A few weeks ago, one of the newer guys who attends a weekly men’s gathering I host asked a great question that occasioned much conversation. His question was this (I am paraphrasing): “The Baptists say this about God, the Catholic church says that about God. The Lutherans say this is the way to follow God. How do we know which religion is right?”
How many people have asked the same question over the years? With all the differing denominations of what are known as Christians, Christianity is certainly a bit confusing. Then there are the other religious groups and belief systems to think about. How will we know for sure where the truth lies in this jumbled religious scene?
After a lively and enlightening discussion, we had arrived at the three points below. Because our group has a Christian orientation, our answers are more geared toward denominational differences among what are known as Christian churches. I hope they are useful to any with the same kind of question.
First, no “religion” is “right,” be it Baptist, Catholic, Covenant, or whatever. Religion represents our man-made attempt to make our God fit into our thinking. It is how we try to squeeze Him into our frame of reference. Religion may start with the idea of God and may include little or much from the Bible. The various denominations, often seen by others as separate religions, usually have at least some truth mixed into their religious expressions. Sadly, their differences in religiosity have caused them to separate from each other, which is clearly not a Christian or biblical pattern. They become so separated from each other, they function as separate religions.
What makes belief into a religion is when humans add all kinds of truck to the truth. They invariably add extraneous forms, practices, rituals, and expectation over time. Each group has its own interpretations of scripture, its own rules and expectations not found in the scriptures, and additional interpretations of the added rules and expectations. Corporate structures and systems, professional programs and curricula, and more and more elaborate buildings are added to each denomination. Local “churches” (not the definition of “church” in the Bible) function like franchises of the religious brand, and often compete with other brands for “customers.”
The “church” in most people’s eyes is buildings, corporations, and entire industries, but not really the people of God (which is how the church is defined in the Bible). These religious corporations are run by the business principles of the world, complete with marketing strategies, gimmicks, and flavors of the month. We have added rituals, entertainment, and layers of organization between us and our God. We have encrusted the work and the word of our God with so much distraction that it is hard to find God in the way in which He wants to be found. We have substituted religiosity for relationship with our God, business for intimacy with Him, and systems and rituals for communion with Him. No religiosity is “right” if we are seeking to follow Jesus, for He and His apostles warned us against religiosity in all forms. Religiosity stands in the way of the pure work of our God in us.
Second, what is “right,” what is true faith in our God is the pursuit of the priorities our God has in mind for us, the pursuit of His work in and among us. Following are five key avenues of pursuit that draw us near to our God and allow His Holy Spirit to live in us without the encumbrance of our distracting religiosity. It is for this one pursuit as expressed below, not for empty religion, we were saved.
- Commandment 1: Pursue a Great Commandment love for your God, whereby you love Him with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, in which you love your God more than you love yourself or anyone or anything else.
- Communion with God: Make it your daily priority to recognize that He is with you always and wants to be consciously speaking together with you and enjoying intimate companionship with you. All day, every day.
- Crucified living daily: every day begin the day by denying your self-life, self-direction, and self-protection. Ask your God to put to death your selfish self, every dependency that is not Him, and any attitude or idea that is not of His doing. Ask Him to live His life in you instead of yours.
- Community of saints: spend significant time every week in the company of those who are truly pursuing God with their whole heart. Talk about the things and the work of God, and not about weather, sports, or business. Pray, dig deep into the word of God, and share from the heart. Let the Holy Spirit and the Bible, not curriculum, guide your time together as much as possible.
- Commission living: be energized about and committed to the ministry of the Kingdom of God in your life and in the lives of those around you.
Where do you find these five priorities? You can find them in many places, usually under the surface of what is going on. They pop up in nearly every church at different times, not by human will or plan but by our God doing this despite our religiosity. When they pop up, it is not because these priorities became part of the “program,” but because the Spirit of our God has broken through the religious trappings and crust to revive a few people. The righteous are always few, as A.W. Tozer once said. Do not be discouraged by not seeing these five priorities up front and in lights. God is on the move. A reformation is in the works. Stay the course with where you are, seek your God earnestly, and let your God pop these priorities up in your daily living. Pray for them to be revealed and to take shape in your life.
These five avenues of the pursuit of our God are reflected in many of the posts found on the Adventure Blog and the Climb Free posts on the 1Pursuit domain. Please peruse them for more information.