How Jesus Used Religion to Destroy the Power of Religion



You think my title a little strange or odd? Please do not judge this article until you have read it right the way through and then I am confident that you, the reader, will discover that this is indeed biblical teaching, but perhaps explained in a slightly different manner. Intrigued? Read on.....


The truth is that the Lord God never offered Adam and Eve a religion, but a close walk with Him. In like manner, Jesus never came to offer an alternative religion; on the contrary, He came amid great religious confusion to offer an antidote to all human religions: The Way of Truth!


"Religions pass away, but God remains..." Victor Hugo.


Defining “Religion” – Is It Even Possible?

It is a well-known fact that it is notoriously difficult to define religion. Religion, after all, does not have to be any part of the world's major recognised religions. Many people worship within cults and sects, many of them quite small and obscure. Others even worship within paganism choosing to reverence Satan himself and, we are told, there are even “white witches” and black witches.”
But religion does not even necessarily recognise any superior being, Buddhism, for instance, appears to be almost atheistic and yet it recognises a purpose and a pattern within existence and is, therefore, presumably not entirely atheistic. Moreover, some movements which are plainly religious in many senses of the word worship Man himself! Many New Age groups see men and women as gods who do not need to be answerable to any superior deity. But political movements and political and 'human potential' type groups and cults must also be added to this mix. To take just one major political movement, I once heard it claimed that Marxism fulfils 12 out of 14 of the characteristics of a religion, and I think that this is probably about right (although nobody should believe that it is always easy to even decide upon what the top characteristics of religious belief are).
Without question the faithful devotion of Darwinists and Neo-Darwinists even in the face of a huge amount of evidence from several differing sources which reveal that macro-evolution can now virtually be ruled out as a viable explanation for the origin of the human race, must also be considered to be a religious devotion. Darwinism is not anti-religious (as it claims to be), it just amounts to a very fallible man, Charles Darwin, being reverenced instead of a more usual supernatural deity.

Then there is the unswerving dedication of many thousands of sports fans to a particular club, be it a football club or any other kind. There is no doubt that much of this has a real devotional and religious fervour! Here in the UK we have fans of Manchester United and Arsenal football clubs who not only adorn their homes in their team's colours but have even named their children after their team's greatest players – that, without doubt - is religious veneration and devotion!

C.S Lewis once said that God is the fuel which men and women were really designed to run upon, and if the correct fuel is not available, then men and women will always put other things 'in the tank' – they have to, just the way we were designed. G.K. Chesterton said something very similar. He said that the danger of a society giving up belief in God is not that they will then believe in nothing, but, rather, that they will then tend to believe in - everything! Being substantially cut off from God during the present age, men and women adopt religion (in a thousand forms) because of that spiritual emptiness within our souls. But human religion comes from Satan, not from God and the Great Adversary was not slow to jump in to fill the void with religions of all colours and levels of complexity – a religion for every taste! And yet, it is sometimes forgotten that Adam and Eve were never originally offered a religion by God, they were offered an eternal relationship with the Creator God, as symbolised by the Tree of Life. If the first couple had made the right choice in Eden, then they and all their children would have (at least theoretically) embarked upon an eternal walk by the very side of the Creator God – 'religion' would not even have been required!



God Later Gave Israel a 'Religion.' But Why?

As we we all know, Mankind rejected God and so human religions spread right across the world. Of course, many of these (certainly not all of them), have elements of divine truth within them, but always mixed with erroneous elements. And yet we cannot deny that God Himself eventually gave a religion to His people Israel. That religion is often referred to as the Old Covenant. Nobody can deny (although a few have tried) that the Old Covenant amounted to a religion. 'Continuous covenant' teachers have bent over backwards in a hopeless attempt to maintain that both Old and New covenants are grace systems with very little difference; they are, of course, completely wrong and very poor students of the Holy Bible. Old Covenant Law was a substantial and totally pervasive system, it affected every area of the Israelites lives – although especially every area of the lives of the priests whose role it was to administer the system. Just in case any of us are in any doubt that this was indeed a religious system, God has ordained that the Torah can be located in all of our Holy Bibles. What is the “Torah”? Specifically, it refers to the five books which make up the beginning of the Tanakah (the Hebrew Bible), that is: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. In a more general sense, the term is sometimes used to simply indicate the entire body of Jewish law and culture, including the Tanakah, the Midrash and the Talmud. In that sense, the Torah gives the history of the world and of the people of Israel in special detail, as well as many details of the 613 laws passed down to them in the Old Covenant Levitical Legal system. Of course, Genesis is interesting in this regard because although it is clearly part of the Torah and relates events right from Creation to the calling of Abraham and beyond, strictly speaking it is pre-Old Covenant, for the Old Covenant legal system does not actually arrive until Exodus and the delivering of the Ten Commandments.

