America Must Repent

When I see what’s happened to the United States, it breaks my heart.

We were once a great nation.  We loved God, and God blessed us.  We have never been perfect, but although evil has always existed in our country, most people recognized it as evil, and fought against it.

Today, this has changed.  The majority of Americans no longer follow God.  We not only accept evil, we embrace it.  We embrace greed and materialism.  We embrace abortion and hedonism.  We accept hatred and violence as a means to achieve our ideological goals. We elect evil leaders, and then defend their evil words and actions.

For the most part, the American church no longer stands on the Bible as truth.  Most Christians try to justify sin by ignoring the parts of the Bible that condemn their actions, or by twisting God’s words to mean the opposite of what they actually say.

Because America has turned from God, He is judging us.  We are reaping what we have sown.  9-11, Ferguson, Charlottesville, Obama, Trump, the alt-right and alt-left, anger and hatred, are the direct consequence of our turning from God.  And, unless we repent and turn once again to Jesus Christ as our foundation, things will become progressively worse than they already are.  The United States will collapse from within.

Woe to us, a people who once knew God, but have rejected Him.

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Over the Edge, Plunging Toward Destruction

I used to think that the United States was teetering at the edge of disaster.  I no longer believe this; we’ve deliberately jumped off the edge and are plunging toward destruction at the bottom.

Bush and Obama are not what caused this; they are merely symptoms.  And neither Trump nor Clinton can save us.

The United States was founded on Biblical principles.  For the most part, we followed Jesus Christ and built our values around the Word of God.  Although evil has always existed in America, we knew it was evil, and most of us worked to get rid of the evil.

Today, we’ve mostly rejected Jesus Christ.  We follow whatever we want to follow, and embrace evil as “diversity” or “protecting our rights.”  The American Church, for the most part, embraces behavior that the Bible clearly labels as sin, and claims it’s the only “loving” thing to do.

Although the prophet Isaiah was talking about Israel, he pretty much nails the situation in America today:  “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20).

As it was in Israel, so I believe it will be in the United States:

Therefore, as the fire devours the stubble,
And the flame consumes the chaff,
So their root will be as rottenness,
And their blossom will ascend like dust;
Because they have rejected the law of the Lord of hosts,
And despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.
Therefore the anger of the Lord is aroused against His people;
He has stretched out His hand against them
And stricken them,
And the hills trembled.
Their carcasses as refuse in the midst of the streets.  (Isaiah 5:24-25).

This year’s Presidential election only confirms my belief.  We the people have selected the two most corrupt, evil candidates in American history as our Democratic and Republican nominees.  It doesn’t matter which one is elected; either way, we’re putting an evil person into the highest office in the land.  Many Christians are saying, “Yes, Hillary’s evil, but at least she’s not Trump,” or “Yes, Trump’s evil, but at least he’s not Hillary.”  And they’ll go on to talk about what will happen to the Supreme Court and Congress if their candidate isn’t elected.

I’ve got a news flash for you, Christian:  Either way, we put evil into the White House.  Either way, God is judging us for our lack of faith in Him.  Either way, we are plunging to our destruction.  And either way, nothing will stop the destruction other than repenting, and once again turning to Jesus Christ, rather than trusting in ourselves.

This election is not about whether Trump can save us from Hillary, or Hillary can save us from Trump.  It’s about whether we continue trusting our politicians to save us, or once again turn to Jesus Christ for salvation.

I fear America is about to crash and burn.  Then, out of the rubble, God can make us His people again, if we so choose.

The Sinking Ship

Listing Ship

Once upon a time, a passenger ship struck a reef and tore a hole in its hull.

As the ship began to sink, it listed to the starboard (right) side.  The passengers on the left side were unhappy.  They got rid of the captain, and replaced him with a new captain who turned the ship so that it listed to the port (left) side.

The people on the right side were now unhappy, so they got rid of that captain.  They replaced him with a captain who turned the ship so that in now listed to the right again.

The passengers on the left and the passengers on the right began to argue over whether the ship would sink faster listing to the right, or listing to the left.  Each side would get rid of the opposite-leaning captain, and replace him with one that would turn the ship to their side.  Each time the direction of the ship changed, it listed further and further to either the left or right.  As the ship swung further to the right, then the left, the passengers on each side became angrier and angrier.  Each side became convinced the ship was sinking because it was the other side’s fault.

