“Losing My Religion!”

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You can hear the mantra resounding throughout Christianity today: We want relationship and not religion! Just last week I was driving down the road and the host on the radio had a 3-5 minute talk on the topic; expressing how he is glad he doesn’t have a religion.

My dear Christians, this is fundamentally flawed! I do understand what it’s trying to correct. We have a history – and still many people today (I was just fighting with one on Facebook [always a healthy endeavor…]) – of many people proclaiming to be Christian and being a horrible example of Christ. They had an aspect of the “religion,” but clearly did not know Christ! This is something that we must fight against and I am all for that. Let us be done with the days of people misrepresenting Christ in our nation (which includes entire false denominations)! However, in an attempt to correct this issue, we have swung the pendulum much too far.

Christianity is both a religion and a relationship and we must have both. They go together. The best way I have heard it explained is: Christ ransoms us and brings us into an intimate relationship with the Father, and gives us religion as the form that relationship takes. The relationship has a structure: He is the King and we the servants; He is the Father and we the children; He is the Husband and we the bride; He is the Vine and we the branch. Our life stems from his and there is a structure to the relationship. When we remove the structure, the relationship is hurt; it is diluted and can become, for us anyway, just like any other relationship. As such we take the blessing and privilege of Christ calling us his friend and run around and flippantly say things like, “Jesus is my homie!” I don’t think my wife would be too happy if I was running around telling everyone “This is my chick!” In once sense, I am showing her a type of honor by declaring she is my lady, but the verbiage I use dilutes and verges on dishonoring the depth of the relationship.

Along the same lines, if I am to honor my wife, I will not be going out on dates with other women or doing things to try and win another woman’s heart. I would also not be taking off my wedding ring intentionally around other people. There are boundaries that make that relationship special and unique including the symbols that go with that relationship. It is the same with God. It is the religion that defines the terms of the relationship and make it special. We know that this is special and important to God too. He spent all of two chapters going over all the details he wished to share regarding the immensity of creation and then spent well over 20 chapters talking about the details of his Tabernacle! The details are important to God and he does not change. He still wants us to conduct ourselves and to relate to him and specific ways. This, my dear friends, is religion. To be holy and to commune with the holy one.

James shares with us the definition of true religion in James 1.26-27, “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” True religion is completing good works and maintaining faithfulness and holiness. So, yes, let us fight against religion! However, allow that fight to only be with false religion and not the true religion we are called to maintain.

Something that jumped out to me regarding this topic was a parable Jesus taught. It is the parable of the ten virgins with their oil lamps and only the five wise virgins had enough oil to last. Let’s read it and then I will explain what I got from this.

Matthew 25.1-13, “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

Think of the oil as being the Holy Spirit. He is the fire that burns for us leading us again and again to the Son. What we have been fighting against is these foolish virgins who did not have enough of the Spirit to last them to truly meet with the Son. They did not have enough relationship to last; their lamps burned out and they are left searching for the Christ and showing this reality to the world, hurting those around them as they do not reflect Christ. So, it is good that we maintain a relationship with God and a relationship with the Spirit that is vibrant and continuing to lead us to the Son. However, in our over correction, throwing out religion is like throwing away our lamps in response to the ones who did not have enough oil! This is not good! We need the lamps – the form of the relationship; the religion – to maintain the fire in a healthy way and to keep a proper connection with the Holy Spirit. Let us maintain a healthy balance in our lives. Religion is not our enemy. It is our healthy connection with the Creator that loves us beyond measure! Let us embrace it in a healthy way and allow our light to shine brightly in this world! If we do so, we shall not become like the Pharisees we came up short in their relationship, but rather our righteousness shall outshine theirs as we keep a vibrant relationship alive.

Published in: on 7 AMpThu, 24 Jan 2019 04:49:18 -040049Thursday 2016 at 4:49 am  Leave a Comment  

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