Disclaimer: About This Blog

THIS BLOG IS: my personal journey of how I am rethinking some of my spiritual beliefs.
THIS BLOG IS NOT: intended to point fingers at people who I think are wrong.
I do not believe the final judgement will be based on how many correct answers we get on a theology exam. I believe many people throughout history have had genuine relationships with our Lord and Saviour Jesus, despite holding questionable beliefs and practices. I make no claim to having it all figured out or being your judge. If we end up disagreeing over these topics I pray we can find a way to demonstrate grace.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Tricked into religion?

I've often heard people claim Christianity is not a religion, it's about a personal relationship. However other sources will make claims like Christianity is the worlds largest religion... so it is a bit confusing.

Let's take a look at Wikipedia's definition of religion:
"A religion is an organized approach to human spirituality which usually encompasses a set of narratives, symbols, beliefs and practices, often with a supernatural or transcendent quality, that give meaning to the practitioner's experiences of life through reference to a higher power or truth. It may be expressed through prayer, ritual, meditation, music and art, among other things. It may focus on specific supernatural, metaphysical, and moral claims about reality (the cosmos and human nature) which may yield a set of religious laws, ethics, and a particular lifestyle. Religion also encompasses ancestral or cultural traditions, writings, history, and mythology, as well as personal faith and religious experience."
I think this definition describes most forms of Christianity, and most other religions.

However some Christians often want to distance themselves from the term religion which has images of institutional rules and legalistic practices. They want Christianity to be different than the other world religions.

I think Christianity should simply be a way to describe those who follow Christ and His good news. It is a personal journey. Others may influence me, and being part of a community of others on similar journeys is very beneficial. But the following Christ part must be a personal thing between me and God, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

So even though the term religion may describe a lot of Christianity well, I'd rather describe following Christ it in terms of a relationship.

Here's some questions I came across recently:

So how do we know if you’ve been tricked into religion?

  • When God is a distant concept to you instead of a real presence.

  • When you find yourself following another man, woman, or a set of principles instead of following Jesus.

  • When fear of eternity, not measuring up, or falling into error drives your actions.

  • When you find yourself in empty rituals that do not connect you in a real way to him.

  • When you are burdened by the expectations of others and feel guilty when you can’t do enough.

  • When you look at others who struggle with contempt instead of compassion.

  • When the approval of others means more to you than remaining in the reality of his love.

  • When you hesitate to be honest about your doubts or struggles because others will judge you.

  • When you think of holiness as an unachievable duty, rather than a glorious invitation.

  • When you think righteousness depends on your efforts instead of his grace working in you.

  • When following him is more about obligation than affection.

  • When correcting someone’s doctrine is more important than loving them.

  • When God seems more present on Sunday morning, than he does on Monday.

If you have only known Christianity to be a set of doctrines, rules and rituals, I have great news. Jesus came and died to open up access between you and his Father. Religion supplants that, distracting us with discipline, commitment and hard work that never yields the fruit it promises. If you’ve been worn out by religion, don’t think you’re alone. Others are just pretending, afraid they are the only ones, too. Life is only found in him.

http://www.lifestream.org/LSBL.May09.html

I think the idea here is that if we find ourselves stuck in Religion, we should try this instead:

John 13:34-35 (NIV)

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
Matthew 11:28 (The Message)
"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly."



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