Eventually the ship sank, not because it was listing, but because everyone ignored the gaping hole in its hull.

The sinking ship is the United States.  And we’re sinking fast.

 

The problem is not that we have swung too far to the liberal left or the conservative right.  The problem is that we have a gaping hole in our foundation that neither side is willing to recognize and address.

The United States was founded on biblical principles.  The Declaration of Independence and Constitution were based on biblical concepts.  Granted, we have never completely followed those principles in actual practice – we did allow slavery and we did exterminate millions of indigenous people, among other things.  Nevertheless, we generally acknowledged right and wrong based on biblical principles, even though we often failed to follow those principles.  Our foundation was based on God’s truth, even if we didn’t always follow the truth.  God blessed us as a nation, because we acknowledged Him.

Somewhere along the way, we began to reject the truth.  Cracks appeared in our foundation, and God’s blessing began to diminish.

We swung to the left under F.D.R. and Truman.  We swung back to the right under Eisenhower.

A little further to the left under Kennedy and Johnson.  Back to the right under Nixon and Ford.

Hard swing left under Carter, with an ever harder swing to the right under Reagan and Bush 1.

Clinton swung us left again, Bush 2 back to the right.

Obama has nearly capsized us to the left.

Now we’re fighting over whether to allow Hillary to push us further left, or whether to have Trump jerk us completely over to the right again.

The problem is, the cracks in our foundation have become gaping holes, and we’re too blind to see it.  And, we’re reaping the consequences.

Americans no longer have a biblical foundation for their worldviews.  Both the left and the right openly defy God.  The left openly mocks biblical truth regarding sex and marriage.  The right has abandoned biblical truth regarding the poor and greed.  Although many on both sides give lip service to God, the vast majority of our leaders and most of the population live as though God is irrelevant.  Because we have rejected God, we are reaping what we have sown.  We are reaping terrorism, racism, hatred, and fear.

America is sinking fast.  Unless we repent and turn back to Jesus Christ, we will destroy ourselves.  We must plug the gaping hole in our national foundation.  It won’t matter if we capsize to the left, or to the right.  The result will be the same.  We will be destroyed, unless we turn back to God before it’s too late.

Who Can Save America?

The United States of America is more divided than at any time I can remember.  We are divided by politics.  We are divided by income.  We are divided by religion.  We are divided by ethnicity.

The current campaigns for the Presidency exemplify this division.   Republican frontrunner Donald Trump has used the most divisive political rhetoric I’ve ever heard, and has drawn protests and threats from many different groups, from far-left liberals to far-right conservatives.  Other candidates are exploiting Trump’s rhetoric to further divide Americans.  It seems that all of the candidates are seeking to divide Americans into “us” versus “them,” although most do it far more subtly than Mr. Trump.  From Bernie Sanders, it’s the “have nots” versus the “haves.”  From Hillary Clinton, it’s women versus men and the white majority versus racial minorities.  From Donald Trump, it’s anyone who disagrees with him versus those who don’t.  And, from Ted Cruz, it’s anyone who supports the Democrats or Trump versus conservatism.  We have candidates who want to make us into a socialist state, who are being sued for fraud, and who are facing possible FBI indictment.  There have been protests, some with violence; threats against candidates’ families; and threats of more violence.

Trump-Protests

America is a mess.  The police have been accused of racially motivated killings.  Police officers have been assassinated.  Protests are becoming more frequent and more violent.  Terrorism and mass murders are becoming common.  The average household is becoming poorer, while the rich are becoming richer.  Abortion, homosexuality, divorce, pornography, and sex outside marriage are widely accepted, and pedophilia, polygamy, and bestiality are gaining acceptance.  Greed and power are considered to be virtues, and caring for others is considered less important than taking care of self.

Who can save America?

Depending on who is asked, the answer varies.  Many point to Trump, Sanders, Clinton, Cruz, or Kasich.  Others point to third-party candidates from the Libertarian, Green, or other parties.  Many point to ideologies, such as conservatism, liberalism, democratic socialism, or libertarianism.  Some point to the government; others point to the free enterprise system.  Others say that no one can save America, that the decline has become too great ever to overcome.

trump-clinton-sanders-cruz

In order to answer the question of who can save America, we need to look at what made America great in the past, and what changed to cause America to decline.

