8-14-2021 RELIGION VS FAITH
On Saturday August 7th, I was at a baby shower. A What! Yep, that’s’ right, a baby shower. My granddaughter will be bringing a new life into this world sometime in the latter part of September. I know, baby showers are generally “ladies only” but my granddaughter wanted not just moms, grandmoms, great-grandmoms and aunts, etc., she also wanted dads, grandads, great-granddads and uncles (and so forth), to feel welcome as well. Among the attendees were one great-grandmom, two great-grandads and a great-great-aunt. Yes it was nice and the little one (to be) got more stuff than a caravan could hold. I don’t mean a ‘Dodge Caravan’. I mean: line up the camels! (lol).
My sister (the great-great-aunt) and my youngest niece were also there. I sat at a table where they were. Can’t remember what brought it up, but my niece mentioned that too many people practiced a religion and not faith. What could I say? AMEN!
Even last night, I was saying to the Lord, “Here it is Sunday night and Father, I have nothing to put on the blog this coming Saturday.” I woke up this morning (Monday) “Lord, what are we gonna do this Saturday? I still have nothing!” Father replied “Hmmm. Oh? Really?”
Every morning I go down to the computer, check e-mails then work a bit on whatever blog entry I have. I keep a listing of what entries I have done and ones I’ve started (ideas) and have yet to complete (from the past). My eyes, almost immediately, fell on an incomplete entry dated 8/2020 and guess what the title was! ‘Religion vs Faith’! I wonder how that happened? (lol) Indeed, I had started it but hadn’t got any farther than the definitions for religion and faith as described by Webster. I could ‘feel’ Father asking me “Any ideas yet?” (lol)
What is religion* 1) The service and worship of God, or the supernatural; commitment or devotion to a religious faith or observance, state of being religious, 2) personal set or an institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs and practices, 3) strict conformity, 4) cause, principle or system of belief held to with intense trust
Religious* 1) Relating or devoted to the divine ultimate importance, 2) relating to religious beliefs or observances, 3) unwaveringly, faithful. Bound by vows acquired from secular concerns and devoted to a life of piety
What is faith* 1) allegiance to duty or a person, 2) belief and trust in loyalty to God, that is traditional doctrines of religion, 3) firm belief in something with a strong conviction, as a system of religious beliefs.
Okay, but how does the bible describe each?
Interestingly there are no words translated ‘religion’ or religious’ in the Old Testament (OT) and only four words in the New Testament (NT).
Religion There are only two Greek words, used twice each, in the NT. G2356 is threshkeia (thrace-ki-ah) a ceremonial observance or worshipping. G2454 ioudaismos (ee oo dah is mos) which is specifically refers to the Jewish faith.
Religious The two words, each used only once, in the NT are:. G2357 threskos (thrace kos) which is demonstrating worship, projecting piety, religiousity and G4576 which is sebomai (seb om ahee) meaning revere, adore, be devout, worship.
Faith The two OT words are used for faith: H529, emuwn (ay-moon) and H530, emuwnah (ee-moo-naw). Both words mean faith, truth and established, but H530 adds security, stability and verity. Interesting that each Hebrew word is used only once in the bible.
In the NT words are G1680 and G4102 and are used multiple times from Matthew to Revelation. G1680 is elpis (el-pece) which is faith, hope or confidence and is derived from the base word “epo” which means expectation. G4102 pistis (as it appears) persuasion obedience, conviction, assurance, faith or fidelity.
Note that both religion and religious indicate the practice of doing rites or rituals. Yet, sebomai leans more towards attitude.
The words for faith, in both testaments, imply being rooted in a belief system and expecting something from our efforts, not necessarily attached to our actions. Arguably, faith is an action, but not in the context of doing some deed. In faith, we do have to believe and trust God.
What is the practicality of each?
Here, man’s ‘wonderful wisdom’ kicks in to explain what all this means.
Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden with only one condition – don’t eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, unless you die (Gen. 2:16-17 & Gen. 3:2-3). Consider that Adam and Eve had a ‘wide-open’ relationship with Father until that day. In the garden, Father, literally, provided all their needs, then there was a separation (sin) and they were booted out of the garden. Since then, man’s struggle has been trying to figure out how to survive (work for a living) and how to please God so ‘bad things’ don’t befall him. That is, how to get ‘back’ into God’s ‘good graces’.
We’re left with the impression that man was, pretty much, left to his own devices as to how to regain that relationship with God. Archaeologists tell us that there were (apparently) forms of religion at least from a bit before the Sumerians (@4000-3500 BC). Abraham came upon the scene @2000BC. We know that God communicated with man as He told Abraham to leave Ur of the Chaldees, leaving his kinfolk (Gen. 11:31-Gen.12:21:1), who served other gods (Josh. 24:2). Yet it was another @500 yrs. (or so) before God gave the ‘Law’ through Moses (Exod. 20:1-17). The Law? Written conditions in which man was to abide in order to please the Creator of all things. Or, how we can get back into His good graces.
