Looking into the dictionary, one definition tells me that religion is strictness of fidelity in conforming to any practice, as if it were an enjoined rule of conduct.
And another says that religion is a cause, principle, or activity pursued with zeal or conscientious devotion.
According to these definitions, religion might be a practice of any sort that is actively pursued, such as being religious about strength training or keeping a clean house.
In another definition, religion is belief in and reverence for a supernatural power or powers regarded as creator and governor of the universe.
And in another, religion is a set of beliefs, values, and practices based on the teachings of a spiritual leader.
This is the more common use of the word religion and the definition that I am concerned with. As a Christian, I have a set of beliefs and values that are based on the teachings of the Bible. Many of us are faithful in religious practices that are included in our worship of our Creator. Different denominations of the Christian faith may follow different practices in their religious observance. However, the differences in these practices do not cause one denomination to be more Christian than another. Being Christian depends on one fact only – believing that Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins, was buried for three days and rose again defeating death and sin, and now sits at the right hand of God. Being Christian relies on belief in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.
Following a set of religious practices certainly enhances worship time. Although for the Christian, it is sometimes difficult to keep religious practices in their proper place. They must not come before our faith. Faith in Christ demands that we follow His teachings, embracing attitudes such as love, humility, and holiness. Even as Christians, we know that often we don’t live up to these Godly traits. This is called sin. We know that we can confess sin, repent and be forgiven, maintaining our relationship with Jesus.
Oswald Chambers, in “My Utmost For His Highest” says, “Many a Christian worker has left Jesus Christ alone and gone into work from a sense of duty, or from a sense of need arising out of his own discernment. … The soul has got out of intimate contact with God by leaning to its own religious understanding.”
So, abuse of religion comes when we run ahead and try to express our beliefs only by following religious practices. These practices stem from our own needs when they should be a natural flow from a deep faith in God. Deep faith in Jesus Christ must come first, then religious activity will flow out of a surrendered heart as an act of worship.
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