I contend that what made America great in the past was following Biblical principles, and what has caused its decline has been the rejection of those principles.

adultery_BibleThe United States was never a “Christian Nation,” whatever that means.  We were, however, a nation built on Biblical principles.  The Constitution and Bill of Rights were based on the Bible.  The vast majority of Americans were Christians, or, at least had a respect for Christianity and Biblical principles.  The principles found in the Ten Commandments and Sermon on the Mount were the foundation for American ethics and law.   We were never perfect; we allowed slavery, and we tried to exterminate indigenous peoples.  However, the opposition to both was led by Christians who decried the practices on Biblical grounds.  The concepts of individual responsibility and caring for others were both embraced.   And God blessed the United States because of our respect for Him and our commitment to Biblical principles of morality and law.

Americans no longer have this ideological foundation.  By and large, Americans have rejected Biblical principles.  We no longer accept individual responsibility for our actions, nor do we accept our responsibility to help the less fortunate.  God and the Bible are openly mocked; those who hold to Biblical morality are ridiculed and hated.  The laws are changing to permit and encourage sexual immorality, greed, and other ungodly practices, while penalizing those who follow Jesus Christ.  As in the days of the judges of Israel, everyone does what is “right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6).

Even the Church has largely rejected Biblical principles.  We pick and choose those bits of the Bible we like, while ignoring the rest.  Most of mainstream Protestantism and Roman Catholicism did this many years ago, but now, even much of Evangelical Christianity is doing the same.  The goats are leading the sheep (Matthew 25:31-46); we have become the Laodicean church (Revelation 3:14-22).  And God has cursed us (Galatians 1:6-9).

churchconstruction

Because we once respected and largely obeyed God, He blessed us; and because we have now rejected what we once knew to be the truth, God has now removed His blessing.  America is in decline, because we have rejected that which made us great in the first place – God’s blessing for obedience and respect.

Who can save America?  Not Obama, nor Trump, nor Sanders, nor Clinton, nor Cruz or Kasich.  No political leader can save us.  Only Jesus Christ can save America; and He will not save us unless we repent and turn to Him once more.

10 The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing;
He makes the plans of the peoples of no effect.
11 The counsel of the Lord stands forever,
The plans of His heart to all generations.
12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,
The people He has chosen as His own inheritance.
Psalm 33:10-12

 

 

 

Moralistic Therapeutic Deism

Soul SearchingWhile scrolling through my Facebook feed, I came across this web comic by Adam4d.com. The term “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism” was new to me, so I did a bit of digging. What I found was that the concept describes very well what I believed before I came to know Christ.

What is Moralistic Therapeutic Deism?

The term “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism” (or MTD) was coined by American sociologist Christian Smith in his 2005 book Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers. What Smith found was that many if not most self-identified Christian young people he surveyed did not hold to the traditional beliefs of any particular church or denomination, but their theology instead boiled down to a handful of beliefs he dubbed “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism:”

  1. A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.
  2. God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.
  3. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
  4. God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.
  5. Good people go to heaven when they die.

Smith concluded from his research that, when it came to the most fundamental questions of faith and beliefs, most adolescents reacted with, “Whatever.” Yet, they all seemed to have some vague, basic beliefs. Most believe in a moralistic god who wants people to be good; a therapeutic god who wants people to feel good about themselves; and a deistic god who is “out there somewhere” but not especially involved in people’s everyday lives.

Smith primarily identified MTD with youth in American churches, but, from my experience, it’s not just a youth thing. Many of the religious adults I know are Moralistic Therapeutic Deists. Most of so-called “liberal Christianity” is in reality a form of MTD.

Is Moralistic Therapeutic Deism the same as Christianity?

MTDgodMoralistic Therapeutic Deism is just a fancy name for religious humanism. It’s the theology of American liberalism, of Oprah and Joel Osteen. MTD denies fundamental Christian doctrines such as the Trinity, original sin, personal salvation, and Hell. To a Moralistic Therapeutic Deist, the Gospel is about how God loves everyone and wants us to be the good people he created us to be, rather than that “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). It teaches that good people who do good things go to Heaven, rather than that “by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

MTD is not Biblical Christianity. It cannot save a person from Hell. All it does is fools people into feeling good about themselves, without dealing with the reality that each of us is separated from God because of sin – a separation that can only be reconciled by the blood of Jesus Christ.