Old Covenant 'Law' contains countless required observances. It is, indeed, a huge system of which the well-known Ten Commandments is but a small part. The observances and duties were moral, ceremonial and legal. Israel truly lived under a theocracy – that is, government by God! Yes, our theological approaches frequently separate elements of this Law so that we may study it more closely, but we should make no mistake that it was one system – including the Ten Commandments (sincere though they undoubtedly are, when fundamentalists, especially those of a Calvinist hue, set up 'The Ten Commandments' as a supreme Christian duty they are technically incorrect. Those commandments don't go far enough and a truly spiritual walk with Christ can never be summarized by ten or so 'do's' and 'dont's' – as Jesus made abundantly clear in the sermon on the mount – Matthew 5-7. Technically speaking, the Ten Commandments are part of the Torah – not part of the 'law of Christ' or part of the New Covenant revelation).

So the Old Covenant contained laws about many things. It contained laws about ritual purifyings, it contained laws about disease protection – especially regarding leprosy, it contained laws about more general hygiene, it contained laws about how long menstruating women were to be regarded as 'unclean,' it contained laws about how animal offerings and sacrifices were to be conducted - mainly by the priests, it contained laws about ownership of land and about the solving of disputes involved in that, it contained laws about kidnapping, theft, adultery, murder and fornication, it contained laws banning liars, frauds, rebels, witches, alcoholics and male and female prostitutes. It also contained laws stating precisely how the Lord should be worshipped – nothing half-hearted or sloppy would be acceptable. The death penalty was in place and this was applied across quite a broad area, it was a state-wide system – it applied to all of Israel – no exceptions; it was one, complete and fully comprehensive legal, administrative, financial and ethical system. A truly divine plan, but laid down for one nation alone. The system was to be financed by 'the giving of a tenth' by the people – at least, that was the principle, because there is considerable evidence that the Israelites were very patchy in this observance and, indeed, very patchy in their observance of numerous other of these laws! But – truth is - God planned this to be an oppressive legal system; I repeat: God planned this to be an oppresive legal system. He wanted the Israelites to learn certain things and – through their example – He wanted you and I to learn certain things in our day. Of course, we all know that the Israelites failed dismally in their attempts to live within their system. They turned away from God and eventually turned to idolatry. For this, the Lord allowed them to be taken into captivity.



The Law Could Never be an End in Itself

A few seem to believe that this huge legalistic system was God's ideal choice of how He would have every nation of all time, and in every place, live. There are several ways in which we can see that this is incorrect, but that might amount to a separate article within itself. These people almost seem to think that God offered salvation through Old Covenant law; of course He didn't, and they are completely wrong. Unfortunately, I would have to say that, in my experience, many of these people are pretty much disinterested in the Bible as one large, single document containing both Old and New Testaments – 98% of their enthusiasm appears to be reserved for the Old Testament alone. Neither do they seem to recognise that revelation is progressive. But we do not need to worry about that because these people are plainly not correct: There is nothing hazy, gray or peripheral about this matter at all – the Scriptures are more than clear enough.

Some commentators have expressed amazement that when Isaiah commenced his prophetic ministry from about 740 BC, a few hundred years after Moses received the Old Covenant at Mount Sinai, he quotes the Lord as saying that He hated His law (because of the Israelite's abuse of it). Isaiah commenced his warnings about twenty years before northern Israel finally went into captivity (Judah followed around 120 years later),

'”The multitude of your sacrifices – what are they to Me?” says the LORD. “I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.....stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incest is detestable to Me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations – I cannot bear your evil assemblies. Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts my soul hates....”' (Isaiah 1:11-14, NIV).

