christianity had been skewed by religion but I did have hope in knowing that she hadn’t rejected the true Gospel simply because she hadn’t yet heard the true Gospel.
Acts 17:22 (NIV): “Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious.” Religion is relevant is our generation, it was relevant in the generation before us and will be even more so in the generations to come. As the body of Christ, we need to work to abolish religion so that the fruit of the Spirit may drench every corner of the earth. Deuteronomy 12:31(NIV): “You must not worship the Lord your God in their way, because in worshipping their gods, they do all kinds of destestable things the Lord hates. They even burn their sons and daughters in the fire as sacrifices to their gods.” Get out of self. Find fellowship with true followers of Christ and avoid individuals who desperately want to gain religious titles. It is easy to identify religion as it claims a lot but fails to produces fruits of the Spirit. Test the spirit by the Spirit.
Hate religion as much as God does. When we see religion we need to run the other way into the arms of our Groom. We cannot exchange an intimate relationship with Christ with legalism. The idea of religion is new to me but it didn’t take long for me to realize the poison it produces. Religion can detour the lost, sway the desperate, and corrupt the innocent. We should become so consumed with a personal relationship with Christ that there won’t be any room for religion in our lives. If you recognize religion in your walk simply ask God to remove it. We need to come to God with our hearts, not with our checks. Isaiah 29:13 (NIV): “The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.” You know if you are living righteously or not. Be honest with yourself because being religious does nothing but anger God. Religion is man-made, just like denominations as stated in my article One in Christ . When religion says that you can work your way into Heaven, Ephesians 2:8-9 (KJV) states, “8For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Jesus hated religion and religious leaders hated Jesus. See the issue? Abolish religion.
James 1:27 (NIV): “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this:to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”