Before going further I should define religion, since I spend so much energy thrashing it.
Religion, as I define it, is a government, quite similar to any civic government. Obviously, the complexity of the ranking order depends on the size of the religion.
Every congregation is divided into the ruling class (the government) and the ruled class (the governed).
James speaks of a “pure and undefiled religion” which he defines as good works and pure living. But that’s not the religion I speak of. The religion I denounce is man-made political machinery.
Evangelicals declare, “Christianity is not a religion; it’s a relationship!” And yet those same people are themselves captives of a religion of one sort or another.
Religion is a compilation of “tradition[s] of men”. Every religion has its own distinct assortment of do-and-don’t which separates it from all others.
There was but one true religion. It was, as said earlier, “the law of Moses”. Paul states, “the law is holy.” Of course it is. Everything God establishes is holy.
God terminated His religion and didn’t create a second one. There is no longer such a thing as a true religion. The baptist religion is not a holy thing. Pentecostalism is equally unholy. The charismatic religion, like catholicism, is man-made.
There are religions within religions. For example, pentecostalism has offshoots (sects) distinct from each other. Under the baptist umbrella there are a variety of sub-religions. Each of these is a religion within a religion.
Oh how people love their religion. That fellow who said, “Religion is the opium of the people” had a point.
If God never initiated any of the religions within evangelicalism (and beyond), who did? I think the answer can be found in 1 Corinthians 1:12….
“Each of you says, ‘I am of Paul,’ or ‘I am of Apollos,’ or ‘I am of Cephas,’ or ‘I am of Christ.’”
The ESV (and others) say it this way: “Each of you says, ‘I follow Paul,’ or ‘I follow Apollos,’ or ‘I follow Cephas,’ or ‘I follow Christ.’”
Some translations say “belong to” rather than “follow”.
Paul-ites and Apollos-ites and Cephas-ites were religionists. They were not “of” Christ. They did not “follow Christ”. They did not “belong to” Christ, not fully.
Christians, not Christ, devise religions.
The many religions today, every one of them, were created by men – adders and subtracters, compromisers, men driven by religious ambitions. It is certain Jesus didn’t initiate them. (“Is Christ divided?”)
Bill, if you agree with this logic you must concede that your Bethel was devised by men and not by Lord Jesus. God empowers us and we ‘spend’ that power as we so choose. We cannot assume that a product is God’s design simply because it was built by utilizing God’s power. His grace is often misspent.
A.W. Tozer (The Divine Conquest): “The churches (even the gospel churches) are worldly in spirit, morally anemic, on the defensive, imitating instead of initiating and in a wretched state generally.”
Of course Jesus relates to every christian within Bethel; I am not suggesting otherwise. They are each a branch abiding, to varying degrees, in “the true vine”.
However, I am suggesting there is a better way. That better way is not complicated. That better way is removing that which was added to Scripture and adding that which was subtracted. That better way is Jesus-and-me christianity.
My christianity is a sample of life minus religion. The sky didn’t come crushing down when I kissed evangelicalism (not evangelicals!) goodbye. The connection between branch and vine has been strengthened, not weakened. Paul said, “To live is Christ”; Paul did not say, “To live is Christ-plus”.
Perhaps you think there is no way Jesus would allow a people (such as Bethel?) to stray so far from His will, His ways, His words. Oh yes He would. Oh yes He does. Every religion verifies that.
Jesus allows people to go to hell. Jesus allows serious abuse in His church. Jesus allows the salaried to redirect the congregation’s devotion to themselves. Jesus allows His people to create a variety of religions. Jesus allows His own to build mega-churches with money intended to finance His Great Commission. Jesus allows new converts to be swallowed up by misdirected controllers. How can it be?….
While we may impose our will upon others, Jesus doesn’t. As born-again believers we choose obedience or disobedience, wisdom or folly. We choose to be either Jesus-and-me or Jesus-and-us. He lets us choose, often to the detriment of ourselves and others. Both good and bad choices are heavily consequential.
I am sure many (most?) assume ‘the way it is’ must be God’s way because God is sovereign. Not so. That’s bible misconstrued. (I think you would agree.) If the bible is rock then that which is not bible is sand. Jesus taught us that the wise build on rock, the foolish on sand.
So how should one define a religionist?
As already stated, a religionist is simply one attached to and leaning on a religion.
It must be quickly said that it is quite possible to attend religious services without being a religionist. I had attended many church services but always (or almost always – my history is not without blemish) kept religion at arm’s-length.
Nonetheless most attending an institutional church are religious indeed and have been thoroughly institutionalized.
Religionists don’t know they are religionists, no more than the controller knows he’s a controller or the selfish knows she’s selfish.
A religionist is a Jesus-and-us christian. A Jesus-and-us christian is opposite to a Jesus-and-me christian. Paul, though not a loner, was a Jesus-and-me christian. (“To live is Christ.”) That’s why he was so effective.
A.W. Tozer, the public person who most affected my walk with Jesus, was, in my opinion, a Jesus-and-me christian; that’s why his writings are still in demand. Most certainly it wasn’t religion that made Tozer a Tozer.
A Jesus-and-me christian is one guided by the Holy Spirit…. individually. We are so used to keeping stride with the bunch with whom we bunch instead of keeping step with the Holy Spirit. He wants to lead us individually. There are many examples….
“Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness”…. Peter: “The Spirit told me to go with them”…. “Then the Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go near and overtake this chariot”…. Jesus to the twelve: “It is not you [individually] who speak, but the Spirit who speaks in you”…. Jesus: “When He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you [individually] into all truth”…. Acts 4:8: “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders….”…. John the baptist: “He will baptize you [individually] with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
A religionist is not, nor can be, Spirit-led.
Religionists don’t keep company with non-religionists.
A religionist will be sorely disappointed at the judgement seat of Christ.
Most important: A religionist doesn’t know he/she is a religionist. We can see others clearly but not ourselves. While completely missing the target we think we hit the bullseye.
So how do we know if we are or are not a religionist? It is possible to know. Jesus gives us the answer: “Out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks”….