The Structure of True Religion

I have heard many who confess to follow Christ say that they are not in a religion but a relationship. In fact, I have said this in the past myself. However, as I have grown wiser and more knowledgeable through my relationship with GOD, I have come to a better understanding of the relationship between the two. Many of the negative ideas I originally held regarding the Christian religion came from its misappropriation by those being intentionally deceitful and those ignorantly following the blind which were leading them. Our heavenly Father never intended for Christian religion to operate separate from a relationship with Him. The influence of Satan, the great deceiver, is very evident in the many counterfeits being circulated today. Another example is the US has been accepted by many as a democracy however it falls short of the tenants of a pure democracy because many of the people born in the US have not been allowed to vote, and the electoral college dilutes the power of the vote represented by actual people. Tax paying people with black and brown skin, born in the US, are referred to as citizens however they have been historically denied the basic citizen right of equal protection under the law. So, this demographic has not actually been recognized as full citizens. Again, it is much like the many people condemning socialism and communism though we have never had a country on earth to operate in the pure ideals of them as expounded on by Marx and Engels. The names were misappropriated by countries like Russia and China though these countries have never employed all the key components.

These are just a few other current day examples of how people have been deceived and excepted counterfeits. Until you foster a love for truth which drives you to seek GOD’s face and study His word, Satan will continue to exploit your natural love for comfort and pleasure. The truth is disruptive to the false. Truth tears down the false to make way for a true and eternal foundation and structure to be built.

Religion is defined by Merriam Webster as a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices; a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith. We can take from this definition, in relation to Christianity, that Christian religion would be a system of attitudes, beliefs, and practices held with ardor and faith. So, by definition, there is no separation between the practices required in a religion and the relationship by faith which empowers them. The problem again is that we have seen Christianity misrepresented, resulting in misunderstandings, confusion, and denunciation.  As I mentioned earlier, the Father never intended for any actions to take place outside of a relationship with Him. When you read Christ reproving the pharisees and Sadducees, you see Him addressing religion without relationship.

“But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.” (Luke 11:42 KJV)

Christ is saying true religion is doing both. Look at this parable taught by Christ.

10 So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests. 11 And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: 12 And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. 13 Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:10-14 KJV)

Again, both are required by Christ the King. This guest was clearly called a friend, however He failed to comply with the prescribed system or practice of preparation. We are also taught by the apostles James and Paul that it takes both to be complete. James says faith without works is dead, and a man isn’t justified by works alone or faith alone (see James chapter 2). Paul says without love, the essence of the relationship, he is nothing and none of his religious acts mean anything (See 1 Corinthians chapter 13).

At issue in the separation of faith and works is the practice of sacrifice on both sides. On the side of works oriented devotion, there is the sacrifice of effort and busyness being offered for justification and validation. On the side of faith only oriented devotion, there is the sacrificial love of GOD being used as justification without the reciprocal sacrificial love unto the laying down of personal will in obedience.

GOD is clear, He desires obedience over sacrifice. Christ did not give himself to become a common sacrifice for sins, like the old testament practice of yearly sacrificing bulls, rams, and doves. He gave Himself once to fulfill the requirements of the old testament law forever, which was ruled under the law of sin and death. He has now ushered in a new covenant which is ruled by the law of life and spirit. The resurrection life we inherit from Christ is the life of a dear and obedient son of GOD.

You man of faith, are you going before GOD reminding Him of the sins He has already remitted because you are not exercising true overcoming faith; the faith which David used to defeat Goliath, the faith Joshua used to take the promised land. Doesn’t your faith tell you that the very life of Christ is in you to do His works; to live righteously, to fill the hungry, to free the oppressed, to counsel the fatherless, to give shelter to the homeless, to please the Father. When did you go beyond yourself to demonstrate that you trusted Him? Just something to consider.

You who are busy in works, have you ever just sat with someone broken and not tried to fix them? Just sat with them and listened and only gave a solution if they asked for one, or do you feel pressed to say something or do something? Have you ever just sat and cried tears of joy because you knew in that moment, GOD’s love was perfect for you and you felt His arms around you? Have you ever sacrificed for someone and told nobody, but just praised GOD for allowing yourself to be used?

