[Only a few find it]
I was wrong. I was wrong about a lot of things. I made assumptions, and had preconceived notions about things that I knew nothing about, as well as the people who believed them. (If we’re honest we all do it. We even prejudge God.) This can happen quite easily when you don’t know the full story—even moreso, as a friend reminded me, when you don’t have understanding.
“Knowledge isn’t understanding” he wrote. This is so true. I’m still unlearning the things that I thought I had right, I’m still growing in both knowledge and more importantly understanding, and I’m still trying to explain it all in words.
Scripture tells us to be prepared to give an answer for the hope we have, but to tell you the truth there have been occasions when I haven’t felt so prepared.
Before I became a Christian I had quite a low opinion of religion. I still do. Try explaining how you can be a Christian and have a problem with religion. It doesn’t make too much sense. From the outside I appear very religious.
If you define religion as the belief in God then by that definition I am religious. I absolutely believe in God. However, before I became a Christian that’s not how I understood religion at all. There’s a broad view of religion, and there’s a narrow view of religion.
When I hear the word religion, I’m thinking of the broader view: empty words and actions; trying to earn your way to heaven; meaningless idols and adhering to man-made rules. I’m also thinking about the many religions of the world, however there is only One God and there is only one way to Him.
“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” –John 14:6
“Jesus is “‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’ Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” –Acts 4:11-12
When I think about religion I’m also thinking about the stuff that appears to be religious from the outside. A truly religious person (in a narrower sense) is fixed on God. There’s a difference. Because C.S. Lewis puts things into words in a way that I can’t, this is what I’m trying to say:
“The word religion is extremely rare in the New Testament or the writings of mystics. The reason is simple. Those attitudes and practices to which we give the collective name of religion are themselves concerned with religion hardly at all. To be religious is to have one’s attention fixed on God and on one’s neighbor in relation to God. Therefore, almost by definition, a religious man, or a man when he is being religious, is not thinking about religion; he hasn’t the time. Religion is what we (or he himself at a later moment) call his activity from outside.” C.S. Lewis/The World’s Last Night
My childhood was immersed in the practices to which we give the collective name religion, but my family didn’t know God. I’m excluding my grandparents from this statement, however, because I believe that they knew God.
Originally, my great-grandparents were Anglican, but one of their daughters married a man who was a Jehovah’s Witnesses. Eventually my grandma followed her sister and started attending too, then my great-grandparents made the switch and followed as well. My great-grandpa even lead the work crew who built the Kingdom Hall that we attended, and later he preached sermons. So my parents were born and raised as Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Amazingly, what happened to my family happened exactly as I wrote in Made to Follow. Sheep will follow sheep, but who we’re following matters. It makes a huge difference. Somewhere along the way, who our family was following was either misplaced, never understood, or never accepted. (I’m still excluding my grandparents in this statement because I don’t have a complete understanding of their story.)
I don’t know too much about my dad’s side of the family, but I’ve been told that my dad’s father was never a religious man until the Jehovah’s Witnesses came knocking on his door. As my dad put it, he was a real Bible scholar. Apparently I have something in common with him then, because I love to study Scripture as well.
My parents went through all the motions, but I wouldn’t call this faith, I’d call it religion (in the broader sense). We went to “meetings,” dressed to the nines, but I was too young to understand what this was all about. Beyond a few Bible stories, I really didn’t understand what we believed. My parents did pray at the dinner table, but this too was lost on me, and totally forgotten and abandoned when my parents cut ties with the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Because they didn’t look too favorably upon religion after this point, I learned to distrust people who talked about God. I also learned to distrust what Scripture taught also. So I hated religion. When God was mentioned it made me cringe; It made me squirm even. I was doubly dubious of those who said, “Jesus loves you.” I had no clue what this truly meant, but I understood that it was religious. At least it fit into my understanding of religion.
Those who televised their religion weren’t too well liked in our home. You know what? Some of these televangelists are truly scammers (Not all). Some people in this world will use religion, but this isn’t what I want to be part of.
What I believe in is loving God and your neighbor as you love yourself—not using people. As Christians we don’t always appreciate the word religion. It’s meaning is too broad in the world, and more often than not it misses the mark entirely.
“Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.” –James 1:27
What does God want? He wants to be acknowledged for starters; He wants to be known; loved; trusted; and He wants to give us the best He has to offer us: Himself. He wants us to reject sin, love one another, visit the sick, take care of those who are alone, abandoned orphaned and in need, and protect those who aren’t getting a fair shake.
God wants us to become more like Jesus: humble, gentle, patient, kind, loving, faithful, laying down our lives for our friends, loving our neighbor, and to be generous in our giving. When we accept Jesus into our hearts and follow Him, it’s God who works these good things in us. Religion says that you can earn your way to heaven. God says there’s only one way to heaven: through my Son Jesus Christ.
My parents influence and their experience with religion was what I gaged things on until I ventured out on my own. Then I was faced with my own choices.
My parents may have felt duped by what they found in their religion, and to tell you the truth, I don’t blame them. My parents constantly had elders coming to their door harassing them until they were so sick of it they took up smoking to get away from religion! (Thankfully, they did quit smoking once they were disfellowshipped.) My parents also felt that a past mistake was held over them.
What I found, however, was something very different: I found love and acceptance. I also found the only fix to all the chaos in this world: Jesus Christ. Yes, I know exactly how this sounds to an ear who hears only religion in His name. I once rejected Him also.
In truth, it was God who found me. I was the one who was lost in the confusion. I was the one who couldn’t see Him through all of the religion. I never wanted to find out more about Jesus, but thankfully He wanted me When I didn’t know what to believe and I was pushing the notion of God away, God Himself reeled me in, hook, line, and sinker.
How I got from point A to point B is a miraculous thing to me now. I was the one who couldn’t stand the name Jesus. I was the one who reacted objectionably when a classmate asked if I was a Christian. “No, I’m not!” I said, I didn’t want to be associated with that!
I was also the one who, when handed a Bible tract at the mall couldn’t throw it in the nearest garbage bin fast enough. To me, it was just religion as I understood religion. I was wrong. I was wrong about a lot of things.
I do believe in the transforming power of God; I’m walking evidence of it. I do believe that the Bible is God willed and breathed–every word of it. People will call it foolish, or whatever their choice word is to describe what we believe (I did it too before I knew better)
Now–more than anything–I just want those who don’t know God to have what I have: salvation, peace, joy, hope, and the freedom that comes with knowing God.
I also want people to know that I could never have found God without accepting Jesus and receiving the Holy Spirit, who is deposited in our hearts—and is the guarantee of what God promises is still to come. (2 Corinthians 1:21-22) Without the Holy Spirit we couldn’t even say that Jesus is Lord. (1 Corinthians 12:3)
“The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.”–1 Corinthians 2:14
I don’t believe that all roads (or religions) lead to God, more specifically to Salvation, which is a restored relationship with God. Understanding matters, because it leads to change. The way to God is through Jesus Christ. He is the small or narrow gate, through which we must enter the Kingdom of God. It’s not an easy way. It’s indeed the narrow way, meaning that the journey can be difficult, but what awaits us in heaven outweighs the difficulties, and God never leaves us to go it alone.
“‘Peter replied, Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’” –Acts 2:38
“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” –John 3:16
“But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” –Matthew 7:14
Next—> Becoming Children
If you’re interested in following this series, all posts can be found here:
And the first post in this series can be found right here: