RELIGION or NOT?

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We live in a world where 'religion' is often hated. The trendy thing today, is to be 'spiritual' but not religious.

It's no wonder that almost every belief system, from New Age to Buddhism and now even Christianity, is trying very hard to distance itself from 'religion' although in truth that's what they all are.

A word of warning though; don't say that you're not 'religious' too often, because you might start believing it yourself and then by believing something, it would mean that you're... err... 'religious'.

The trouble here is a fashionable misuse of the meaning of the word 'religion'.

By the dictionary definition of the word, believing in just about anything makes you 'religious'. You can even religiously follow a football team!


I've lost count of the number of times I've heard people say that Christianity isn't a religion, it's a relationship with God. I've been around a long time and I do understand what they mean by this statement, I used to say it myself, but in fact it really isn't true. The word 'religion' completely describes what Christianity is, both by the dictionary definition and by its meaning in the ancient Hebrew and Greek languages from which the Bible has been translated.


Let's look at three definitions given by Collins Online Dictionary:

The first states that religion is a belief in, worship of, or obedience to a supernatural power or powers considered to be divine or to have control of human destiny

The second states that it is any formal or institutionalized expression of such belief.

Finally, the third states that it is something of overwhelming importance to a person.

In all three cases, Christianity stands guilty of being a 'religion'.

You can see how misleading it is to make the over-generalised statement that Christianity is NOT a religion. It's simply NOT true!


Next let's see what the Bible itself says, since it does actually give one definition of the word 'religion'.

James 1 v 27

Pure religion and undefiled before God the Father is this. To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep yourself unspotted from the world.

If these are the sort of things that you do, or know you should be doing as a Christian, then, the Bible says that you are'religious'.

Do you believe in a spiritual force outside of yourself? Are you devout and fully committed to your God? Sorry, but this makes you 'religious' too!

It's clearly wrong to state that we are NOT 'religious'. Anyway, we should not be painting religion as always something BAD by using a verbal trick to make it sound like the opposite of relationship.


In the ancient Jewish religion God was distant and unreachable. Only a few very select individuals, were able to have any relationship with God. The vast majority of the Jewish people found it too hard to keep focussed on God, and so they drifted from one crisis to another, even after he gave them a structure of leadership, which consisted of a PROPHET, a HIGH PRIEST (who was also a MEDIATOR) and finally, by special request, he allowed them to have a KING as well. In fact all of these were a foretaste of the promised MESSIAH, and pointed to the person of Jesus Christ. When Jesus came to earth he did not dismantle this structure - he took on all these roles himself.

Prophet; Heb 1v1-2God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past to the fathers by the prophets, Has in these last days spoken to us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds.

High Priest; Heb 9v11But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood he entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption

Mediator; 1 Tim 2v5For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.

King; 1 Tim 6v15....The Lord Jesus Christ's appearing, which he will manifest in his own time, he who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords.

So clearly, the Church of Jesus Christ is not just some light weight social club. It has real foundations and cosmic authority and Jesus is it's all-powerful head.

1 Cor 6 v 19

Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own.


We cannot escape being religious by saying that we don't have a structure anymore, because this authority still exists, but it isn't about an external man-made hierarchy, it's about who Jesus is. Then, whether we like it or not , we also have two key religious observances which were instituted by Jesus himself. These are believers' baptism and holy communion. Both of these are ceremonies of rememberance that celebrate what Jesus has done for us.



RELATIONSHIP

So let's look at relationship, since this is what makes Christianity so distinct from every other world religion. There's a fringe part of the Church these days that promotes the 'seeker friendly' idea of a relationship with God, a theology I consider very dodgy. They present a diluted and rather 'matey' gospel, which totally ignores the fact that a relationship with God is a very, very serious matter and demands an understanding of the implications involved. These are a profound commitment, a deep reverence and complete submission to God.

Do we make this clear when we talk to people about the Gospel, or do we keep quiet about the cost and just talk about the benefits? After all there are plenty of these things like: friendship, answered prayer, good music (sometimes), that God understands us and so on.

Sometimes you get the impression that Church is all about us and our needs. We need to focus on Jesus, and consider the enormous commitment he made to us by his death on the cross. This shows just how seriously he takes his side of this relationship with us. BUT, listen to :

Matthew 16v 24-26Then Jesus said to his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever will save his life shall lose it:and whoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul.


A relationship between sinners like us and The Holy God starts with humble and real repentance for our sin, then belief in Jesus' forgiveness by his death on the cross, and finally an ongoing walk of faith with him.

People run away from the word commitment these days, but this is what God's love demands of us. We must not be deceitful by hiding the comittment in the small print. Nor can you trust anything 'spiritual' that does not start with realising that you are a sinner in need of forgiveness. If when you interface with your God it doesn't make you aware of your sin, then your spirituality does not come from the Holy God, but from evil spirits who do not care about the morality of your behaviour.

As Christians we are 'religious', no doubt about it, but 'religiosity' is the thing we need to avoid. This is when people put their spiritual faith in ceremonies and symbolism to the extent that it obscures the person of Jesus.


The pressure to deny that Christianity is a religion, comes from faddish unbiblical sources and shallow, ignorant worldly opinion.


Don’t fall into the trap, you don’t have to choose between Religion and Relationship we need them both!


Christianity is the greatest religion, because its aim is to bring about good relationships, both with God and with each other, through love.

These are the commandments that Jesus himself gave to us.


Martin Edwyn


Martin Edwyn 2015/2016