April 30, 2017
Religion is defined in the dictionary as:
1. a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.
2. a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects: the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion.
3. the body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices: a world council of religions.
You will notice that in each definition, religion is a set of beliefs AND PRACTICES. A religion is the belief in and the worship of a superhuman power, and in that instance, being a Christian means you belong to a religion. The common factor in all of Christianity is belief in God the Father, Jesus the son, and the Holy Spirit. Although the beliefs are the same across denominations of Christians, the practices vary greatly. Why is this?
You will have noticed, if you’ve attended this church for any length of time, that we are not a traditional style church. We have made the focus of this church to be the instruction of the believers, to bring them to full maturity in Christ, so they can do the work on His ministry and bring glory to God. We do not follow religious traditions and instead focus on spiritual growth and how it brings us closer into relationship with Almighty God.
Traditional religion is man-centered. Relationship with God is much more up close and personal, and free of the bondages of traditions and rituals. When God made the earth and put Adam in the garden, he expected obedience from Adam. Not out of fear or obligation but out of love that was built on a relationship. Adam and Eve were tricked into disobedience and all of mankind paid the price.
Religion is a series of procedures that satisfies the mind into thinking that growth is taking place. A relationship with Jesus encourages growth as you learn more about Him and strive to emulate Him. More than satisfying the mind, it satisfies much deeper into the spirit, it quenches a thirst you didn’t even realize existed. When God gave His Law (The Ten Commandments) to the Israelites, His desire was that they “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5; Matthew 22:37). “Love” speaks of relationship. Obedience to all the other commands had to stem from a love for God.
Religion reduces the Holy Spirit into nothing more than a dance or a feeling of peace in the church following a time of worship. A relationship with Jesus helps you to understand the Holy Spirit is power….power Jesus used to cast out demons, heal people, and defeat death. Amazingly that very relationship enables the power to reside in us. Jesus’ entire ministry was full of the power of the Holy Spirit – and it was the religious people of the time who opposed his ministry the strongest. Why? Because it revealed that there was no power in the traditions and rituals. Matthew 3:11 shows that John the Baptist knew of the power that Jesus would bring to the earth. Matthew 22:29 Jesus tells the Sadducees that they do not know the power of God. Luke 9:1 & 10:19 – Jesus gives his power to the disciples. Luke 24:49 – Jesus promises the power of the Holy Spirit to everyone who believes, which we know they receive in Acts.
Religion sees God as a mystery. A relationship with Jesus according to 1 Corinthians 2:10….but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.
Religion will often beg you to accept things without question. It often teaches incorrect or incomplete information and doesn’t expect you to question or do research for yourself. There’s no reason to search for the truth because we have steps to follow and works to complete. A relationship with Jesus tell us that He is the way the truth and the light. Therefore by growing our relationship with Jesus our questions will be answered. The more we learn about him, the more we spend time with him, the more he is revealed to us. Just as in any relationship, the more time spent with him, the closer you grow.
Religion places special honor ministers, pastors, elders, and the people mentioned in the Bible. This causes a separation that makes it seem that a “normal” christian cannot attain that level with God, so it is okay to just be a mediocre Christian. A relationship with Jesus teaches that all men are the same….we are all ministers and we are all responsible for advancing His kingdom. We are all given the Holy Spirit and the power to do miracles in his name, and we are called to intimate relationship with God through Christ.
Religion explains that people like Moses, David, and Solomon were very special people and that we would find it hard to emulate them. A relationship with Jesus helps to explain all of the people set aside in the Bible were anointed by the Holy Spirit. Believers have the Holy Spirit within them. There is nothing that can hold us back.
Religion states Jesus, God, and the Holy Spirit are separate. A relationship with Jesus shows us that Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit are three different manifestations of the same God.
Religion will leave you asking questions, wishing you could change things, and will leave you very unfulfilled. It leaves you with an “It is what it is” mentality. A relationship with Jesus with help you find ways to change things, solutions to problems, and you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you. It sees the impossible as possible. Religion tells you that you must celebrate these holidays and follow these traditions to bring honor to God. When you look into these holidays and traditions, you find that they have been twisted and distorted and do absolutely nothing to honor God. Relationship celebrates every day, and brings honor to God in the details of every day life. It is a lifelong celebration of love for God. God tells us that he hates the sacrifices that are made without meaning and he hates our festivals. Why? Because without a relationship of the heart, they bring him no honor. Isaiah 1: 10-17 Jesus only gave us one thing to remember. It didn’t have a date or a season attached to it, other than the Jewish Passover. Luke 22:10-19
Religion encourages listening to a sermon over studying the Bible. It puts all of the responsibility of your spiritual growth onto someone else. A relationship with Jesus encourages you to study on your own and with others. The responsibility of your spiritual growth is your own. You and you alone are responsible for the depth of your relationship with God.