Elements of God's own law had become a stench in His own nostrils because of the hypocrisy of many of the Israelites. They were often legalistic about “the law” even when treating orphans and widows badly and having little conception of justice - they were just not able to see how important righteousness and justice are to God! (Isaiah 1:16-17). So we begin to see that a pervasive legal system was never intended to be an end in itself. Through Isaiah, the Lord shows us that it is what the law pointed to which is the all-important thing. If the heart and soul of the matter is wrong, then no amount of accurate 'by the letter' observance could ever please God. It seems that God could only ever fully reveal the Spirit and highlight the beauty of the complete magnification of the law – that is, fully revealing its true spiritual meaning – in a situation in which people had overly-focused on a purely mechanical observance. God knew the Israelites would fail, of course, and He would use their miserable failure to highlight and to provide a stunning and almost blindingly bright contrast in the anti-religious divine grace of calling and election in Jesus Christ!

'For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man' (Romans 8:3, NIV).



Mount Sinai Failings Highlighted

We need to understand that religion is about works, traditions and requirements in order to gain the favour of God, but Jesus shows us that we could NEVER gain divine favour in that way, but rather, that God had to come down to us! (Romans 8:3; Titus 2:11-14; Hebrews 1:1-3 etc.). Yes, Jesus shows us, and this is greatly elaborated and clarified throughout all the New Testament writings.

So it might be said that Jesus actually used the Old Covenant to underline the final failure of all works-based religions.

Oh yes, it remains the case that the Old Covenant was a good and truly divine law but it was inadequate and would prove to be embarrassed by the glorious splendour of the light of Christ! Of course, Moses himself prophesied of the Christ to come, though without question, having little conception of all that the New Covenant would entail.

The theology of the New Testament repeatedly shows that there was no salvation to be had under Moses but that the laws true purpose was to point us to the need for Christ! It's almost as though God pondered in the following fashion,

'Human beings seek justification by works in numerous religions right across the world, but they only seek to please and satisfy false gods, knowing almost nothing of Me. Okay, if they love religion so much I will give them the most demanding religious system of all time, only this one will point to Me. This religion will be strictly based on Law and it will finally demonstrate to My people that no amount of religious requirements can ever make sinning human beings acceptable to Me. It will be a Holy law since it comes from Me, but I will allow this holy law to fail, since it will only enlarge and magnify the presence of human sin even more (Romans 7:7-13) and show people that without My Son – Whom I Am sending – salvation would have been completely impossible. This law will thus demonstrate the uselessness of all human religion whilst outlining the need of the God-Man, Rescuer and Saviour Jesus Christ!'

'For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.' (John 1:17, NIV).

Notice Paul's highlighting of the shortcomings of “the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones” in 2 Corinthians 3. Paul states,

'For if what is passing away (the Old Covenant) was glorious, what remains (the New Covenant) is much more glorious.' (2 Corinthians 3:11, NKJV, my bracketed inclusions).

Paul also comments on the fact that followers of Moses continue to wear the veil with which Moses covered his face when they read the Old Testament, only that veil now covers their hearts, not their faces.

'Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.' (2 Corinthians 3:16-17, NKJV).

Yes, there is liberty in Christ which simply was not available under the law, only we must use that liberty to serve Christ and our fellow men, not to sin. The law was as our schoolmaster, or 'child tutor,' to lead us to, and to show us how much we need Christ. By looking closely at the law we plainly see (as we would be unable to see in quite the same clarity in any other way), that without our rescuer and Saviour Jesus Christ, we could never be saved. The law shows us that - without Christ - we face eternal death!

The law unceremoniously rubbed the Israelite's noses in the fact of the reality that humanly, it is impossible not to sin!! Human sin is inevitable (Romans 3:23) and yet the penalty for that is eternal death (Romans 6:23). But the good news is that Christ has offered Himself as a sin offering for all of Mankind (not just for a small group, by the way, that is unscriptural). Please ensure that you carefully read Romans 3:19-26 and Galatians 3:19-29.

Paul compares the Christian's position with regard to the law with a woman whose first husband has died (Romans 7:1-6). Paul states,

'But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.' (Romans 7:6, NIV).

So the Church is now as a widowed woman. Our first husband was the law. The sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus Christ brought that to an end. Our Second husband is the risen Christ!



Just What is Religion?

The Religious Tolerance.Org website offers some quotes of the famous on defining religion:

'Dr. Irving Hexham of the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada, has assembled a list of definitions of religion from various authors and theologians. A few are:
William James: "the belief that there is an unseen order, and that our supreme good lies in harmoniously adjusting ourselves thereto."
Alfred North Whitehead: "what the individual does with his own solitariness."
George Hegel: "the knowledge possessed by the finite mind of its nature as absolute mind."

