Often I have come across those who are caught up in religion where who and what they believe God to be is distorted from the truth of who He actually is. Sadly these are often people we look up to or people who turn their backs on relationship with God for what they believe to be true in their own sight.
Unfortunately this world is dominated by that form of religion and it in turn dominates the majority of the world. It has become one of the most enticing and consuming things in history and has left mass amounts of devastation in its wake.
Religion takes on many forms. Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, legalistic Catholicism are just some that come to mind; whilst built on peaceful ideals and concepts they are more focused on rules, rituals, systems and laws. And on believing that this kind of religion in combination with doing certain things eg. good works will lead to eternal life or reincarnation or whatever endpoint this life leads to.
Views behind all religions of the world, although peaceful, can at the same time be so distorted. People see the distortion as absolute truth to the extent that they devote every waking moment and the majority of their lifetimes towards such religion.
In John chapter 14, verse 6 Jesus said "I am the way, and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (ESV) Even though religion takes on thousands of forms they can all miss the most important thing. Life can be full of rituals, systems, laws, rules and good works but without Christ at the centre, without relationship that's all they will ever be and nothing more.
Over time something happened and large numbers of God's church also got caught up in religion. They became more focused on issues such as how many people attended the service to how much in offerings have we made this year, and sadly the list goes on. Their focus turned from making disciples and preaching the gospel to all creation to only being a Christian when they need something or when it is most convenient.
There are so many out there who no longer believe in miracles, or the power and absolute Lordship of Christ. It is at the point where a lot of church goers leave or become bitter because when convicted by God or people God has spoken through to change or repent they would much rather have things stay the way the are and not be transformed into who God is calling them and died for them to be.
Essentially they would rather follow the religion (their own rules, rituals) than enter into the most meaningful relationship to ever exist. If we truly loved Jesus the way he loved us, would we not be willing to do anything for him also?
And if that is the reality then why do we become so obsessed with rules, regulations, rituals and fight among ourselves instead of arguing what the right way is and getting caught up in religious concepts. Why don't we turn to Jesus who is the way?
The harsh truth
The harsh truth is that religion of this type and all of its forms are not of God. While God does have commandments His utmost priority is relationship. We as disciples aren't called to fight with each other and argue each interpretation of what we think is true but rather to seek God for what is true and follow Him as He is the way.
It is imperative to remember that God can use religion, and those in it. But He died for a relationship with us, and He desires that we be caught up in Him and not religion. Religion only ever brings guilt and condemnation and hoops that one must jump through to be holy and forgiven again, but in right relationship with God we are always forgiven and blameless in his sight.
Ashley has recently returned to Australia, to work and seek a way to return to his fiancé. During his free time Ashley can be found writing in its various forms or reading an old book.
Ashley Menelaw's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/ashley-menelaws.html