Dr. Mike Murphy
“All religions are the same”
“Any religion can get you to heaven”
“Every religion worships the same god”
We have all heard these statements over and over. We hear many discard and diminish religion, telling us that religion has no place in society. We hear many claim that religion is just a way to control men, to manipulate the world in a direction that religion wants it to move. We hear many tell us that this world has moved beyond religion, no longer in need of religion’s gods. And we hear many tell us that religion is restricting us, prohibiting this earth from becoming all it can be. I have news that may shock you, I firmly agree with the many.
I am a man of strong Christian faith. I believe that Christ was exactly who He said He was. I believe every word of the Bible. And I believe that the Lord God was the One who set this world into motion, and He alone is in control of this world today. So you may ask yourself, how can I believe this and agree with the one’s I mentioned above? I can do so because of one statement. I just as firmly believe that Christianity is not a religion.
I once heard religion best defined as a belief or set of codes that qualifies and disqualifies an individual based on how well they follow those codes, and how they act in performance with those codes. That definition just about sums religion up. Religion has so often provided man a way to maintain and abuse the power some have over others. Religion has always been created by man, and has never been the intent of God. Religion opens the door to change the codes or “requirements” as it goes, requirements that can be changed or manipulated in order for the few to gain more power.
Every religion is built upon the concepts of men. Concepts that teach man how he can reach a higher state through his efforts to follow the requirements the religion sets forth. Requirements where the masses never see the benefit, only the “high power” and those in a position of power do.
When we look closely at Christianity, we soon see that it is far from a religion. Christianity is a relationship. A relationship between God and man. In Christianity, God created a way for man to not only see the benefits, but to have his life touched by the benefits(Romans 8:3).
In Christianity, God created a way for man to receive what man was incapable of ever doing for himself(2 Corinthians 5:21).
In Christianity, God gave man the most precious of gifts(Romans 6:3), a gift we did not earn and did not deserve.
In Christianity, God took the weight of the world on His own shoulders, so that man would be free of the restrictions that sin has over us(Ephesians 2:8-9).
In Christianity, God gave man what no code could ever give him, what no requirement could ever bring him. He gave man grace.
The easiest way to describe the difference between Christianity and every religion of this world, is to simply look at “Who’s” hands are reaching. In every religion, we see man reaching up to God, trying to find a work-like way he can hope to gain access to God. In Christianity, we see God reaching down to man, looking to lovingly bring man forever into His presence.
To best see this, we need look no farther than at Christ Himself. While Christ was walking with us on this earth, there was nothing He spoke out more against than religion. We often see Him calling the religious leaders “hypocrites”, telling them they followed a religion, not God. An example of this can be seen in one of the Ten Commandments, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.”(Exodus 20:8). In His day, the Pharisees had so added to what God had given us, that the commandment itself had become impossible to follow.
They had proclaimed that you could not enter a field on the Sabbath. In doing so, your foot might accidentally hit a crop, thus causing it to be harvested. Harvesting was considered work, thus you would have worked on the Sabbath. You could not spit on the ground on the Sabbath, because the saliva from your mouth might mix with the dirt forming mud, mud being a form of mortar. Again, causing you to work and to violate the commandment of God. They even became angered at Christ because He healed a blind man on a Sabbath, claiming that the man’s healing was a form of labor(John 9:13-17).
In other words, God violated His own commandment by healing a man on the day He sat aside as holy. This is how outlandish their religion had led them!
Christ could not stand this, and showed the religious leaders just how ridiculous their actions were each time He got a chance. He saw the Pharisees using the people for their own benefit, so they could control the people and their actions. And He knew that with each new restriction, they were destroying the people’s relationship with God. They had made God’s relationship with His people nothing more than a scientific formula. Telling them they needed to add three of these, and to avoid two of these in order to get the equation right. The Pharisees had lost the whole reason God gave us the Ten commandments in the first place. Forgetting that He gave them to us out of love!
Look closely at each Commandment(Exodus 20:1-17). Each one shows us how we can strengthen our relationship with the people around us, and how we can strengthen the relationship we have with God! The Commandment on the Sabbath does this also. It gives us a time for rest, so we can spend that time with those we have a relationship with, and so we can spend that time with the Lord, who is always looking to spend time with each of us. God knew that for a relationship to work, it required us to spend time in it. Devoting time to it.
God so desired to have a strong relationship with us, that He included that time in his Commandments. Giving us the time to help that relationship grow, and for the love that would come out of that relationship to flow. No religion can ever do this for you, only a relationship with God can!
The Law(The Ten Commandments) is a perfect example of the difference between a religion and a relationship. In the Law, we see the love that God has for us. The Law was never meant to be a scientific formula for us to live by. The Law was a way to help us build a relationship. A relationship with those around us, and the Lord above us. But as the Pharisees got their hands on the Law, we see the destruction that religion brings to us. We see the restrictions that religion places on us. Restrictions we can never live by, restrictions we can never live up to.
Religion is man’s attempt to reach up to God. Christianity, is a relationship where God is reaching down to us. The grace and mercy that Christ brought to this world is the thorn that sticks in religion’s side. Religion perverts God’s love and it seeks to destroy the relationship Christ came to bring us. Religion lives by its’ own rules, rules that no relationship can ever survive. Religion is about what work man must do to make himself right in the eyes of God.
Christianity is about what the Lord has already done to make us right in His eyes. Religion enslaves you, binding you to the codes it sets forth. Christianity frees you, from the hold that sin has over you. Religion says you must find a way to earn your salvation. Christianity says that salvation is a gift, one Christ came to freely give. Religion ask more from you that you can ever give. Christianity offers more to you than you will ever need!
The difference between religion and Christianity is greater than any structure could ever bridge. Christianity does not come with a checklist, only an invitation. Believe that Christ died for your sins, and accept him as your Savior. That is it, it is really that simple! Christ came so you could have a relationship with Him. A relationship that is not empty of religion’s promises, but a relationship that is filled with God’s love.
Christianity is not a religion, it is a relationship. A relationship that brings us into the family of God. And what a family we join when we say yes to the relationship Christ offers! A family with the power to answer every question this world will never have the answer to. A family that offers you unconditional love, not the restrictions that comes with the false hope religion offers. A family that will always be there right beside you, and longs to spend an eternity with you!
So next time someone ask you what religion you belong to, let them know you do not belong to a religion. Tell them that you do not allow any religion to control you. Tell them that you do not follow or believe one word that a single religion has to offer you. Tell them you belong to a family, and that you have a relationship with Christ.
A relationship that gives you all the love you will ever need! A relationship filled with a greater love than any religion will ever know!
Praying each of you have a relationship with God!