In 1995, subscribers to the newsgroup "alt.memetics" attempted to define religion.
Scott Hatfield: Religion is "a behaviour, process or structure whose orientation is at least partially supernatural."
One subscriber quoted H.L. Menken's "Religions...single function is to give man access to the powers which seem to control his destiny, and its single purpose is to induce those powers to be friendly to him."
Jerry Moyer: "Religion is a system of beliefs by which a people reduce anxiety over natural phenomena through some means of explication." He also cited a quotation from the writings of Paul Tillich: "Religious is the state of being grasped by an ultimate concern"
Clifford Geertz defined religion as a cultural system: "A religion is a system of symbols which acts to establish powerful, pervasive, and long-lasting moods and motivations in men by formulating conceptions of a general order of existence and clothing these conceptions with such an aura of factuality that the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic."
Joel Elliott, has published a slide set on "Defining Religion," which cites:
B. Malinowski: "relieves anxiety and enhances social integration."
Robert Bellah: "a set of symbolic forms and acts that relate man to the ultimate conditions of his existence."
David Carpenter has collected and published a list of definitions of religion, including:
Anthony Wallace: "a set of rituals, rationalized by myth, which mobilizes supernatural powers for the purpose of achieving or preventing transformations of state in man or nature."
Hall, Pilgrim, and Cavanagh: "Religion is the varied, symbolic expression of, and appropriate response to that which people deliberately affirm as being of unrestricted value for them."
Karl Marx: "Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people."'

Being Clear About Religion and Religious Tendencies

Now we know that many of the Pharisees thought that a showy, ritualistic and visible justification by works religion was important. Jesus constantly chided them about this:

'”...the scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, (while Jesus still lived, the Old Covenant still had force over Jews) but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments...”' (Matthew 23:2-5, my bracketed comment)

Jesus was talking about the love of religion shown by many of the Jewish religious authorities of His day, but religion would have no place under the coming New Covenant; God did not intend to add yet another religion through the gospel of Jesus Christ. However, as we all know, within 500 years of Christ's resurrection, Christianity simply became the latest human religion. Of course, God did understand the inevitability of this and this religion did at least have the Name of Christ – and there is indeed salvation in that Name – and in no other!

So what are some of the comparisons which one might make between Religion and True Christianity?

Well, here are just a few:

James perfectly summed up what any “religion” needed to accomplish to have any worth in God's sight:

'Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.' (James 1:27, NIV).

Notice how James totally rejects the show, trappings and ostentation of worldly religion reducing it to the Christian love and refusal to get drawn into worldly compromises which is so important in the sight of God. Jesus and James obviously had a problem with religious uniforms, badges and trappings of importance, and so do I. A few years ago a lady asked me if I was looking forward to being called “reverend” when completing my theology degree. I told her in no uncertain terms that I never intended to take the title of 'reverend' under any circumstances, saying, “Mr Brace is good enough for me.” I can still recall the shocked and slightly disapproving look on her face!

William Law is an interesting writer. Law lived in an age in which he noted fiery Protestants congratulating themselves on their walk with God and pouring disdain on Roman Catholicism for its errors. Yet Law noted that the former did not truly live more holy lives; Protestant clerics appeared to enjoy bathing in such self-congratulation because of a pride in doctrinal knowledge, rather than because of a closer walk with Christ. Law wrote this:
"...Now the reason why no Work of Religion, but that which is begun, continued, and carried on by the living operation of God...can have any truth, goodness, or divine blessing in it, is because nothing can in truth seek God, but that which comes from God. Nothing can in truth find God as its good, but that which has the nature of God living in it; like can only rejoice in like; and therefore no religious service... can have any truth, goodness, or blessing in it, but that which is done in ... and through, and by a principle and power of the Divine Nature..."
(Address 11, William Law's Address to the Clergy, 1761).
In other words, Law felt that such pride over doctrinal knowledge was useless if the Holy Spirit was not involved, and if disciples were not empowered to live more Godly lives! He saw Protestantism simply making itself another religion, only different from Roman Catholicism. He saw a certain pride and arrogance developing among certain Protestants; but the pride was in what human reason was accomplishing, and - in the process - he noted Jesus being sidelined. Law was always anti-clerical and anti-religious and he observed that, in many cases, Protestantism was simply replacing one form of religion with another but that - somewhere along the line - Jesus, and the work of the Spirit were again being sidelined; For Law, Protestant religious orthodoxy was little different to Catholic religious orthodoxy!



