For the life of me, I cannot understand where and how Christianity turned from faith into a religion. It is beyond the limitations of my mind to comprehend why anyone would want a religion instead of a personal faith. Try as I may, it makes no sense to me why people would rather attend a service once per week and feel they have fulfilled their religious duty rather than fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.
With the looming changes coming to this country, including that it will no longer be considered a "Christian Nation"; what we are left with is a country of various religions vying for recognition and money. All the great issues which supposedly define an "Evangelical" are really outward earmarks of the Christian religion. Very few, if any of the "hot issues" which divide the left and the right have anything to do with the Christian FAITH.
Faith is on the inside and religion is on the outside. When issues such as abortion rights, gay rights, gun ownership, prayer in school and numerous others become more important to people than praying, reading the Bible, helping the poor, widows, orphans and elderly; than religion has hijacked faith and led it down the road to oblivion.
Each one of us who call ourselves Christians need to constantly look deep inside to make sure our FAITH is strong. I would much rather be called a man of FAITH than a religious man. I would much prefer my FAITH be that by which I am known and defined than my outward actions and appearances.
People can dress up in suits and dresses and attend church every Sunday of their life and there is absolutely no guarantee they are a Christian. As the politicians would say; you can put a suit on a dog, but he is still a dog. What a person does to dress up their outward appearance does nothing to change what is on the inside. Religion has a whole closet full of nice clothes which it loves to drag out and put on hypocrites to fool everyone into thinking they are people of FAITH.
There are many who devote their lives to serving others who are outwardly religious but inwardly nothing but "empty cisterns". There are many who have reputations as "good people", who never kill, steal, lie or cheat. Good people are nice to be around, but unless they are saved, they are still "empty cisterns".
There are multitudes of families who are living the "American Dream". The parents both work full time jobs, they live in a nice huge house in the suburbs, they have a minivan and couple other cars, they send their children to private or parochial schools and have many friends to socialize with after church on Sunday and during soccer games. By every definition these people sum up what America is all about. Unfortunately, if they are not people of FAITH, all their worldly things are nothing but a nice religion.
God is not the least bit impressed with how much money a person has in the bank, what kind of car he drives, how many square feet are in his house, how many degrees hang on his wall, how many times he has run for mayor or even how many religious books he has on his shelves. No, God never even looks at these things for they are all outward and mean nothing to Him. God looks ONLY on the heart and to what dwells therein. When God looks on the heart He either sees FAITH or an empty cistern.
We all have known people who have, for all practical purposes, tried to either work their way into heaven or buy their way in. Those who drop huge sums of money in the collection plate each week but live like the devil are guilty of trying to bribe God into granting them righteousness for giving so much. It doesn't work that way. God looks only upon the heart and either He sees FAITH or an empty cistern.
Those who volunteer for every social activity the church offers, who visit the sick and put canned goods in the food pantry "look like" they are sincere and good people, and they probably are; but when God looks in their hearts, He either sees FAITH or an empty cistern. Religious acts are encouraged in the Bible and are not bad, but doing them does gain a person a place in heaven.
Proverbs tells us to "guard our hearts", and for good reason. If we allow our heart to grow cold, bitter or hard; we will withdraw from God and our FAITH will become weak and feeble. If we allow our heart to be distracted by pressures or pleasures; we will turn from God and our FAITH will become mixed with the world and corrupted in the process.
We must strive to keep our hearts rooted and grounded in God and His Word so that which is in our hearts is in Him. Our FAITH is an extremely personal matter. In fact, our FAITH is strictly between us and God. No one can dictate to us what our FAITH should be other than to echo what the Word of God says it is. When looking at the honor roll of FAITH in Hebrews chapter 11; just about every great Biblical hero is listed along with a snapshot of that which made them a hero of our FAITH.
That which Able did was far different that what Abraham did to be considered men of FAITH. Certainly what Sarah did was far different than what Rahab did; yet they were both women of FAITH. Just because one person manifests his or her FAITH differently than the next, does not mean they are not a person of FAITH. One thing is for certain though, FAITH has nothing to do with religion.
