I’m not against religion per se, but I am trying to distinguish Christianity from religion because when people think of it as one, they conclude that they know what it is when they most likely don’t.
And I understand that there are religious practices that people might do in the name of Christianity, but that doesn’t make them a Christian nor does it define Christianity. And there are people who actually are Christians, who treat it like a religion, but that’s doesn’t mean that it’s one either.
On a personal note, I lived my so-called “evangelical, Spirit-filled” Christian life as if it were a religion for 25 years, until I found out it was something altogether different.
So how can I say this?
Well, let’s start by looking at how the dictionary defines religion:
“a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.”
On a side note, using this definition, a lot of things could be considered a religion–including science and philosophy.
But while there are things that Christians do or believe that would fall under this category, Christianity itself is none of those things.
Christianity is NOT….
– found in a worldview or philosophy
– found in ritual observances
– found in a moral code
– about doing things so you can go to heaven when you die
– about anything whatsoever to do with our behavior–good or bad.
Okay then, what IS Christianity?
In one word, Christianity is Christ.
You see, Christianity has nothing to do with all the aforementioned things that usually define a particular religion. It’s about Christ’s life lived in human beings.
There are (at least) five ways this distinction is revealed in Scripture.
First, you cannot join Christianity or become a member. You must be spiritually born into it. You do so by receiving God’s grace through faith in Christ. For God is Spirit, and He can only have spiritual children. Without His Spirit, we’re still religious orphans; Christians are sons and daughters of their Father in heaven.
“Jesus answered and said to him,
“Most assuredly, I say to you,
unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
…6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh,
and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (John 3:3, 6)
“I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” (John 14:18)
Secondly, Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection is our death, burial and resurrection. In other words, Jesus didn’t just die for us, He died as us.
“Therefore we were buried with Him
through baptism into death,
that just as Christ was raised from the dead
by the glory of the Father,
even so we also should walk in newness of life.” (Rom.6:4)
“I have been crucified with Christ;
it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me;
and the life which I now live in the flesh
I live by faith in the Son of God,
who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Gal.2:20)
“For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Col.3:3)
Third, Christianity is not about doing things in order to attain to some human standard of righteousness, it’s about obtaining God’s very own righteousness as a free gift. And you get everything the moment you become a Christian.
“For if by the one man’s offense
death reigned through the one,
much more those who receive abundance of grace a
nd of the gift of righteousness will reign in life
through the One, Jesus Christ.” (Rom.5:17)
“For He made Him who knew no sin
to be sin for us,
that we might become
the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Cor.5:21)
“and you are complete in Him,
who is the head of all principality and power.” (Col.2:10)
Fourth, Christianity is not so much about living for God as it is about Him living in us. So we don’t build temples, we are the temple.
“If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word;
and My Father will love him,
and We will come to him and make Our home with him.” (John 14:23)
“Do you not know that you are the temple of God
and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Cor.3:16)
Finally, Christianity is not about living from earth to heaven but living from heaven to earth.
“And God raised us up with Christ
and seated us with him in the heavenly realms
in Christ Jesus.” (Eph.2:6)
“For our citizenship is in heaven,
from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior,
the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Phil.3:20 – bold-type added for emphasis)
Again, Christianity is defined by one word–Christ. Paul told the carnal and religious Corinthians that he wanted to see nothing among them except Christ and Him crucified (1 Cor.2:2). In other words, to be a Christian means you died and your life is now Christ’s life. You have been placed in Him, and as Christ is right now, seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven, so are you in this world (1 John 4:17).
One last thing. This is not some high and lofty spiritual version of Christianity that we might attain to someday if we do everything right. It’s the very foundational reality and beginning of the Christian life. All other versions are only religious rituals and props designed by man so we can stay on the treadmill of trying to save ourselves.
Christianity is not a religion; it’s receiving the invitation to a completely new life in Christ.