Jesus' Response to Worldly Religionists in John 6...

Finally, we need to notice the tendency for certain of Jesus' followers to want to make Him the next 'big religious leader,' what their motivation for doing this was, and how Jesus rejected their approach:

In John 6, some people made the discovery that Jesus was able to take a few small fishes and loaves and feed an entire crowd! Without doubt, this was impressive. The next day, after Jesus had left with His disciples, many of these people decided to follow. When they finally found Him on the other side of the lake, Jesus, knowing their hearts, cautioned them:

'Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of God will give you.....' (John 6:26-27)

But His words did not really 'sink in' —they wanted bread! They wanted a religious leader who offered physical sustenance and comfort. This group of people were religiously interested in Jesus as long as He could improve their physical well-being; they wanted to eat more and they wanted a better life, to use a modern expression, they wanted a new religious leader who could “make them feel better about themselves.” In exactly the same manner, in our day some people think the only value in Jesus is if He can give us a better life right now: better health, success, more money. Once some of these people learn that they have been misled by false and money-motivated preachers, they walk away from Jesus; they are not interested in a Jesus who offers greater trials and tribulations in this present life than they would otherwise have experienced – which is the reality. Let us pick this up again in John 6:30:

'So they asked him, “What miraculous sign will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: He gave them bread from heaven to eat.” (John 6:30-31).

Again, notice that these people were very much interested in a better life in the 'here and now' and they were interested in miracles if they should be an indicator of that, but Jesus decided to give them a full and undiluted measure of gospel truth:

'“...I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty…”' (John 6:35).

'”...If anyone eats of this bread, he will live for ever. The bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”' (John 6:51).

When these people could see that 'not going hungry' as followers of Jesus was a spiritual concept and nothing like the manna of Moses, they quickly lost interest. When Jesus made it plain that He spoke of Eternal Life they turned away, they had no apparent interest in Eternal Life. Why? Because they wanted a religion which – in turn for certain duties – would grant them physically wealthy and successful lives right now! Oh, within reason, they were not too worried about the “duties” - as long as there was a quick pay-off!

Stern Warnings From Jesus For Christian 'Religionists'...

'"Many will say to me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'" (Matthew 7:22-23, NIV throughout).

'"....These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.' You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.'" (Mark 7:6-8).

'God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship in spirit and truth.' (John 4:24).

These people were looking for a new religion, they wanted Jesus - and the 'good life'! They refused to believe that Christ was all that mattered. Christ effectively said, 'I am not offering religion – just Myself!' But these people were not interested in that. After all, all human religions were always based on the idea that if people do certain things then their “god” will respond in the 'here and now' – better crops, more children, healthier lives. But Jesus (effectively) said, Look it's all about Me and it is a path of suffering. The bread which I feed you will not make you well-fed and healthy in this present life – actually, you will suffer more persecution and rejection than would otherwise have been the case.

This desire to make our lives better by adopting religion was always at the core of all works-based religions, but Jesus is not interested in people who will only commit their lives to Him if they get an obvious pay-off. True Christianity is often about having much less, and about often going without that we may be better servants of God and men.



Conclusion

True Christianity was never intended to be a new human religion – it was intended to be the antidote to all human religions! God never offered religion to Adam and Eve and Jesus certainly never offered religion to His followers. And yet, God knew the inevitability that it would become a major religion and, at least, the gospel of Jesus Christ is often preached through the numerous human organisations which make up established Christianity, and where the Word is faithfully preached, an environment is provided in which faith and the work of the Holy Spirit may be active.

Today we have Christian religions of traditions, rituals and outward ornamentation: Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism and (so-called) 'high church' Anglicanism/Episcopalianism. But we have also developed Christian religions which are experiential, 'spirit-led' and emotional: Pentecostalism and the charismatics. Yes, these are also religious in approach, its simply that colourful ornamentation has been replaced by experiential/emotional ornamentation! One kind of works-based approach has simply been replaced by another kind. But God says to us, 'I am not interested in your works, only that you worship Me in Spirit and in truth and continue to be ambassadors for Jesus, representing the message which He brought to you!'