My personal conversion from Moralistic Therapeutic Deism

I grew up in a liberal denomination. A typical Sunday sermon was little more than a pep talk to go out and be a good person. I believed in God, but God was an impersonal spirit out there somewhere, who created everything good, and wanted everyone to love each other and get along. I cannot remember ever hearing in church that I am a sinner in need of salvation. Hell was a place reserved only for the truly evil people like Hitler if it existed at all. My religious purpose was to be a good person, to feel good about myself, and to help others be good and feel good. This, to me, was what Christianity was all about.

I remember during freshman orientation week in college taking a survey. The survey contained many questions about my political, religious, and social views. Two questions buried among the hundreds on the survey, I remember quite well: Do you consider yourself a Christian? Do you consider yourself a born-again Christian? I answered yes to the first, but no to the second. To me, being a Christian was about being moral, feeling good about myself and others, and belief in God. “Born again” Christians were legalistic nut cases.

In reality, my theology was extremely shallow. I gave very little thought to what I believed, and even less to why I believed it. “All you need is love” pretty much summed up my theology.

My theology (or lack thereof) was shattered by the simple question, “Who is Jesus?”

I realized that if Jesus was just a man, then the cross was nonsense. But, if Jesus is God in the flesh, then the cross was the most important event in history. If Jesus was just a man, then “all you need is love” is a nice sentiment, but nothing more. But, if Jesus is truly God, then “all you need is love” is just flat-out wrong.

I came to realize that my sin separated me from God and that only God in the flesh as Jesus Christ, dying on the cross, could pay the penalty for my sin. I placed my faith and trust in Jesus Christ. I came to realize that, while God does want people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, being good cannot get me into Heaven. My purpose in life isn’t to be happy and make others happy; it’s to know Jesus and point others to Him. God is only distant for people who don’t know Him. For those who are saved, the Holy Spirit lives in us and is intimately involved with every aspect of our lives.

I came to reject MTD and to embrace Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.

Why is any of this important?

“Why is all of this so tragic? Because MTD is not Christianity. It’s not even a version of Christianity.

Moralistic Therapeutic Deism is a false religion created by and for members of the most rich, catered, defensive, politically-correct, over-protected, over-nurtured, over-fed society the world has ever known, and the fact that it uses the name Jesus and various select Christian buzzwords allows it to be passed off as Christianity.

It has nothing to do with biblical Christianity. It’s not in the Bible. Jesus didn’t teach it. Paul wouldn’t recognize it.

And yet it calls itself Christianity and it’s taught every Sunday by pastors in church buildings all over the place.” adam4d.com/mtd/

How many of us have loved ones who subscribe to MTD? How many of our friends think they’re Christians, but aren’t, and are on the path to Hell?

What about yourself? Do you subscribe to the feel-good, do good distant god? Or do you know the God who sent His only begotten Son to die for your sin? Do you believe you’re basically a good person, or a sinner who needs a Savior?

Make sure you know the Truth. There are eternal consequences if you don’t.

The Fence

Once, next to a trail in Yosemite National Park, there was a fence. On the fence was a sign instructing hikers not to cross the fence. On the other side of the fence was the beautiful Merced River. The river’s cool, refreshing waters beckoned visitors to jump in and relax on hot afternoons. However, when park rangers caught people crossing the fence to enjoy the water, they were promptly arrested and jailed.

Hikers began to object to the fence and the oppressive sign forbidding them from fully enjoying the river. They began writing to the park administrator, contacting their senators and house representatives, and protesting at the fence. They argued that the fence was oppressive and discriminatory, and denied citizens their rights. Pro-fence activists argued for the necessity of the fence, claiming the river was dangerous, but were labeled as hateful and likened to slave owners and Nazis. Anti-fence activists demanded that a local pro-fence baker decorate a cake with an anti-fence message and cater an anti-fence rally, and forced the baker out of business for refusing to do so. The media fully supported the fence removal – all except FOX News, which was ridiculed and ignored.

Finally, after several anti-fence activists were arrested for climbing over the fence and jumping into the water, they sued the National Park Service to remove the fence. Eventually, the case went before the Supreme Court, who ruled in a 5-4 vote that the fence was unconstitutional, and the fence was finally removed. Visitors to the park have since been able to fully enjoy the waters of the Merced River in peace, without restriction, ending the reign of the oppressive fence.


