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"Religion" vs Christianity?

I’ve heard from a number of sources, mostly Christian, that the working definition of “religion” is man’s pursuit to connect with God, or mankind’s efforts to appease God. By that definition, Christianity would be in a different category (as many of us would like), because the Bible teaches that God bridged the gap, allowing for us to come near to God as He comes near to us (James 4:8).

But the Bible also paints the picture of religion differently from contemporary Christian thought, that there exists for the God-follower true worship vs false, true God vs. false gods, true motives vs false, true doctrine vs false, true teachers and prophets vs false, and true religion vs false! (Jer. 2:11, Col. 2:18, Phil 1:18) In fact, the Bible pits itself against the “gods”, religions, and idolatry of the world, and offers its own Gospel as the ONLY way to gain favor with God! In an age of pluralistic thinking, the message of our Holy Word can be quite offensive!...but if it’s true..?!

If that is the case, shouldn’t Christians be warring against all opposing worldviews and systems of thought? Aah, but the very wars we wage are not like the others at all! (Eph. 6:10-12) We are to stand strong and firm in our faith, yet be winsome, and self-sacrificially loving, recognizing all people groups as valuable to God, loved by Him, and potential followers!

Back to the previous point…If there IS true religion that is pleasing in the eyes of God what would it be? A number of scriptures deal with it, but I have focused on a few:

Matthew 25:40 "The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

Mark 8:35 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.

James 1:26-27 If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

1Timothy 5:4 But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God.

The difference between Christianity and the other “religions”, is that we cannot even hope to accomplish what He asks, without His own help! (Phillipians 2:13, John 14:15-17) Jesus not only justifies us before God through His shed blood on the cross, but also sanctifies us, or makes us like Himself, through His own work in us! (Joh 17:17, 19, 1Thessalonians 5:23)

So through His Spirit living in us, we are led to please Him and bring Him Glory, both individually, and as a church of locally-congregated believers. Here are some ways our church is called to please our Heavenly Father in 2016:

A Love for His Word – Do we earnestly seek to connect with Him, by having God speak to us through His Word? Are we willing to prioritize our schedule around it?

Abandoning Idolatry – Are we willing to acknowledge, confess, and by His Grace, remove those things from our lives which compete for our devotion to Jesus Christ? Am I willing to enlist others’ help?

Abandoning Gossip & Negativity – Are we willing to do what it takes to be a people of encouragement, recognizing all the wonderful promises in store for His people, therefore, lovingly coming around one another in all circumstances?

Holiness – As He commands us to “Be Holy, even as I am Holy” (Leviticus 11:44, 1 Peter 1:15), are we committed to taking our very thought life captive and make it obedient to Christ? (2 Corinthians 10:5) Are we willing to surrender our sexuality, our drives, our passions, and our life purpose to His Lordship?

Allow God to show you “True Religion” that stands out from the world in 2016!

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