Finding God Through the Confusion of Religion

 

[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. We even prejudge God. This can happen quite easily when we don’t know the full story—even more so, as a friend reminded me, when we don’t have understanding.

“Knowledge isn’t understanding” he wrote.  This is so true.

Be Prepared

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.

Defining Religion

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.

If you define it as the belief in God then by that definition I am religious.  I absolutely believe in God. However, that’s not how I understood things at all before I became a Christian. There’s a broad view and a narrow view of religion.

What’s the Difference?

When I hear the word religion, I’m thinking of the broader view.  I’m thinking about the things that appear to be religious to others.  However, a truly religious person (in the narrowest sense) is fixed on God (Jesus Christ to be more exact, as God (The Father) gave Jesus (The Son) all authority over heaven and earth. (Matthew 28:16-20 )

What I Believe

I believe that the way to God is narrow.  It’s through Christ alone, who died on a cross (but rose to life again) to redeem those who would accept Him.  (John 14:6John 3:16 )

People will call this belief narrow minded, but it takes faith like a child to enter the Kingdom of God. (Matthew 18:2-4) It’s actually the complete opposite of narrow minded.

Child like faith means accepting things that others believe is utterly foolish. This isn’t even possible without God’s help through the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 2:6-16) It also means humbling ourselves before God. (1 Peter 5:6-7)

Following Jesus comes with persecutions, rejection and trouble. Why? Because people don’t want to hear the truth. Humanity as a whole never has. We preferred our own darkness (John 3:19) because the heart, above all else, is deceitful. (Jeremiah 17:9 ) We wanted God in our image and on their terms. However, that’s not how it works. God created us in His image, for His purpose. (Genesis 1:27Matthew 22:37-38)

So people rejected God.  They preferred to worship idols, which are man made objects made to look like humans, birds, animals or reptiles.  If you look at all the religions of the world, you will find these man made idols. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie. (Romans 1:21-25)

Because we could never be faithful to God on our own, Jesus became the sacrifice to set the sinner free.  It’s only through accepting Him as our Lord and Savior that we begin to see the truth, because without the Spirit of God no one can understand the things of God. (1 Corinthians 2:14) We are blind.  This is why Christians sing, I once was blind but now I see.  Before we accept Jesus we are blind (held captive) by Satan’s lies. He is an angel that was cast down from heaven because He turned on God.  He wanted to be God! Now he and the angels that followed him (demons as we call them) work to keep people from learning the truth and receiving salvation through Jesus. (2 Corinthians 4:4 , Isaiah 14:12-15)

“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

My Family Didn’t Know Jesus

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 did know Him.)

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 that built the Kingdom Hall we attended. Later he also preached sermons. Consequently, my parents were raised in the Kingdom Hall. (Why I believe that my grandparents knew God despite being Jehovah’s Witnesses will be explained in another post.)

Made to Follow

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. I believe that who our family was following was never understood and never accepted, so was completely abandoned by our family. (I’m still excluding my grandparents in this statement.)

I don’t know too much about my dad’s side, 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.

We had Religion, not Faith

My parents went through all the motions, but I wouldn’t call this faith, I’d call it religion (in the broader sense). Eventually they tired of the harassment they we’re receiving when my older brother took up smoking.  My parents had themselves disfellowshipped by taking up smoking themselves.  They knew that the JW’s wouldn’t relent otherwise, so they did what they were certain would get them barred from their religion. (They are no longer smokers, by the way. Neither is my older brother.)

Because this experience caused my parents to look unfavorably upon religion, I learned to distrust people who talked about God.  I also learned to distrust what Scripture taught. So for a time I didn’t want anything to do with what I considered religion either.

Why Christians Don’t Always Appreciate the word “Religion”

Because the word religion is so broad, more often than not, it misses the mark entirely. What I believe in is loving God and your neighbor as you love yourself.  I believe in communing and abiding with God: a real and lasting relationship with the Lord, which is only possible through Jesus Christ who keeps us safe until His return. (1 Corinthians 1:8)

“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; 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, generous in our giving, and submissive to God the Father. He even wants us to love our enemies.

When we accept Jesus into our life and follow Him, it’s God who works these good things in us through the Holy Spirit. (The third person of God.)

Religion says that you can earn your way to heaven. God the Father (The first person of God) says there’s only one way to heaven: through my Son, Jesus Christ. (The second person of God.)

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” – Matthew  28:19-20

Note on the three persons of God: The order I have given the three separate persons of God is in no way a reflection of rank. The three are co-equal (One God, three persons), however, in Scripture they are generally written in this order. (Father, Son and Holy Spirit.)  1 John 5:7-8

The Small Gate and Narrow Road

I do believe that the gate is small and the road that leads to life (more specifically Salvation, which is a restored relationship with God) is narrow. Understanding matters.

“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

“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

Next—> Becoming Children

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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:

Faith: Mapped