The bottom line if that Christ offers us Himself and His gospel message and then tells us to keep separate from the world and to conduct ourselves as His ambassadors. We are also encouraged to seek strong friendships with other Christians. Religion, in the sense of added extras, trappings, traditions, uniforms, emotional displays and rituals are not truly part of what we are offered. Since Christians greatly vary in temperament, emotional makeup and background, a few of these other things may well also be important for some believers especially at certain periods during ones Christian life, but it is good to occasionally reflect on Jesus' rejection of many of these things.
Truth is: From Isaiah and the Prophets, right through to the statements of Jesus and on to the Epistles, the Bible is frequently highly critical of much of what one might call 'typical human religious practise.' Truth is: True Christianity is far more of a philosophical and life-changing decision and far less of a life of religiosity than most people have understood.

The Old Covenant was a demanding, pervasive and all-encompassing religion which set out to clearly demonstrate that works will never save anyone because human sin is absolutely inevitable, and the blood of bulls and goats cannot forgive sin, only remind one of the seriousness of sin and the responsibility to avoid it. The Old Covenant did not set out to make a people truly righteous and obedient because it was not capable of doing that: it set out to highlight the utter pervasiveness of human sin and the fact that since sin must lead to death, Mankind only had an outlook of facing Eternal Death. The law set itself to underline that fact. And yet, as a failed law, the Old Covenant also set out to show how splendid and glorious the coming New Covenant would be. It was the dark shadow to the amazing and dazzling brightness of the revelation of Christ. Indeed, it was an 'administration of death' (as Paul called it) – not of life! So it is perfectly fair to say that Jesus used religion (through the Old Covenant) to destroy the power of all human religions, for here was a real religion in every way, but this one came from God, yet even this God-sanctioned religion could clearly not bring salvation. And so we learn that - without Christ - every man woman and child who has ever lived is truly without hope.

Yet - and perhaps paradoxically - our realisation that religion can be rejected as being any real part of the Gospel revelation means that we can also be supremely forgiving about religion. Why? Because Christianity is not in the religion! This means that we do not have to be offended when finding religious rituals which seem excessive. Without doubt, many of these things are excessive but we do not need to worry that these things distort Christianity because true Christianity was never in them! Without doubt our Lord is forgiving and patient when He sees His people involved in ritual. Ultimately it is all about one's level of spiritual comprehension and discernment. Ideally, our worship of our Lord would be free of human religion and, for some, it almost is, but for others not so. But if the power and authority of religion is vanquished in Christ then we need not fear it nor allow it to divide us.



JUST ONE FINAL NOTE OF CAUTION...

I want to finish this with just one word of caution: I am not here advocating the rejection of all formalism during Christian meetings! Christian meetings can be too informal and this tends to lessen respect for God. It is good, for example, when believers are encouraged to sit quietly for the 5 minutes just before a Christian service rather than having a noisy bedlam prevailing (all too common in certain places), we should encourage respect for God, and respect for the coming biblical teaching which we are about to receive, it is also good for congregations to be reminded of the great creeds (the Apostle's Creed and Nicean Creed, for example) which should be occasionally read during services. Personally, I would like to see much more instruction and biblical education involved in such services and far less emotionalism. If Christians were much better educated in what they, hopefully, believe, then the cults would lose huge ground; the cults and sects 'steal' thousands of people from mainstream Christianity every year because those people were never properly educated in what they "believed"!

So let us rejoice in Christ!

Robin A. Brace, 2005.

(Copyright December 2005. Robin A. Brace).

About our opening quotation:
Victor Hugo wrote, "Religions pass away but God remains..." It should be no surprise that the great French novelist Victor Hugo was a passionate believer in God and in the power of prayer for this powerfully comes across in his Les Miserables. In that very moving story, he beautifully depicts the transforming power of true Christian love in the life of Jean Valjean.
The "barricades" which one is invited to join are - initially - the 1830 revolutionary barricades in France but, by the end of the novel, are undoubtedly the 'barricades' of Christian witness. The powerful message of this novel is that political movements may come and go but only entry into the kingdom of God brings true and eternal success. Unfortunately, Hugo has rarely been credited as being a great Christian writer - partly because of his lifelong dislike of the Roman Catholic Church of France but also because of inconsistencies within his own life. Hugo certainly rejected religion, yet he firmly embraced belief in God and in the power of prayer throughout his life. He just did not see God's love fully reflected in the religion of Roman Catholicism.
UK Apologetics, January 2007.


UK APOLOGETICS

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