Religious or Christian?

Is being religious the same thing as being a Christian? Some people – perhaps many people think so. Americans are often viewed as “Christians” because American is viewed as a “Christian” nation. I think most Americans know better.

It is possible to be religious and be a Christian but it’s also possible to be religious and not be a Christian. The two words are not synonymous.

Different people define these words/concepts in different ways. To some people the word religious simply means belonging to one of a variety of religious organizations. To another person it might carry the idea of faithfulness or devotion to a particular religion. Still to other people it can mean devotion to an ultimate reality or deity (take your pick).

Based on these perceptions, being religious is a more general term. It’s about how devoted a person is – but the object of the devotion can change. It’s about belonging to a group but the group can be one of many. It’s about subscribing to a set of ideas but they can be anyone’s ideas.

Christianity is different. It’s more restrictive. You don’t get a lot of flexibility here. And you don’t get to impose your definition on something that was defined two thousand years ago.

Historically and by definition, Christianity is about a relationship with the Eternal God through the Lord Jesus Christ in a way that affects every area of life. It’s a life-changing, life- altering connection (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Still, different people have different ideas about Christianity. But they are not all equally valid. One of the easiest ways to explain what it means to be a Christian is to say what it is NOT.

You are not a Christian because you:

-were born in this country

-live in this country

-attend a certain church – or attend church at all

-have been baptized

-like the idea of Jesus

-are a Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran or any other denomination

-try to live by the Golden Rule

-are a nice person and help other people

None of these ideas can be found in the Bible, nor were they subscribed to by the earliest followers of Jesus.

Even claiming to be a Christian does not make it so.

To be a Christian is to be a follower of Christ (Acts 4:13, 11:27). It’s to believe what He taught (John 14:15). It’s to live how He said (Romans 13:14). It’s to be completely devoted to the person of Jesus (Matthew 6:34, Luke 4:8).

You can say that to be a Christian is to be religiously, in every sense of the word, united to the person of Jesus.

To be religious is not enough. In fact, by itself it will gain you very little in life. You need to be Christian in the truest sense of the word.

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

Stop Obsessing

According to the Council on Foreign Relations there are five critical conflicts, eleven significant conflicts and nine limited conflicts taking place in the world. Twenty-five in all, and that’s only counting the conflicts that impact the interests of the United States (you can read their report at https://www.cfr.org/interactive/global-conflict-tracker?category=us).

There’s no mention in their report of the unrest in Haiti, or the MNLF in the Philippines – conflicts that seriously impact people locally but (let’s be honest here) that we don’t have a vested interest in so they are of little interest to America as a nation.

By one count there may be as many as fifty-five conflicts presently on-going in the world today. That’s a significant number.

Robert Malley, president of the International Crisis Group has said, The international order as we know it is unravelling, with no clear sense of what will come in its wake (https://www.ceasefire.ca/trends-and-trouble-spots-in-2019/).

So naturally people are asking, is this the end? Are we at that point in human history when we are literally looking into the abyss?

Jesus talked about the final days of history and identified one characteristic of this period of time as wars and rumors of wars (Matthew 24:6). With that anticipation, it’s logical that Christians will ask if we are in the last times.

But for many Christians, it’s more than just a question. It has become, if not an obsession then certainly a major emphasis in their study and personal lives.

But we don’t need to obsess over it. Whether or not we are in the final days shouldn’t change anything. It’s interesting to think about but it should not be a determining factor in how we live out our lives.

The Apostle Peter makes this clear in his discussion on the Day of the Lord (2 Peter 3:10-13). After telling us that,

the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up,

he asks the million-dollar question – Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness?

Peter (read God here) is more concerned with how we live in light of the end than he is with our obsession with all things future. Frankly, an infatuation with the end times, or a penchant for calculating when the end will come, is a waste of time and energy. We should instead be spending our time and energy on holy living and godliness.

We don’t live holy lives because we think that Jesus might come back tonight. We live holy lives because it’s the right thing to do and we need to do it regardless of the timing of His return. Our lives should reflect godliness whether He returns tomorrow or a thousand years from tomorrow.

Our focus is to be holy living, not the end times. The end times is the incentive, but holy living is the goal.

The question is not When will Jesus come? The question is Am I living like Jesus today?

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve