Before looking into the subject of what true Christianity really is, I feel it necessary to establish what Christianity is NOT:
Isn't it interesting how most of the major religions in the world end in "ism"; Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Catholicism, etc? Isn't it also very interesting how one cannot put an ism on either Christian or Islam? If Christianity was a religion, why is it not called "Christianism"? On the other side of the coin, why isn't Hinduism called "Hindianity"? Perhaps language enters the picture here, but it is certainly food for thought.
Here is a very pertinent point. The religion known as Islam is the religion of the Muslims as set forth in the Koran. Islam is the whole body of Muslim believers. Muslim, the currently used word as opposed to Moslem, describes an adherent of Islam. It also means, when used as an adjective; "of or pertaining to the religion, law or civilization of Islam." An adherent to the Islam faith believes Allah is the Almighty and Supreme God and that Muhammad is His prophet.
The use of Muhammadanism in reference to Islam or its adherents is rejected by Muslims themselves. There is no such term used by Muslims do describe their faith or their collective body of adherents.
Perhaps Christians need to take a cue from the Muslims. Perhaps the term "Christianity" should be relegated to file thirteen. Let me show you the various definitions given in the Webster College Dictionary for "Christianity":
Obviously there is a confusion of terms here. To understand the confusion, we must look at the Dictionary's definition of "Christian":
O.K., hold the horses right here. What on earth is the RELIGION based on the teachings of Jesus Christ? The answer sums up the whole problem. When we look at the dictionary definition of "Christianity" again, the number one definition pinpoints the problem: "The Christian religion." Of course we must look up the word "religion" to complete this study:
Here is the crux of the whole matter. The dictionary says that the so-called "Christian Religion" is nothing more than a set of beliefs and practices agreed upon by a bunch of people and groups. Thus, according to the dictionary; who invented the "Christian Religion?" People did, that is who. Religion is a MAN MADE set of beliefs that then turn into rituals and other practices. The question then becomes, is Christianity a set of beliefs man agreed upon or is it something else?
If Christianity is indeed a religion, then the churches which gather every Sunday morning and whose services are liturgical in nature are correct. The churches whose form of public worship is "ritual based" are practicing a religion. A church that practices a collection of formularies for public worship is practicing a religion. A liturgical church is a church which offers religious services as its form of public worship. If Christianity is a religion, then this is what should be practiced. If it is not, then perhaps there is another alternative.
I adamantly hold to the belief that Christianity is a personal issue between the individual believer and his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I believe the New Testament must be used as the basis for understanding proper Christian worship as well as understanding "Christianity." Nowhere in the New Testament is any kind of liturgical worship service laid out. In fact, nowhere in the New Testament are there any instructions for a "worship service." As much as people don't like to admit it; the entire liturgical worship service is tradition based and not founded upon scriptures.
The seeds for the current misconception of what Christianity involves were planted by the Gnostics way back in the First Century. Both the apostles John and Paul had to confront the issue of turning the new Christian Faith into a religion. The book of Colossians provides much insight into this matter, especially in chapter two. In a study far too complicated and involved to delve into at the moment; suffice it to say that the religious side of Christianity was being confronted mightily in the second chapter of Colossians.
Everywhere Paul went, the Jews would follow behind him and immediately attempt to corrupt his gospel. Basically what they were trying to do was turn this new faith Paul taught into a set of practices, rituals and traditions which is what they had already succeeded in doing to Judaism.
Religion is very adept at issuing rules and putting its adherents into a little box where they can be easily controlled. If Christianity is a religion, then all the various rules and regulations promoted by certain ultra-fundamentalist groups are correct. A close friend of mine grew up in a church which prohibited everything from dancing, to jeans, to cowboy boots, to red ties, to eating various kinds of foods and listening to most music. Some of these things represent sound wisdom, but to impose them on people as rules and regulations with the penalty for disobedience being hellfire and brimstone; is nothing more than a very sick and legalistic religion.
Religion dictates what a person is to eat, drink, speak, think and do. Religion regulates how a person is to worship and places far too much importance on hierarchy. Religion imposes regulations on people so as to keep them subdued so they have very little "freedom of choice". Fear is a great motivator and when religion uses fear of eternal torment as the reason to do as they are told; most people shake in their boots and do not question what they are taught.
