In the past few days I have received some emails from folks inquiring what I mean when I say I dislike religion, but love Jesus. What do I mean when I say a "living God?" It is interesting, so many have some sort of religious training and don't really like religion. That seems odd, don't you think?
There's a Bible story that illustrates the problem with religion very well.
Mark 1:21 They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. 22 The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.
Hmm... Jesus taught with authority, not as the teachers of the law. There's your sign, authority, not legalistic teaching of the rules. What was the authority that Jesus spoke in? He taught the Old Testament as if it was alive and personal. If you read the 5 or 6 verses and finish the story, you'll see that Jesus also displayed power, not just words.
There are others stories about selfish religious people too. You may be familiar with the prodigal son. Luke 15:11-31 What I find amazing is that this is often taught as a heathen unbelieving young man who has run off to blow his inheritance, and ends up eating pig slop. The problem with that type of thinking is that in verse 21, he calls the wayward son, his son. You know, there are lots of kids who once went to church and end up getting into trouble. I was one of them.
If you read the passage, you see the religious older brother shows his true church going Christian colors.
28"The older brother became angry and refused to go in [to the party]. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, 'Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!'
Wow, that doesn't sound like Jesus! But in church this happens every day. Someone comes in who is sick, addicted, damaged in some way (Jesus said the sick need a doctor.) and the church only seems to be looking for good looking people that have their act together. No wonder folks that need Jesus stay home!
So here is a little quiz to see if your too religious or not.
-1 A good church has music, prayer, some preaching ("the word") and social time? YES | NO
-2 A Biblical church follows a regular "order of worship" because God is a God of order? YES | NO
-3 God has set the church up so that the pastor, priest or other leader does most of the ministry? YES | NO
-4 Good Christians don't have real big problems if they are good? YES | NO
-5 Working in a soup kitchen is one way to make points towards heaven? YES | NO
-6 Giving to a church should be minimal, just enough for it to stay running? YES | NO
-7 If you really loved God, you'd be at as many church activities as time allows? YES | NO
-8 If you volunteer at church, it is not as serious a commitment as work? YES | NO
-9 People are either saved or they are not, if they don't receive the Gospel, dust your feet and keep moving? YES | NO
-10 There is no sense in sharing your beliefs because religion causes arguments? YES | NO
-11 You need at least an hour of music to "enter in?" YES | NO
-12 A church needs a building. YES | NO
-13 A church has to have bylaws. YES | NO
-14 A church has to have deacons. YES | NO
-15 A church has to have a priest or pastor. YES | NO
-16 A church has to have chairs or pews. YES | NO
-17 A church needs a cross or crucifix. YES | NO
-18 A church has to celebrate communion. YES | NO
-19 A church has to have a respectful dress code. YES | NO
-20 A church has to have an altar call. YES | NO
-21 A church has to have prophesy. YES | NO
-22 A church has to have tongues and interpretations. YES | NO
The more yes-es that you had, the more likely you are to be religious and not spiritual. It's easy to be the "older brother" and look down on others, but God wants us all to be focused on Him. There are many different ways to worship (give worth) to God. It is best to be passionate about Him, and get to know Him; whatever that looks like. There is a time to study, to sing, to pray, to prophesy... but when we do those things and push others away from Him, we should take a closer look.