Years ago, when I had a salvation experience, my friends were surprised that I had changed so dramatically, I had a happy, more positive outlook on life, quit drinking, no, abusing alcohol, stayed in church and when they came by they always found me with a Bible in my lap. Some were heard to say, “Steve got religion. He’s religious.”
I was new to my faith and didn’t know much. But that word “religion” just stuck in my throat and I didn’t know why. There was just something about it that bothered me and I couldn’t figure it out. As a cussing, skirt-chasing, hell-raising, drag-racing alcoholic, I had thought the same thing about my Christian friends. They were religious and I didn’t want to be like them. The problem was, they had too many good arguments against everything I did for fun. That irked me and I didn’t know what to do about it.
Recently, when someone asked me to check out some interfaith church, it reminded me of why the prospect of religion bothered me so bad. Here was a church that was trying to merge all the religions into one, embracing the teachings of all. How confusing is that? It’s like a smorgasboard. I guessed that their adherents took what they liked and left the rest on the buffet. That’s not what religion is all about.
Religion is about working your way to God’s favor. You have be good, do good, follow the rules or there will be consequences. From ancient times, religious people offered their newborn babies as sacrifices, passing them through fire to please their “god.” They performed all kinds of rituals to get the attention of their deity and gave their wealth to the priests. To appeal to their carnal side, there were temple prostitutes that could be had for an offering and the priests knew everyone’s dirty-little secrets. Religion was all about manipulation and control. Religion was in bed with governments to keep the common people working for the benefit of both. No wonder I didn’t want to have anything to do with it!
Even God’s religion was tough to follow. Jehovah gave the Jewish people the Law through Moses. The Ten Commandments immediately comes to mind. But the fact is, there were 613 different points of the Law they were to follow and if a man was guilty of breaking one, he was guilty of breaking them all.
Why would our Creator, the One True God, Jehovah place such a burden on His chosen people? The answer can be found in Genesis where God said they were a stiffnecked people. Proud, unflinching, rebellious, set in their ways. The Law was not given to the Jews to make them righteous, but to show them their need for a saviour. They had to be convinced that no matter how good or obedient they were, they couldn’t live up to God’s standard.
Enter Jesus, the foretold Saviour, Who fulfilled the Law, offering forgiveness of sins through faith in Him. Jesus taught the Law of Moses from a different angle, emphasizing the spirit of the Law over the letter. He also taught the coming Kingdom of God, that everyone who believes in Him may have everlasting life. The only way to come into His kingdom was not through the pride of good works, but through humility, acceptance, and faith. It’s about asking God’s forgiveness for sins and receiving Jesus into our hearts and lives to change us from the inside-out.
As I learned more, I understood that I disliked religion now more than in my hell-raising days. I still didn’t want to have anything to do with it. I had the Creator of the universe living in my heart and I was living in continual forgiveness. He was changing me. I didn’t have to change myself. I also discovered that religion under the guise of Christianity was the most deceptive religion of all.
Who wants it? Who needs it? I’ll take Jesus.