<<faith, belief>>

Religion is the practice of ‘a faith’, but is often only the external or ceremonial observance of a set of beliefs. Religion is impersonal, ‘following the rules’ of tradition in an attempt to satisfy the demands of a perceived deity and experience a better life, yet with little effect on the all-important inner being of the practicing person. Religiously doing something by going through the motions without any thought is merely a ritual which, Jesus said, is hypocritical because it is only an outward show that does not come from the heart (Mk 7:6,7). In contrast, Christianity stems from an inner, personal relationship with God who wants to make Himself known to each person and be intimately known in return. The consequence is a transformation of heart resulting in the observance of the teaching of Jesus Christ and His apostles. Such a relationship is not a forced change from without, but rather an internal, revolutionising desire (Jer 29:13).

Within the heart of all humanity is the instinct to worship or give allegiance to a deity or something outside ourselves (Act 17:23). Satan has deceived many people into following

Religion is form without power

impotent, man-made gods and religions that will end in hell (along with him) because they do not acknowledge and follow Christ the one and only “true God” (Jn 17:3; 1 Thes 1:9). Their hope is in a counterfeit way of salvation which doesn’t lead to heaven for “There is a way that seems right but actually leads to death” and they will be lost forever (Prov 14:12; 2 Cor 4:4).

All belief systems or ideologies generally attempt to help people make sense of their existence in this world, explain what they consider happens after this life, whether there is a deity, and if so, how to relate to them. Religion is humanity’s attempt to satisfy God (Jn 6:28). It is focused on self-effort, seeking to satisfy the God-consciousness that is within. As the Bible puts it, because of ignorance and deception humanity “did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own” connection with God on their own terms, using good works in a futile exercise to secure salvation, instead of coming by the only way that has been established – through Christ (Rom 1:21, 10:3). They lay claim to ‘have the truth’ but do not know the one who is “the way, the truth and the life” the only one in whom is eternal life (Jn 14:6, 17:3; Act 4:12).

All religions also aim to curb what are considered undesirable activities of the mind and body, and they expect conformity to a particular code of behaviour. This can lead to a ritualistic, controlling relationship that holds people in spiritual slavery or

 Religion is man’s search for God; Christianity is                                                      God’s search for man

bondage to a religious hierarchy and system which has no power to change the all-important heart (Rom 1:16). With Christianity the focus is on a personal relationship with God (who through Jesus entered into our predicament of sin), and in response to His unfathomable love for us we desire to live a life pleasing to Him (Jn 14:23). Christ gives us the opportunity of release from our sinful nature to love Him more fully and serve others.

Religion and power should not be used to hold sway over people. God’s way is not to force but to attract people voluntarily.

Some argue that all religions hold the same basic beliefs – expressed in good qualities and principles. While there may be some superficial similarities, they are based on rituals and rules yet without connection to Jesus Christ, they miss the central core and heart reality of sins being forgiven. No other religion centres on an innocent person (whether god or human leader) dying for the sins of their followers, followed by the actual, physical resurrection of its founder as Christianity does. His selfless, unconditional love always seeks to benefit the ones loved – us (Jn 3:16, 15:13; 1 Jn 4:8,10,16).

There are countless religions in the world with variations of beliefs and practice within each. Official figures indicate the three major faiths are Christianity (32%), Islam (23%) and Hinduism (15%) of the world’s total population. However many people give allegiance to a belief system that means very little to them in reality. Jesus made a very solemn statement, “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the Kingdom of heaven” (Mt 7:21; Lk 6:46). There is an eternal destiny difference between ticking an affiliation box on a census form (which will not secure entry into heaven) and having a genuine saving relationship with Christ that is lived out in obedience to His teachings.

See also: agnostic, atheist, Buddhism, Christianity, cults, deception, Eastern/Western religions, false religions, Hinduism, humanism, Islam, New Age, orthodox, religious spirit, ritual, salvation, self-help religion, spiritual/spirituality, truth.

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