A short read

Faith or Religion

 

What is faith

One of the all-time great movies is the original Karate Kid from 1984. Mr. Miagi shows how mundane chores, or enjoying the beach translated to steps taken toward the greater goal of learning martial arts. He didn’t lay out a strict training regime of punching and kicking, he showed Daniel a new way of living. He didn’t isolate him to a dojo, he made him productive, took him fishing and to the beach. He showed him how to see the movements and flow of combat in everything around him. In much the same way, being a Christian is a way of living, not a set of practices. Faith gets brought in to everything we do if that is our focus, it is the path of life and the only path to eternal life. It guides us both personally and professionally in our views, decisions and relationships.
Faith is trusting God. When you have it you know. When you struggle with it you know. When you don’t have it, you know. Only you and God really know exactly where you are in your faith. I think everyone has or does struggle with their faith at times. The thing that comes to my mind with anyone questioning their faith is that they are always searching for more. You don’t often see people who have faith looking for an excuse to quit believing in God, though some have allowed the world to lead them to wander from their faith. I don’t think anyone who has ever truly accepted Christ as their savior ever loses their faith, however hard they may try to hide from it. Questioning isn’t a bad thing. It’s a lack of questioning or never giving it a thought that draws us away by either getting comfortable with our religious routine, thinking our actions fulfill our obligation to worship God through lip service or by simply ignoring God completely because of anger, arrogance and shame, pushing away from God.
Most of what Jesus spoke about was regarding faith, he demonstrates its power, tells how to recognize it in ourselves and others, and assures us of its reward.

What is religion

In short, religion is the practices and structure of how we exercise faith in our daily lives and routines. Anymore it can refer to virtually anything we do on a regular basis. Some people watch football religiously, some wash their car religiously, it’s strictly adhering to a schedule or a method of what we do and how we do it. While some branches of the Christian Church have built up elaborate religious structures, very little of it has anything to do with what the Bible teaches. Often it directs people to do things or require practices never mentioned or even specifically taught against in the Bible.
Throughout the Old Testament the Jewish people were subject to the laws laid out by Moses. Religion, spelled out to Moses from God as a way to distinguish the Jewish people from their neighbors. In Matthew 5:17 Christ says “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them”. What Christ did was abolish religion and replaced it with relationship. The true purpose of the law was always about relationship with our creator. He still sets his people apart. Throughout Matthew, Mark, Luke and John Christ shows and tells us how we’re supposed to live in the world, not of the world. If highly structured “religious practices” were His message or the answer, surely he would have preached about it.
Sharing the gospel is the mission of Christians. It is about engaging people on whatever level they approach the subject of faith. People don’t generally engage in something they aren’t at all interested in. If they are struggling with faith or have no faith, they are wanting more or they wouldn’t engage in the conversation. Even if it seems they are only attacking your faith, it is still something they are interested in. You may think they don’t have faith by what little you know about them and they may not want to admit how much they think about their faith. Though people use it improperly quite often, this is a good example of when to apply Matthew 7:1 “judge not, that you be not judged”. God is the only one who really knows how that person feels about him. The strength of our faith is a direct reflection of our relationship with God. Questioning or seeking a better understanding of faith and discerning God’s will is how we develop our relationship with him.
Engaging people in conversations about religion isn’t very productive, it’s not the same conversation as talking about faith. So many horrible things are done under the heading of religious movements, defending or debating them is pointless. You can discuss history and debate motives, but all that can come from it is more proof of mankind’s fallen nature, both in the examples discussed and the argumentative tone that rises from it.
We have faith in lots of things, faith just means trust. People act religiously about a lot of things, from praying to mecca 5 times a day to washing their hands. Christ is your best friend, being a Christian puts you in a direct relationship him, you can trust your best friend to love you, take care of you when you need it, tell you how it is and forgive you when you fail them. Your best friend doesn’t make a bunch of requirements to be his friend, he accepts you how you are, because he knows you accept and have faith in him.
Matthew 15:8, Mark 7:6. Mark 7:6-13 (7:1-13), Matthew 23:8-10 (23:1-12), Matthew 10:13, Luke 1:51

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