Sunday, June 22, 2008

# 253: Religion Gone Bad

There are thousands of religions in our world that claim to be true, yet, the majority of those religions come up short when it comes to the criteria that identify a religion as true. The question comes up: What is truth? That is the question Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, asked.

If there is one dominating truth, it is something that is good for every human being, regardless of race, creed, color, age, nationality, education or whatever else can separate us. That Godly truth is that everyone should have selfless love for each other. This statement paints a lofty picture of a seemingly unattainable pie-in-the-sky-type aspiration.

Yet, the Christian religion was meant to be the religion of truth. Only thing, the New Testament that diligently described that truth has been compromised to the point where it no longer is taught in the vast majority of organized religion. The crying shame is that we hear the words “love” and “truth” throughout many religions, but when it comes to putting those principles into practice, they come up null and void. That could be characterized as bad religion.

As has been quoted many times in this blog, that principle originates from the most basic teachings of Jesus Christ. In Luke 10:25, Jesus was asked by an expert in the law, “‘Teacher,’ he asked, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus answered, ‘. . . how do you read it?’” The expert in the law answers in the following verses: Luke 10:27-28. “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ‘You have answered correctly,’ Jesus replied. ‘Do this and you will live.’” That love for God and neighbor is the absolute truth that must be the holy grail for everyone who calls themselves Christians.

That Godly truth has been compromised by none other than the greatest Christian preacher in the world, Billy Graham. He was engaged in a crusade in 1987 in Nova Scotia. After he quoted the aforementioned verses, this is what he adamantly said: “No one in the whole world has ever kept those two commands.” After that, he said no more about the most important precepts in the Christian Bible. What he did with the wave of his hand and words that flowed from his mouth was to nullify the centerpiece/foundation of all Christianity. Without question, disregarding what Graham said, it must be our main focus to love God and neighbor to the best of our ability for our entire lives, while striving to love God and neighbor to a greater degree every day as we continue to grow into the likeness of Jesus Christ. That statement is what it means to love God with our complete being. That is the absolute truth, without compromise. Anything less than that is bad religion.

Here is a way we can spot most phonies: When people speak well of certain clergymen/women, that is a sure sign of their evil intent. Luke 6:26. “Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets.” Preaching exactly what the New Testament teaches will never win anyone a popularity contest. Therefore, I don’t expect many accolades from some readers of this blog.

When love is no more than a byword/slogan, the result is the reason why Christianity is in the shape it is in. That is Christianity gone bad, while singing the praises of Jesus. This heresy of making little of love for God and neighbor bothers me more than words can tell. By the way, there are dozens of verses which teach that the only way we can display our love for God with all our faculties is to be obedient to all the teachings presented in the New Testament. I will quote just two verses: Luke 11:28. “He replied, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.’” 1st John 5:3. “This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome.” Also, there are many verses that make it obvious that we must love those in need. I will quote just one verse. 1st John 3:17. “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?”

Truth can also be described as being a person, namely Jesus Christ. He said in John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father except through me.” Through Him, truth is personified. As the love Christ has for humanity continues to grow in our lives, we have the right/duty to also personify the truth by saying, “Watch my life, hear my words, and you will see truth in action.” Do you think a preacher of any large denomination would have the audacity to challenge his/her parishioners to live the truth as described in Scripture? Don’t hold your breath. In truth, God entrusted all His disciples to spread the truth of the gospel. That is exactly where churches per se have failed miserably.

Being a disciple of Christ gives us the greatest duty that any person could ever acquire. It is our responsibility to show the lost world what truth is, thus exposing the lies of Satan’s bad religion. Do we do that? A whopping no! Why not? Because, as we were taught by compromised religion, that is not our duty. What most churches teach is half-truth, which is worse than no truth at all. The reason I say that is because most of those church-going religious people believe they are going to heaven simply because they go to church and somehow think they believe what the Bible teaches. They are badly mistaken. Without an active, whole hearted love for God and neighbor, it is impossible to please God.

Our whole life must be focused on how we can please God and Jesus with our every thought, word and deed. That is the only way we can live the truth. Do we do that? A resounding NO! Why not? Repeating, because bad religion teaches us that it is not necessary. This is a hard teaching. Yet, by the grace of God and His Spirit that lives within us, we will have the desire and power to please God at all times, and not just by doing little or nothing. To put it another way, we will miss out on the blessings of heaven more so by the good we didn’t do, and not so much by the evil we did do. It is relatively easy not to do evil things, but extremely challenging to live by the requirements that lead to real life.

It is impossible for people who don’t possess the Holy Spirit to live a life of love, regardless of what churches teach to the contrary. Please remember, bad religion will sweet-talk us because it wants our money and attendance. Therefore, if anyone thinks this teaching is a lot of bunk, God, Christ and I unequivocally say that you don’t have the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Faith, God’s grace and the Holy Spirit are the spiritual equipment necessary to start living in a way that pleases God. Romans 8:9. “You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.” The reason for the above verse is that the Holy Spirit is the critical component which gives Christians the power, or better yet, the will power to live the Christ-like life. Or course, the Spirit activating His will in our lives does not happen automatically; we have to continually desire Him to manifest Himself by listening to His Holy inspiration.

Along with that, the Holy Spirit makes us one with Christ, God and each other. That is called the unity of the Spirit. John 14:20. “On that day you will realize that I am in the Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” For that reason, we will never be or feel alone. This presence of God’s Spirit abiding in us will be noticed when we won’t need to be in the company of friends as much as before. This contentment will grow as we continue to live and obey as Scripture dictates.

It will make no sense or logic for those without the Spirit to live and love as Scripture and the Spirit of Christ dictate. And I can understand: I was there at one time. The problem is, those without God’s Spirit can’t understand how or why they should consider others better than themselves. The only way anyone can start to understand that Godly principle is to actually start experiencing the way, the truth, and the life of Jesus Christ.

In conclusion, religion gone bad is rampant. Let us identify if we are part of a religion that leads to damnation and make the necessary changes. I say, no religion is better than bad religion. Amen. Try to figure out why that short statement is true. Leave a comment. jc

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