Preacher declares: "Religion is not for me!"
I hear it occasionally. Usually the person speaking seems more than anxious to express to me that they want almost nothing to do with the church, God, or the Bible. Their comment often sounds something like this: “I have no interest in religion.” or “I choose not to participate in religion.”
My reply is that I am not real big on “religion” either. Religion doesn’t exactly thrill me. Religion can be empty, ritualistic, or contrary to the will of God. In the Bible God often warns about the dangers of false or meaningless religion.
Frankly, religion bores me and often frustrates me. However, while I am skeptical about religion, there are some things that are extremely important and fulfilling to me:
— I love the Lord God, who created me in his image for the very purpose of enjoying a personal relationship with him.
— I love the Lord Jesus Christ who died on a cross in my place centuries ago.
— I love the Holy Spirit who was given to me to help me live a God-honoring life.
— I love the church of Jesus Christ, where healthy and mutually supportive relationships can develop.
— I love the Bible and how it confronts me with my sinful condition, explains grace to me, and helps me to become Christ-like, courageous, and faithful.
— I love Christianity in its pure form revealed in the New Testament.
Religion is not for me. I have found something deeper, richer, and far more lasting. Being religious is not the same as being a disciple of Jesus Christ. Here are some important distinctions:
— Religion is people seeking some type of higher power. Christianity is a loving God seeking people.
— Religion says “Do enough.” Christianity says “Jesus’ sacrifice was enough.”
— Religion exalts human effort. Christianity exalts God’s grace.
— Religion generates pride in good works. Christianity prompts appreciation for the redemptive work of Jesus, our Passover Lamb.
— Religion is egocentric. Christianity is God-centric.
— Religion is often empty. Christianity is filled with meaning and power.
— Religion is about periodic ritual. Christianity is about everyday faithfulness.
— Religion focuses on outward form, as a mere compartment of life. Christianity focuses on inward devotion that expresses itself in a Spirit-empowered way of life.
— Religion generates consumers who see the church as an organization that serves them. Christianity generates disciples who see themselves as part of a serving partnership.
— Religion honors restrictive legalism, prompted by duty and fear. Christianity honors faithful obedience, prompted by gratitude and love.
— Religion is an organized gathering. Christianity is a Christ-centered community.
— Religion is doing church together. Christianity is doing life together .
— Religion often stops with assimilation. Christianity keeps pressing toward transformation.
— Religion says, “Be like the group.” Christianity says, “Be like Jesus, with the help of the group.”
— Religion leads to maintenance. Christianity leads to mission.
— Religion says, “Invite and make church members.” Christianity says, “Go and make disciples.”
No, religion is not for me, but through a personal, Bible-based relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ I find daily hope, peace, joy and fulfillment, along with a wonderful support network of other followers of Jesus. Want to join us on this journey?
by Tom Claibourne (an excerpt from "From Religion to Relationship", Chapter 2 of Reposition; published in 2020 by Christian Church Leadership Network)