Vernal Falls - top

The fence at the top of Vernal Falls

This story isn’t real, but the fence and the river are.

There actually is a fence that separates a trail in Yosemite National Park from the Merced River. There are actual warning signs on the fence telling people not to cross.

On July 19, 2011, three hikers decided to cross the fence to swim in the river. All three died after being swept over the 317-foot high Vernal Falls, just a few yards downstream. They ignored the warnings, and it cost them their lives. You can read the story here.

Sometimes, fences and warning signs are there for our protection, even when we don’t see or understand the danger.

God’s moral law is much like a guardrail with warning signs.

Some people see God’s moral law like a fence designed to keep them from enjoying life. This seems to be especially true when it involves sexual activity. God’s laws forbidding homosexuality, adultery, and other sexual acts, are often seen as outdated and oppressive. The Genesis 2-3 definition of marriage as existing only between one man and one woman – affirmed by Jesus in Matthew 19:4-6 – is assaulted as outmoded, discriminatory, and unjust. Followers of Christ who are vocal about their support of traditional marriage are labeled as homophobes. The Bible is ridiculed as 051112_1732_GayMarriage5.jpga collection of fairytales written by illiterate goat herders back in the Bronze Age. So, people climb right over the fence of God’s moral law to enjoy the waters of whatever sin they choose, ignoring the warning signs in the Bible and the pleas of Christians to repent.

However, in actuality, God’s moral law is more like a guardrail. There is a grave danger in ignoring God’s instructions and warnings. Often, we know the danger is there, but think we can get close without going over the edge. We think we can handle it. Other times, the danger isn’t obvious, and often, we cannot see it at all. We think God’s warning is unnecessary and obsolete. We think God is a mean, old ogre just trying to keep us from the good things in life. So, we ignore the warnings, only to be swept away by our sin and rebellion against Him.

Why does God call homosexuality an abomination?

Why does God say homosexuality is an abomination (Leviticus 18:22, 20:13)? Why does Paul call homosexuality “vile passion,” “unnatural,” and “shameful” (Romans 1:26-27)?

In all honesty, I don’t completely know why God warns us that homosexuality is wrong and dangerous. God doesn’t always explain Himself to us. A parent sometimes doesn’t explain to a young child why they shouldn’t do dangerous things, they simple tell them not to do it. A warning sign on a fence sometimes doesn’t go into any explanation; it simply says, “DANGER.” The fact that God put up a warning sign telling us that homosexuality is dangerous is enough for me to believe it. The omniscient God knows better than I do what dangers exist outside my frame of reference.

Although God could have left us completely in the dark regarding homosexuality, He didn’t. The best answer I have found in the Bible is in Ephesians 5:

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

According to this passage, marriage was designed by God to be a picture of the relationship between Christ and the Church. In a Christ-centered marriage, the husband is to love only his wife, unconditionally and completely, just as Christ loves the Church. The wife is to forsake all others, and commit herself completely to her husband, as followers of Christ are to commit themselves completely and solely to Christ. To alter the definition of marriage is to blaspheme the relationship between Christ and the Church. Homosexuality and gay marriage are essentially telling Jesus Christ that His love for us isn’t good enough, that we are looking outside of Him for purpose and completeness. This is idolatry and blasphemy, and that’s why God is so offended by it.

What does all this mean to me as a follower of Jesus?

Vernal Falls from another angle

Vernal Falls from another angle

One of the arguments I keep hearing is that as a heterosexual married Christian, the gay marriage issue doesn’t affect me at all, so I should just keep out of it. Yes, it’s true that the legalization of gay marriage won’t change my marriage in the slightest. True, but irrelevant. Someone jumping over a guardrail to play in a river just upstream from a 317-foot high waterfall doesn’t affect the hiker who stays on the correct side of the fence, but that doesn’t mean the hiker shouldn’t do everything in his power to convince the person in the river to get out.

As a follower of Jesus Christ, I know the Bible is true. The Bible clearly warns that homosexuality is sin, and that marriage is between one man and one woman. It also warns that disregarding God’s law leads to eternal separation from God in a place of eternal suffering called Hell. Love demands that I warn people what God has said. Love demands that I cannot support the legalization and acceptance of something that God finds completely offensive.

