Sunday, October 28, 2012

Moving from Religion to Christianity

Christianity is a living system of God working His life in and through us for His purposes on earth, for His glory, not our own. Christianity is more about God’s glory than about our improvement. Christianity is about us being who we truly are in Christ, not us trying to be something we think we should be or trying to do something for God to somehow earn His favour.
The opposite of Christianity is religion. Religion is when we attempt to work for God to please Him. Religion is also when we try, in our own efforts and best wisdom, to do God’s work. In Christianity, God does His work in and through us, not for our sake, but for His own glory, as He brings His creation back in line with Himself. We are being religious when we think we have something to offer God. We try to do works for God as if God needs something from us, as if our works will somehow add something to God or help Him get His work done. God needs nothing from us, but He enjoys working with us.
Religion has pride and self at its core. When we think we are better than the person next to us, we are being religious. On the flip side, when we seek to improve ourselves or seek to feel better about ourselves in the guise of loving God or experiencing His love, we are being religious. Religion says I must work on myself to make myself more acceptable to God, or to get closer to God. The feeling of religion is that I am somehow not complete enough or not fully accepted by God, so I have to work on myself and try to be better. Religious people often love self-help books because they seek to improve self.
Religion also says I must do all the things He expects me to do and sets about trying to obey God’s rules. There is a feeling of never measuring up or never being able to be or do all we think God wants us to be and do.
Christianity says, I have been crucified with Christ, I no longer live.  Christ now lives in me.[1]  Self is crucified; the old man is gone.[2] In the old man’s place is the new man who is created by God in holiness and righteousness.  Now, we say, “I am accepted by God, holy and righteous.  I am complete in Him.” If we truly believe this, we will have little concern for our lives and circumstances.  We will no longer try to work for God, to be approved by Him.  We will seek to work with Him and be who we now are in Him:  righteous and holy children of God.
Christianity says deny yourself and accept that self is dead, crucified with Christ. Religion says I must try to be good or try to look good. Christianity says I was evil, and could never have made myself good no matter how hard I try.  Through Jesus Christ, I have been made good by God.  I am good and righteous, not based on works I do, but based on the work He has done in Christ.  This is the central different. Now I desire to be who I am, as a righteous being who is dearly loved by God.  I desire to walk by faith in God.
Religion feels like a heavy burden on our backs. It’s hard. Have you experienced the weight of trying to be religious? It has the appearance of spirituality, but lacks joy and power. Religion has trying and rules as the core, as we keep trying to be what we think we should be. Christianity’s rule is light and easy and comes from a heart of love, yet it may cost us our physical life to live it out.  Religion says we must continuously keep working for God or we will be lost, creating fear and guilt. Christianity says we are kept by God.

[1] Galatians 2:20
[2] Romans 6:6

(Except from Kingdom Disciples:  8 Keys to Life-Transforming Discipleship by Alan Braun and Nancy Ingold)

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