Pastor Pat Duffin,
High Prairie Christian Centre
Religion! Everyone has an opinion about it; some positive, some not. Some strong, some don’t care. Some well thought out, others lazy or careless.
But, we all have our opinion; which is why religion is one of the big, topical taboos when developing social or business connections. It’s like lighting a match in a paper house. Someone is likely to get burned. This is a religious column, so here is a bold proposition that will likely provoke a reaction.
While Judaism and Christianity, which finds its roots in Judaism, are listed among the world religions, neither is truly a religion in at least one major distinction. Every religion has at its deepest core the efforts of man trying to reach out to connect with the divine through works of religious rules and rituals.
By attempting to live a better life through human ingenuity many hope to earn approval with whatever concept of higher power they hold. They engage in strenuous exercises of body, mind and spirit trying to work their way through to some sort of spiritual “connection”.
While genuinely well-intentioned, they completely miss the mark. They don’t understand that their Creator is already looking for relationship, not effort.
This point was illustrated in the story of Jesus visiting the home of His dear friends, Martha and Mary. Martha was busy in the kitchen fussing over the matters of hospitality while her sister, Mary, sat at Jesus’ feet listening to Him teach. Martha complained to Jesus and requested that He send Mary to help her.
But, Jesus reproved Martha by telling her that Mary had made a better choice and her place at His feet would not be denied to her. [Luke 10:38-42]
Even amongst those who identify themselves as Christians, this is a fundamental problem that has led to all sorts of perversions, disasters, and even wars. The actions of many “Christians” have sadly left a black stain on the name of Christ and His Church because they have confused religion for relationship.
As I study the Bible, I discover the main difference that sets Judaism and Christianity apart from every other religion is that both were initiated by God Himself. The Bible reveals sinful men and their dismal and ineffective efforts to create God in the image of their own imaginations. Rather than seek God on His terms, people tend to seek God on their own terms. This blindness has kept people busy trying everything they can think of to find their way to God. In every case their answer was to devise rules and rituals God never required.
This is by no means a Jewish or ancient problem. We are drowning in efforts to make people better people. Many try psychology, positive thinking, religiosity, spiritual exercises, morals, ethics and codes of conduct, etc.
Recently, I heard a report that in the USA, between national, state, and local governments, 40,000 new laws are created by legislative bodies every year! That does not include all the regulatory codes used to administrate these laws. Man is constantly trying to control people’s behaviour and force us to be better than we are. It just doesn’t work.
In contrast, God wrote basically two laws. Love God. Love your neighbour. [Matthew 22:36-40)
And all these can be summed in one word: love!
Paul wrote in Galatians 5:14, “…all the law is fulfilled in one word, even this, ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.’”
All the law! From Genesis to Revelation can be summed up in one word: “love”.
God is love. [1 John 4:8]
And so, the God of love has taken all that burden off us. [1 John 4:7-10]
And that is why the Gospel is “Good News.”
Yes, we are born bent, corrupt, depraved, wicked, sinful, weak and without hope apart from God’s mercy. Anyone who doubts our sinfulness need only take a brief look at human history. A short personal inventory should also be convincing.
There is nothing we can do in our own power to change our state or our fate. If we rely on our own efforts to be good, we will stand eternally separated and condemned from a Holy God.
But, because a loving God was not willing that any should perish but all should come to eternal life [John 3:14-18], God humbled Himself and stepped down to this earth to bridge the gap between our helpless, willful, sinful selves and Himself. He took the initiative even while we were unwilling. [Romans 5:8; 1 John 4:10]
Religion says, “I must do something to add my part to what Christ has done.” But religion fails to recognize that where is absolutely nothing we can do to add to this precious gift so freely offered through Jesus Christ. Christ died for us, and nothing can add to, or improve His work on the cross. Nothing! It is arrogant to think otherwise!
Some think they must clean themselves up before they can come to God. Nothing could be further from the truth. We come to Christ all mixed up, and He fixes us up.
Therefore, pure Christianity puts no reliance on rules, rituals, traditions, tests of faith or religious compliance. The Gospel is so simple.
Receive God’s love and love Him in return. All the rest then becomes refinement of the new person we become through God’s wonderful work in us.
We then become His workmanship [Ephesians 2:10] and not our own. [2 Corinthians 5:17; John 14:20; 1 John 4:4,16; Philippians 1:6].
Next week: Lay Minister Joseph L’Heureux.