Before the Law, apparently through tradition (handed down through the generations) man had an idea of what to do to get back to God, but still had the dickens of a time figuring out how to do it. Then, between 1500 to 1100 yrs. later (depending on which time frame one accepts), Jesus is born.
What did Jesus tell His disciples? “Don’t think I’ve come to destroy the law, or the prophets. I’ve come not to destroy, but to fulfill (Matt. 5:17)”.
Jesus fulfilled the law, not by abiding (doing) by certain rituals, but by living them! By applying those laws by observing them with all His heart. Jesus didn’t do things just because He was ‘supposed to’ or ‘had to’, but because He ‘wanted to’! It was His nature, His desire to help us to be all that we can be. He gave His disciples an example at the ‘Last Super’ when He washed their feet. He, who was a great teacher, one who should be honored and revered. He who should have been treated as a King (He was/is, Rev. 17:14) the King of kings. He was/is Emmanuelle (Matt. 1:23), that is GOD is WITH us! Paul says later “Follow me as I follow Christ.” (1 Corinth. 11:1). Shouldn’t that be our goal?
I don’t know about you, but the biggest complaint I hear as to why many people are not in church today is because “Christians ain’t actin’ like Christians is supposed to act, no mo’!”
Too many churches have become ‘closed door’ social clubs. Do as we do or otherwise, don’t bother us with your presence.
Jesus IS the Law! Jesus IS God (the Father) come into this world in the flesh! God is Love (1 John 4:8)! Therefore Jesus IS LOVE!
Jesus tells us that if we love Him, keep His commandments (John 14:15) and just what are Jesus’ commandments? “Love the Lord, our God, with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. This is the first commandment (Mark 12:30, Exod. 20:1-7). Then to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:31, Exod. 20:13-17).” Why, because the Law and the prophets are all based on love (Matt. 22:40).
Jesus also cared about those who were thought to be less: the Samaritan woman (John 4:5-26), the Roman Centurion’s servant (Luke 7:1-10) and even the dead (Luke 7:12-16). Jesus played no favorites until it came to those who refused Him (Luke 11:37-44).
John confirms for us in his letters that love is the essence of God. So we know that we are abiding in God/Father as His love is evident in our lives.
All of this brings us back to faith versus religion.
Religion is practicing certain rituals which we believe will provide us our ‘end goal’, eternal life. But, religion can be practiced without faith (as we note in Luke). Religion encourages responses from man which soothes our egos, but doesn’t necessarily guarantee salvation. When we become ‘people pleasers,’ that becomes our reward (Matt. 6:1-17).
Yet faith is abiding in Christ, allowing His love to manifest in our lives. Should we have doubts, we have the Holy Ghost, within us, to direct us, for it is He who will lead us into all truth (John 16:13) and teach us (John 14:26). “But, the hour comes and is even now, when true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for Father seeks these to worship Him. God is Spirit and they who worship Him must do so in Spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24).
We have to be honest whenever we come before our Lord and to worship Him in Spirit is two-fold. First we clear the air and focus on Him. That is, have ‘nothing’ before Him. We give our Lord our undivided attention (a prayer closet?). Sin hinders our communication with Father so we make sure we have no unconfessed sin in our life (Isa. 1:1-15). We lay all our burdens and worries at Jesus’ feet. This could take a while where we have many things burdening our hearts and minds, but it clears the air so we can talk with Father with an open heart and hear more clearly when He talks with us. Then we’re ready to praise and worship Him. On a personal note, Father, also, has me sing songs to Him. He has shown me several songs off of Youtube and, over the years, He has given me several at my own hand. At times He asks for one or the other and other times He mixes them. Either way (I speak for myself) the Spirit takes me to another level in my relationship with our Lord.
As we pray, when we’ve done all we can do, we can ask Father to help us say what needs to be said. This also goes for when we ‘clear the air’. When we ask, Father will always give us what we need to say. Our heavenly language (tongues) is the best way to communicate with Father. Praying in tongues is praying spirit to Spirit, but we may also need to ask Father to help our understanding. He will.
Speaking for myself, I don’t always know what to pray and more often ‘how’ to say it. The Holy Ghost will ‘step in’ and help me out (with my heavenly language). He always knows. He is a part of God in us (John 14:16-20).
But, unless anyone hasn’t picked up on this yet, getting ready, then doing, is a matter of heart, or attitude. And that is actually the difference between religion and faith. Our attitude towards God.
Religion can be done without a personal commitment. It can be (often is) just a matter of following the rules.
Faith is committing our heart to Jesus Christ and ‘choosing’ to live in such a way that we find is pleasing to Him. We ‘do things’ because Jesus has shown us they are the right things to do, so we ‘desire’ (want to) to do. This attitude increases as we grow in the Lord. And, of course, in order to have faith, we have to believe God (Father) truly exists and trust our Lord Jesus!
Rewards of faith over religion? We are fulfilled in our relationship with our Lord and we share that fulfillment with those around us because we desire to. We come to know that Father is indeed with us, meeting our needs, guiding and protecting us while we are here in this world, then bringing us “home” in His timing (Matt. 28:29, Phil. 4:19, Psalm 91:1-4).