Friday, April 27, 2012
Religion vs. Christianity
Depending on the church and the people, we often hear different pop phrases these days. “I got saved.” “I’m a believer.” “I’m a Christian.” “I have inherited salvation.” “I’m going to heaven because I’m a good person.” “God is love.” “I’ll pray for you.” “The Lord is calling / leading me.” “This is God’s will.” “Ask Jesus to come into your life. You will be saved.” “I believe in the power of prayer.” What does all of this mean? Where did these phrases come from? Do we find them in a religious handbook? Is it part of the requirements for belonging to a church?
Let me ask you a very personal question. If I (being someone you do not know) were to speak in detail about the content of your life to others that know you well, what would they tell me? What would my perception be, about who you are as a person? How would that perception then, differ from the perception I had on the first day I met you?
Would you believe me if I told you I loved you, but deliberately neglected you when you needed me most? What if I presented my PhD in Psychology, but had ten lawsuits against my own practice? Would you hire me as your therapist? What if my wife spent two hours telling you how great of a husband I was but you later discovered that I was having an affair? Would I still be the husband my wife described?
There are often two sides to people – the side they want you to see and the side they are afraid for you to see. What tends to be the most intriguing are the methods we use to disguise the parts we don’t want others to see. These are also often the same methods that get us into trouble in relationships, spiritually, emotionally, and physically. We say things that make us look good on the outside but isn’t what’s going on the inside more important? Is the appearance on the outside always an accurate reflection of what’s on the inside?
We all know the truths that exist in our own lives, even if we want to deny it within ourselves, but we build walls, make our own rules, establish boundaries, smile when we deem appropriate, stand our ground when necessary, and we demand justice. But upon what truths do we base these principles for how we live our lives? What happens when we don’t like the truth? Are we honest when it hurts? Does doing the right thing come first, before our own feelings of vulnerability? Do we only do what feels good and is what feels good always right? How do we even define “right”? Is it really your opinion vs. others, or is there some source of absolute truth that applies to all people?What is Religion?
When we view reality solely though the filter of our own personal thoughts, feelings, and beliefs, we give birth to our own personal “religion.” What is religion? Here is how Dictionary.com defines it: “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.” Notice that the first three words of the definition state “a set of beliefs.” What/whose beliefs? Mine? Yours? His? Hers? Which set of beliefs is the right set? We can’t all be right at the same time, can we, especially if our own version of “right” also varies from person to person. It’s just plain confusing!
James 1:26 (NASB) states: “If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless.” When we view reality through our own personal filter, we deceive our own hearts. This makes our personal set of beliefs worthless in the big picture. Religion is just a word when there is no absolute truth to support it.
I know you are thinking it so I will just go ahead and say it! Yes! Christianity is also a set of beliefs (a.k.a. religion) but there is one major difference. It is one belief system, with no variances from person to person. It is the same and always has been whether we believe it or not, no matter how much we try to twist it. The world does not view Christian religion as absolute truth; it views it as an option among many. When someone asks you if you’re religious, do they also then have to ask, “What religion are you?” To a true Christian, their beliefs are the same as the next one and those beliefs are not their own.
Simply put, to be a Christian is to follow Jesus Christ and His teachings, nothing more, nothing less. We do not add to what He taught and we don’t take away from what He taught. We simply put our faith in what we do not always understand. Proverbs 3:5-6 (NASB) states: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.” You see, it’s not about us and it never was. Christianity is about Christ and what He did for us. All we have to do is follow Him.
This might also make you wonder why we have what are called denominations. Which denomination is right? The short answer is that although many may be mostly right, none of them are right in their entirety. Philippians 2:2 (NASB) states: “make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.” If we were meant to be of the same mind, why would we divide and segregate ourselves? Was this what Jesus intended? There is only one right way but mankind has trouble submitting to it because they want to go their own way. Proverbs 14:12 (NASB) states: “There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.” We must turn away from our own beliefs and look to The One who provides absolute truth!
· Do you think that your daily actions and the words that you use accurately reflect the person that you intend to be? Do you convey the message of Christ to others through your own words and actions or do you convey a different message?
· Are you remembered more for what you did or how you did it?
· What does it look like when we put the needs of others above our own? How much impact would our own personal beliefs have then?Things to try.
· Ask someone that knows you if they think you convey the message of Christ through your daily words and actions. Don’t talk back either; just listen to their answer.
· Pick a person and share something about you that you feel uncomfortable telling them. You might be surprised with their response and the personal feeling of freedom that comes with it.
· Make a list of all your fears and ask God to take them from you.
· Read one chapter per day in your Bible to help you understand God’s absolute truth.