I’m sorry most people can’t see it, but gay marriage has nothing to do with Godly love. It has everything to do with defying God. God said no, and people have said yes. Defying God is like jumping over a guardrail into a raging river above a plunging waterfall. It means certain catastrophe. Love demands that I try to convince people to flee from the danger, into the arms of the loving God who gave His only Son to save us from our stupidity and sin.

I guess that’s what it all comes down to. People will either take God at His word, or they won’t. It’s been that way since the serpent deceived Eve. However, Love demands that followers of Christ warn others about the reality of sin.

Comments are welcome, as long as they are civil.

Is Christianity a Religion?

Several weeks ago, I asked the question, “Is Atheism a Religion?” My conclusion was that “Atheism is not a religion, per se, but almost all Atheists practice a non-theistic kind of religion. Atheist religion is generally not an institutionalized system or organization, but usually more of a personal set of non-theistic religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices.”

Today I will tackle the question of whether Christianity is a religion. It is my contention that there are, in fact, two distinct forms of Christianity: one form that is a religion, not different from any other religion, and another that is much more than just a religion.

What is religion?

In order to answer the question, it is necessary to first define exactly what religion is.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, religion is:

1 a :  the state of a religious <a nun in her 20th year of religion>

b (1) :  the service and worship of God or the supernatural (2) :  commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance

2 :  a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices

3 archaic :  scrupulous conformity :  conscientiousness

4 :  a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith

In my discussion of Atheism, I identified 8 common traits of religions:

  1. Religions have narratives or texts.
  2. Religions have doctrines.
  3. Religions have faith.
  4. Religion is a source of purpose and meaning.
  5. Religions have rituals.
  6. Religions use symbols.
  7. Religion provides social construct.
  8. Religions proselytize.

Religion is both a set of beliefs about God and a set of practices based on those beliefs. The more religious a person is, the more fervently the set of beliefs and practices is followed.

Two kinds of Christianity

Here we come to the crux of the question: Is Christianity a religion, or is it something more?

I contend that there are, in fact, two distinct kinds of Christianity. There is a form of Christianity that is clearly religion. Catholicism, Evangelicalism, Protestantism, and Fundamentalism are all religions. They are all sets of beliefs with accompanying behaviors and practices. Even Christians who are not a part of any organized church or denomination ultimately have a religion. They have a personal set of beliefs and practices.

There is another form of Christianity, however, that goes far beyond the definition of a religion. Consider this passage from the tenth chapter of the Gospel of John:

22 Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter. 23 And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon’s porch. 24 Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, “How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.”

25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me. 26 But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. 27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. 30 I and My Father are one.”

Verse 27 emphasizes the relationship between Jesus and His followers:

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.”

This goes beyond simply knowing about Jesus; a true follower of Jesus Christ actually knows Him.

I know a lot about the President of the United States. I see him on television and in my Facebook newsfeed nearly every day. I know what he says, and who he is. However, I cannot say I know him. We’ve never even met in person, and even if we had, he wouldn’t remember me from any of the hundreds of thousands of other people he’s met. Compare that to the relationship I have with my wife and kids. I live with them, and I talk with them regularly. I actually know them quite well, and they know me quite well. We have individual, close connections .

So it is with those who truly follow Jesus. We don’t just know about Jesus, we know Him personally. He knows us personally. We don’t just follow a religion; we follow a person that we have actually met, with whom we have a personal relationship.

Consider also these verses from Matthew 7:

21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

Notice that it isn’t the religious people that enter heaven – it’s those who do the will of the Father and whom Jesus knows. What is the “will of the Father?” In the context of the passage, it’s certainly not being religious. Jesus repeatedly saves his harshest criticism for the most religious people in His culture. The will of God is that people would know Him.

How are the two kinds of Christianity different from each other?

Let me give my answer from personal experience. I grew up as a religious Christian. I was in a church service nearly every Sunday. My entire family was active in the church; my dad sang in the choir, and my mom was the Sunday KnowtheAuthorSchool Superintendent. I was active in the youth group – president, my senior year – and went to church camp every summer. I knew a lot about the Bible, God, and Jesus. I participated in fundraisers to help the poor, vacation Bible school, and Bible study classes. Although I knew I did some bad things, I believed my goodness outweighed the bad. I believed, God is love; he accepts us as we are, warts and all.