Christianity can either be a person's FAITH or religion. A person can look good on the outside through appearing religious and be an empty cistern on the inside void of any genuine FAITH. A person can look like the world's biggest loser on the outside, yet be a person God would list in the modern day Hebrews 11 as man or woman of FAITH. May we strive to concentrate on that which is within and in so doing, become living epistles of the Christian FAITH.
Amen. We are told to beware the "Leaven of the Pharisees" and the "Leaven of Herod" and in many of your recent blogs you've somehow been touching on these two areas. I've found your insights very practical and I've been blessed. Thank you again B2Y :).
Amen. Thank you for this.
I chuckle to myself when people use the term "religious" to describe people with deep faith and a personal relationship with the Lord. What the world considers religious, the believer would describe as a relationship. They are not synonymous.
Thanks for writing,
Amen! A quote from Colossians:
All the things we "do" have no power over the indulgences of the flesh, but as a true believer you have the Holy Spirit and with the Holy Spirit, you then have power. It is easy to get caught up in how we are supposed to look like, and then emulate it, but there you are, still the old man, not the new man, struggling with the same sin but now you keep it under wraps. But with true faith there is a heart change, the old man dies and out emerges a new man, not motivated by self but motivated by the love of Christ and led by the Spirit.
I would have to disagree with what makes an "evangelical" evangelical. However, there is no denying that once we do come to Christ and [i]totally surrender [/i]to Him what happens is, over time the emergence of [bible]2 Corinthians 5:17[/bible] and being renewed, is a whole body, whole life process. We are renewed from the inside out, and... there will be outward signs of the inward change. Sometimes those signs are flashy, sometimes they are not. Don't be too hasty to judge by appearances... and if a well dressed person laid hands on you and you were healed in the Name of Jesus, would you object?
The issue is not what a person wears, or the house he lives in etc. The issue is what is on the inside. Far too many Christians "hide" behind their nice clothes and fancy buildings attempting to derive righteousness from the outside in. Righteousness is from inside out. We have it, but we must renew our minds to become that new creature manifested.
Simply trying to cover the outside while not changing the inside is hypocrisy, and we all know what Jesus had to say about it.
Amen brother! It is amazing to me how so many intellectualize themselves out of true faith and encourage others, through elegant words, to do the same. We know from the scripture that faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. How complicated some make that which should be a simple thing. In the end all will know God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are. It is impossible to please God without true faith and faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. Our teacher is the Holy Spirit, not our highly educated friends.
A powerful blog brother.
My pastor said that God brought him to his knees one day for the shame he harbored in his heart for those "on-fire" but not-so-presentable Christians. You know the kind you see on the Jumbotron at the NFL game, holding up a sign that says "Jesus LOVES you! Turn to Him!" and their appearance isn't so "refined".
Ouch. God got me on that one too.
Man looks at the outside, but God looks at the heart.
Powerful, powerful post.
I wonder.... how many "mainline" christians are questioned about their faith, when they look just like the rest of the world, whining and complaining and being sick, and broke, and tired, and not witnessing..... being humble and submitted does not mean to blend in with everyone else... I am not, and will not advocate the acquisition of materials for the sake of acquisition of materials. One can be just as religiously minded and hypocritial and live modestly, out of a false sense of humility.
This blog reminded me of a lesson I used to do with kids. I would pour water into a sparkling glass and ask if anyone wanted a drink. All the kids would raise their hands and ask for a drink. Then I would pour some dirt into the water and ask the same question. No one would raise their hands and usually I would hear at least a few kids say yuck.
I'd ask them what the problem was. They would always reply that the water was dirty. I'd point to the glass which contain it and say the glass was clean. Nope. There was no way they were going to drink that. They didn't care if the glass was clean. The water was dirty and they weren't about to drink it with all that stuff in it. :wink:
This is one reason I prefer the term Christ-Follower or Follower of Christ to the term Christian. Unfortunately, the term Christian has lost it's true meaning for most people. It now means what church you go to or were baptized in. It means the country you were born in or that your parents or grandparents attended church and so you were born Christian. Sometimes we slap it on in order to make something look good like Little Christian Day Care Center.
Most of us can clean-up the outside pretty good if we try hard enough. Only God can clean-up the inside.