Whereas religion is full of "DON'Ts", true Christianity is full of "DOs". Of course there are many things mentioned in the New Testament to avoid and NOT DO. But, by and large, true Christianity is made up of promises representing all that is available in Christ. If you don't believe me; then read the upcoming study of the phrase "In Christ" or "In Christ Jesus" especially in Paul's writings. You will be absolutely astounded at the number of things that are available to us "In Christ" or "in Christ Jesus".
Everything made available to us in Christ Jesus represents Christianity. Christianity is what is "in Christ", not a set of ritualistic practices performed once per week. Christianity represents everything Jesus Christ gave his life to gain for us. It is not a new set of regulations prohibiting various works of the flesh. Christianity simply refers to everything we have "IN CHRIST" which we can receive once we get "Christ in us". Always remember that the term "Christian" was first coined in Antioch and came about because the believers were always speaking about "Christ in them". Christian simply means "Christ In".
As we explore this subject more, please keep in mind that the word "religion" is, in and of itself, a man-made word. It is not used in the Bible, with the exception of the use in James, as anything other than a description of what the Jews practiced. When God gave the law to Moses, He was not giving Moses a new religion. Yet, the Pharisees and the Scribes took the law and turned it into one of the most oppressive and damaging religions ever known to man. That religion which was practiced by the Jews during Jesus ministry was not ordained by God and was in fact, MAN MADE.
If you want to understand what true Christianity is all about; I invite you to look at the upcoming posts on this subject. Until my last breath, I will do all I can to keep showing the difference between the dead works of religion vs. the living faith found in true Christianity. For those who crave religion, and there are billions upon billions of people in the world who do; there are many huge religions available from which to choose. For those who want a personal relationship with their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and who want to really be Christians; there is only way available and that is through the understanding of true Christianity.
When I first moved to Columbus, GA, I was looking for a church to "visit" on Wednesday nights for a Bible study and some mid-week fellowship. The church that I regularly attend does not have mid-week services.
So, on no particular Wednesday night, I decided to visit a church that "appeared" to be non-denominational, with the intent of perhaps making some new friends of faith.
As soon as I walked in the door, I realized that "making new friends" was not going to happen. I arrived at the church dressed fairly casually, in some business casual capri pants and a sweater twinset. My arrival in the church lobby was not "welcomed" by the other women there. Evidently, my attire was inappropriate, as best I could judge, as was my wearing of makeup and having long hair. Every single one of the women in that church had on skirts, wore no makeup and had their hair "up" on their heads.
I didn't realize that I was a walking "church faux pas" until one of the older women approached me after the service (yes, I stayed) to tell me that, while she enjoyed and appreciated my visiting "her church", she believed that if I decided to return (yes, she said "decided to return") I would be more comfortable if I were more "appropriately dressed."
Let me tell you! I ran away from that "church" as quickly as I could and have never been back.
Oh yes, people let me tell you, RELIGION makes people RUN!
Thank you for this amazing post, dear brother.
Your comment reminds me of the time many years ago when I had a very heated discussion with a very "religious" guy over the subject of "cowboy boots". It seems from his perspective that something about cowboy boots originated where the devil lives and anyone wearing them was doomed to eternal hellfire and damnation. Of course there was no scripture to back this statement up with, but that didn't matter for his "religion" (whatever it was) told him cowboy boots were devilish and that was the end of the discussion.
He whipped around and said over his shoulder as he left, "I hope you like heat, cuz you are going to burn in hell for eternity". You know, there is a difference between being told to go to ... vs what that man told me. He genuinely believed with all his heart what he told me was true. That Romans 10:9 didn't matter one bit, that the criteria for entrance to heaven was what one wore or didn't wear on one's feet.
From this incident, which took place almost 30 years ago, came my burning desire to try and paint a picture between religion vs. true Chrsitianity. Thank you for reminding me of this incident, for it really did affect me then and still does.
Awesome blog! I am looking forward to more on this topic.
Now I understand why when I'm ask what religion I am I have always replied with "I don't have a religion -I'm a Christian" That word religion has always set my nerves on edge made my wanna stand up on end. Now I know why.
Love in Christ
Very interesting blog. I believe the comment in James was likely in response people being out of order in their 'religion'. Jesus was quite adamant that we did not become involved in the rituals of the pagans, with the repetitive prayers, and prayers with many words. I also look forward to reading more.