Religion prefers hope over expectation. Prayers that are only based on only hope have no power. A relationship with Jesus begs you to expect great things including blessings and power. Prayers are based on faith rather than hope. Hebrews 11:1
Religion states money makes people evil. Religion will twist scripture for it’s own intent, knowing that the average person will not bother to check it out. 1 Timothy 6:10 A relationship with Jesus shows us that He wants us to live more abundantly and it’s how the money is used that makes all the difference. Luke 12:30, 2 Corinthians 9:8.
Religion shows Satan as powerful foe, one that we should worry about and be afraid of. One that is too powerful for the average person, you need to call on one of those revered leaders to help you to defeat him because it is beyond your power. A relationship with Jesus provides us with the power of the Holy Spirit. Through that power Satan can be overcome, because Jesus defeated him. Not only that, but we have power over him because we have the same power as Jesus.
Religion teaching provides information about God. Religion tells us nice stories, but not how to apply them to our lives. A relationship with Jesus enables us to actually know God. We learn how to apply God’s provision to our lives.
The Bible tells us clearly that there is nothing man can do to make himself right with God (Isaiah 53:6; 64:6; Romans 3:23; 6:23). According to Christianity, God did for us what we cannot do for ourselves (Colossians 2:13; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Our sin separates us from His presence, and sin must be punished (Romans 6:23; Matthew 10:28; 23:33). But, because God loves us, He took our punishment upon Himself. All we must do is accept God’s gift of salvation through faith (Ephesians 2:8–9; 2 Corinthians 5:21).
However, by Jesus’ time, the Jewish leaders had made a religion out of God’s desire to live in a love relationship with them (1 Timothy 1:8; Romans 7:12). Over the years, they had perverted God’s Law into a works-based religion that alienated people from Him (Matthew 23:13–15; Luke 11:42). Then they added many of their own rules to make it even more cumbersome (Isaiah 29:13; Matthew 15:9). They prided themselves on their ability to keep the Law—at least outwardly—and lorded their authority over the common people who could never keep such strenuous rules. The Pharisees, as adept as they were at rule-keeping, failed to recognize God Himself when He was standing right in front of them (John 8:19). They had chosen religion over relationship.
Just as the Jewish leaders made a religion out of a relationship with God, many people do the same with Christianity. Entire denominations have followed the way of the Pharisees in creating rules not found in Scripture. Some who profess to follow Christ are actually following man-made religion in the name of Jesus. While claiming to believe Scripture, they are often plagued with fear and doubt that they may not be good enough to earn salvation or that God will not accept them if they don’t perform to a certain standard. This is religion masquerading as Christianity, and it is one of Satan’s favorite tricks. Jesus addressed this in Matthew 23:1–7 when He rebuked the Pharisees. Instead of pointing people to heaven, these religious leaders were keeping people out of the kingdom of God.
Holiness and obedience to Scripture are important, but they are the evidence of a transformed heart, not a means to attain it. God desires that we be holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:16). He wants us to grow in grace and knowledge of Him (2 Peter 3:18). But we do these things because we are His children and want to be like Him, not in order to earn His love.
Christianity is not about signing up for a religion. Christianity is about being born into the family of God (John 3:3). It is a relationship. Just as an adopted child has no power to create an adoption, we have no power to join the family of God by our own efforts. We can only accept His invitation to know Him as Father through adoption (Ephesians 1:5; Romans 8:15). When we join His family through faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Holy Spirit comes to live inside our hearts (1 Corinthians 6:19; Luke 11:13; 2 Corinthians 1:21–22). He then empowers us to live like children of the King. He does not ask us to try to attain holiness by our own strength, as religion does. He asks that our old self be crucified with Him so that His power can live through us (Galatians 2:20; Romans 6:6). God wants us to know Him, to draw near to Him, to pray to Him, and love Him above everything. That is not religion; that is a relationship.