Are You a Religious Person?
I always cringe inside when people ask me if I’m religious.
I mean…wait…yes…in the sense that I’m a Christian, a Christ-follower. But no…”religious” really doesn’t describe it at all.
I have a dynamic, living, breathing relationship with the living God – with Jesus. I’ve been reborn – restored from the power of my sins – through the blood of Christ. Christ’s Holy Spirit – the fire of God – lives in me and equips me to love others and gradually become more like Christ.
But my walk is not (or at least shouldn’t be) about STRIVING to love or to change. It’s about SURRENDERING to the One who can and does change me over time. The Source of Love.
It’s about letting the current of the Holy Spirit chip away at the unpolished edges of the rocks, gradually making them smoother.
The rocks themselves do nothing. They are inanimate. They trust. They simply let the current do its work, trusting that as they are polished, they will begin to reflect the sunlight (God the Father, Son) through the water (Holy Spirit) more brilliantly.
For a lot of people, “religion” is the first word or concept that pops into their minds when they hear “Christian” or “Christianity”.
Perhaps you’ve always thought of Christianity as a religion.
But true Christianity is very different from religion. Christianity and religion are like night and day.
Hell will be full of religious people.
as it is written,
“There is none righteous, not even one;
There is none who understands,
There is none who seeks for God;
All have turned aside, together they have become useless;
There is none who does good,
There is not even one.”
People who check boxes off the “Christian” to-do list.
People who go to church every Sunday.
“Anyone who thinks sitting in church can make you a Christian must also think that sitting in a garage can make you a car.”
― Garrison Keillor
People who pray the right words at the service and sing all the songs.
Pastors and priests.
People who participate in the sacraments.
People who make lots of “Christian” rules for themselves and others to keep. People who keep the Ten Commandments (or think they do).
Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.
…by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight
God says that not one of us is righteous.
In other words, there are no “good people” in God’s eyes. We have all fallen short of his perfect standard.
Religion attempts to make us good enough for God. Many people who are caught up in religion would even agree that technically, they cannot be good enough for God without Jesus. But they live something different. They live like they have to earn his favor, and like they can.
If we are not leaning wholly upon Jesus for our salvation, we need to examine ourselves and ask whether we’re really saved.
In the next few days, I’m going to be posting a series on why Jesus hates religion (as do I).
I love Jesus. But that has absolutely nothing to do with religion.
Jesus is life. Religion is death.
I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.
Thanks to my mom, brother, and uncle for their inspiration/input on this topic.
Jesus Hated Religion
Some of Jesus’ strongest words were for the religious leaders of the day – and their religion.
Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples, saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them. They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger. But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments. They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men. But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. But the greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.
“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. [Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you will receive greater condemnation.]
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.
“Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, that is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple is obligated.’ You fools and blind men! Which is more important, the gold or the temple that sanctified the gold? And, ‘Whoever swears by the altar, that is nothing, but whoever swears by the offering on it, he is obligated.’ You blind men, which is more important, the offering, or the altar that sanctifies the offering? Therefore, whoever swears by the altar, swears both by the altar and by everything on it. And whoever swears by the temple, swears both by the temple and by Him who dwells within it. And whoever swears by heaven, swears both by the throne of God and by Him who sits upon it.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, and say, ‘If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ So you testify against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of the guilt of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell? [Matthew 23:1-33]
Just a few chapters later, we see that these religious leaders then went on to “fill up the measure of the guilt of their fathers”, by putting Jesus – the Son of God – the one greater than a prophet – to death.
The scribes and Pharisees had the appearance of righteousness.
They checked lots of things off the “good person” list (or at least the “look like a good person” list), and made sure others did too.
They enforced the traditions of men (how many churches and denominations today are obsessed with the traditions and precepts of men, more than with simply knowing God – knowing his heart?).
The Pharisees and the scribes asked Him, “Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with impure hands?” And He said to them, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written:
‘This people honors Me with their lips,
But their heart is far away from Me.
‘But in vain do they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’
Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.”
They had the appearance of godliness, but were in fact largely concerned with their own glory and flesh. They valued places of honor, and respect in the synagogues.
They were full of robbery (Sound something like the religious Roman Catholic church of the Middle Ages?) and self-indulgence.
They were also haters of the good things Christ was doing. They denied the power (or at least the presence) of the Holy Spirit [Matt 9:33-34].
They didn’t even recognize the Spirit when they saw him at work (or perhaps they did but were afraid to acknowledge what they saw).
In the same way, many religious people today are afraid of the power of the Holy Spirit, or they believe he’s limited in the ways he works or can work. Religious people who don’t actually have the Holy Spirit often find it especially difficult to appreciate the many ways the Spirit can work.
But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these. For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
2 Timothy 3:1-7
The Pharisees were always learning or teaching – they were intellectual, perhaps – but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
Will you join me these next few days as I further explore the fatality and futility of religion?