Why Yes, I Am Religious

15 Jan

It is good for Christians to be religious.  In fact, followers of Jesus Christ cannot help but be religious.  And, at the same time, people who claim to be religious, but do not have faith in the one true God and His Son, Jesus Christ, are walking absurdities.

So, let me explain to you why I’m religious:

Religion consists of the external acts that flow forth from an internal faith in the Triune God.  Consider James 1:27:

“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”

The word religion here is thrēskeia, meaning religious worship consisting especially of external ceremonies or disciplines.  Thus, in the case of James 1:27, the external actions are visiting orphans and widows, as well as keeping oneself unstained from the world.

In much the same way, the Israelite’s religion manifested itself in specific acts and forms for their sacrifices and temple worship.  Likewise, Jesus’ commands to make disciples, to baptize, and teach, as well as Paul’s instructions on orderly worship and communion form aspects of Christian religion.

So, when I go to the church building, and worship in song, prayer, and the preaching of the Word, I am being religious in the right sense of the word.  The external actions–the ceremonies and disciplines–I perform flow out from the internal, Spirit-wrought faith within me.  Because I repent and believe in Jesus Christ as Redeemer and King, I cannot help but be religious.  It is the natural response to coming into such a relationship with God.

The thing that must be remembered though, is that religion can only exist within that kind of context.  Any form of religion that springs from any other fount (or lack thereof) is not only false, but ontologically absurd.  Consider Colossians 2:23:

“These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.”

The word “these” in this verse refers to asceticism, the worship of angels, detailed visions and other activities of some people in Colossae.  Paul is writing to encourage and admonish the church, explaining that such things are of no value because they are merely elements of self-made religion (ethelothrēskia).  They are arbitrary practices and ceremonies which appear to be genuine and good, but are in fact false and absurd.  And why?  Paul explains this in verse 19:

“[they are not] holding fast to the Head, from who the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.”

The reason that any form of religion, besides that of true followers of Christ, is false and absurd is because it has no source.  There is nothing that gives life to it, or a purpose for it. Like the man who wakes up and declares that the world is his, religion that is not rooted in faith in the Triune God is insane. In fact, the word itself should not even be used; its an oxymoron (external actions cannot flow forth from internal nothingness).

True religion can only flow out from God by means of faith in Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit. This kind of religion manifests itself in beautiful songs, powerful preaching, selfless service, acts of love and kindness, and counterintuitive mercy and grace.  So yes, I am religious, and if you have been graciously redeemed by Christ, you probably are too (and that’s okay).  And if you have not repented and believed in Christ, I pray that you would receive the true Redeemer and King, and stop practicing your “religion”.

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