However, as a college freshman, I realized that this wasn’t enough. Although I knew a lot about Jesus, I didn’t know Jesus. And, though I was mostly a good person, I still sinned, and sin separates us from God – it prevents us from knowing Him. I discovered that God is not only a God of love, He is also the God of holiness, justice, and truth. It was then that I changed from the first kind of religious Christianity to the second kind – relationship Christianity. I repented of my sin, and from trying to earn my way to Heaven. I acknowledged that Jesus is God; that He died for my sin, and rose again. And I committed my life to follow Him. God then did an amazing thing. He forgave my sin, and He restored my relationship with Him. The Holy Spirit tool up residence in my heart (2 Corinthians 1:22). I now not only knew about Jesus – I actually came to know Him in a personal way.

This is the difference between the two kinds of Christianity: The first is a religion, no different from any other religion. It has a holy book, doctrine, faith, rituals, and symbols, like any other religion. Religious Christianity provides social construct and purpose and meaning, as do all religions. Faithful religious Christians proselytize, as do the faithful from all other religions. And, like all other religions, religious Christianity does nothing to restore the relationship with God that has been lost because of human sin. It acknowledges that Jesus paid the penalty for sin on the cross, but does nothing to activate that forgiveness in anyone’s life. It’s sort of like starving to death while looking at a table full of food. Food does no good, unless one actually ingests it. That’s what relationship Christianity is all about: ingesting and applying the forgiveness offered by Jesus Christ, and beginning a relationship with Him. Yes, those who have a relationship with Jesus also have the Bible, doctrine, and faith. Yes, our relationship with Jesus is the source of our social construct, purpose, and meaning. We proselytize, and although for many of us, rituals and symbols aren’t especially important, we still have them. The key difference is that these things aren’t the foundation – our relationship with Jesus is the foundation.

RelationshipnotreligionIs Christianity a religion? It depends on which kind of Christianity being discussed. It has been claimed that, “Christianity isn’t a religion – it’s a relationship.” I only partially agree with this. A better way of stating this would be, “True Christianity isn’t just a religion – it’s a relationship.” Much of what people know as Christianity is a religion, and is ultimately no different from any other religion. It makes people feel good, and act a certain way, but cannot restore a relationship with God. The other kind of Christianity is a relationship with God, through the blood of Jesus Christ. This second kind of Christianity still has most of the marks of religion, but is much, much more than just a religion. Religious Christianity is based on trying to make one’s self acceptable to God, which cannot be done, and ultimately leads to death and Hell. Relationship Christianity is based on what Jesus did, not what we do. We become acceptable before God because Jesus took our sin on Himself. Relationship Christianity restores our connection with our Creator, and leads to eternal life, not Hell.

Application

What difference does this make? It makes all the difference in the world! If you are a religious Christian – you have the doctrine, faith, rituals, and symbols, etc., but you don’t know Jesus personally – your sins are not forgiven, and you have not had your relationship with God restored. You are headed for Hell. You need to repent of your religiosity, acknowledge that you cannot make yourself acceptable to God, and receive forgiveness and restoration through Jesus Christ. Head knowledge is not the same as a relationship. Religion makes people feel good, but leads to Hell. Stop having faith in religion, and place your faith and trust in Jesus Christ. If you profess another religion, or no religion at all, you also need Jesus. You may have a wonderful life, but in the end, you will spend eternity separated from God in Hell, unless you turn to Jesus.

jesus_talkingIf you know Jesus already, you probably already understand this distinction. Make sure you keep your heart and mind focused on Jesus, not on all the religious stuff that accompanies faith in Jesus. Sure, the “religious” stuff, like reading your Bible, trying to do what is right, giving to the poor, and regularly attending corporate worship are important, they are no substitute for developing your relationship with Jesus. When you share your faith in Jesus with others, they will often think Christianity is no different from any other religion. In a sense, they are right – most of what they have seen is the religious Christianity, not relationship Christianity. Make the distinction between Christianity the religion and Christianity the relationship. Both exist, but only one leads to eternal life.

One final thought: the two kinds of Christianity are usually mixed together in any given church or denomination. That is, in most solid, Bible-believing churches, there are some that don’t actually know Jesus, along with those that do. There are also Christians who truly know Jesus in some very religious churches. Knowing Jesus isn’t a matter of whether one belongs to the right or wrong denomination or church.

If you want to know more about knowing Jesus, leave a comment, or send me a message. I’d love to tell you more.