These are the manifestations of confidence in GOD’s love for you and belief in His promises. These examples are glimpses at the works of faith, the fruit of true religion.

Reflecting On His Cross

This Sunday, as people have done for over a thousand years, many people will reflect on the death and resurrection of the Messiah. What is the message that this reflection will yield? It is astonishing to me the degree of darkness that still pervades around the cross of Jesus as evidenced by the denial of what Calvary truly stands for. Jesus Christ, Yehowshua, The Messiah, The Savior, went about before His crucifixion preaching and teaching on the principle that if we are all to have life then we must each individually give our lives.

John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this but that a man lay down His own life for a friend.”

Luke 9:23-24, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whoever will save his life will lose it: and whoever will lose his life for my sake will save it.”

John 13:34, “A new commandment I give you, that you should love one another; as I have loved you, that you also should love one another.”

As a truly leader, Jesus served by example and laid His life down for us all at Calvary. Jesus laid down His life as a man not according to His will alone but at the will of the Father. Remember He prayed in His humanity:

Mark 14:36, “Father, everything is possible for you. Take away this cup from me; yet not what I will, but what you will.”

 Ultimately it was the understanding that Christ had of the Father’s love that enabled Him to surrender to the death of the cross.

Today many people live unto themselves dominated by selfish pride. This pride, that rules over so many, came to power through a coronation by fear.  Fear, with a mind-set of if I don’t live for self then I may not get what I need or what I want. The selfish and non-trusting orientation of fear keeps the masses divided. Everyone in their own castles unwilling to lower the drawbridge that gives access to their heart. Access is denied not only to fellowmen but at an even greater detriment this access is also denied to God. The pride that has come to power in the hearts of many will not acknowledge any other authority, not even the authority of the Creator. The tyranny of pride empowered by fear will not submit to the authority of God, so the commands of God are dismissed. The commands of God have been replaced with a liberalism that allows for all men to stay in their locked castles to live as they individually see fit, without concern for those beyond their own walls. The masses have been deceived into believing that this selfish isolation is real freedom.

As you can see, this life style is the extreme opposite of what the Savior taught and exemplified. It is by design. There is an evil present in this world that hates God. God is love, truth, and life. This evil promotes hate, deceit, and death through the propagation of fear. Fear triggers the flight response which sends everyone to their isolated castles guarded by pride. When we are divided, we are weak and our civilization falls. Divided we fall. God has given us His commands to unite us. When we all as one people submit to the commands of God we become united and strong and then life thrives. We cannot be united by everyone doing their own thing and living unto themselves. God does not merely want us to exist as in those bumper stickers “COEXIST”. God wants us to thrive in abundant life as a family. That’s why Jesus taught that we should pray “OUR Father”.

The only way to break the power of pride is to eradicate fear, and the only way to eradicate fear is through the power of LOVE. As love destroys fear, faith grows in the place of fear. Faith with its accompaniments of hope and trust will dethrone pride and enthrone Love. When love takes the throne, the gates of the castles are open, and life thrives through true intimate exchange.

It is imperative that as we reflect on the cross of Jesus and that we embrace the dynamic message of His love toward us. Once we truly understand and accept His love, it will make us free from fear through the faith, hope, and trust which works by love. Then tyranny of pride can be overthrown and we find the power to lay down our lives as the Savior did to the will of the Father. As we cease to live every man for himself and every man to himself, then the prayer that Jesus requested of the Father comes to fruition.

John 17:11, “Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me,that they may be one as We are.

A bond formed from many being baptized into the singular life of Jesus Christ through the death of individual living.

Mark 8:34, “When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”

The temporal unity formed through faddish political interest, carnal appetites, socioeconomic status, culture and even race are all vulnerable to the divisive attacks of the powers of darkness. Only the unity forged by the power of God’s spirit will stand. As we reflect on His cross, may we learn what it means to take up our own. If we share in the likeness of His death, we will also partake of the glorious quickening of resurrection power unto new life.

Romans 6:5, “ For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection,”