Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Religion

I can't say I know exactly how to approach this one, but I do know what I want to say, hopefully I can say it the best way possible.
I started thinking about this a few weeks ago, after someone said to me that they aren't "religious." It sparked a series of thoughts about what it means to be religious. What is religion. What damage may have been done to those who consider themselves non-religious, by those who practice the various world religions.
Now for those who are picky about grammar, I chose not to use the question marks because I don't want any answers to those questions here but wanted to demonstrate some of my specific questioning thoughts.
I think that's enough of a lead in so jump time!
A major conclusion that I came to and have seemed to see confirmed in the Bible is that there are two religions in the world. I won't use any of the names commonly associated with any of the world religions because there would be varying degrees of inaccuracy with doing so. Being a Christian should be synonymous with following Jesus and those who are actually Christian's it is, but there are enough instances of people claiming the title but not actually following that I don't want to use the term.
For this I'm going to phrase it as followers of Jesus and followers of Satan. Those are the 2 religions in this world. Taking words or phrases out of context is a dangerous practice and one that I try to avoid and that's true right now so I'll give as much evidence as I can support the notion.
The first confirmation of it I saw was in Revelation 3:9
"Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you."
People who were of God's chosen nation that chose to follow Satan instead of Jesus. And that's actually the second reference to the synagogue of Satan in Revelation, the other came a chapter earlier, in Chapter 2:9. Two references in consecutive chapters written to churches as a warning but also with praise of those who have chosen the right path.
Jesus said He was the way to the Father. The way, and the truth, in fact. People must go through Him to reach salvation. The other side of that coin is that people refuse to go through Him, instead going through Satan, and reach damnation.
There are tragedies on a daily basis all across this world, but none compare that. Through the varying forms people march in droves into that torture chamber, claiming freedom and love as they do so. love for sin and selfish ambition and fleeting satisfactions instead of choosing to bend their knees and know the only one who Saves.
How do we know the ones amongst our congregations who may well fit the same characterization? We can't know for certain. Only God knows the heart. And there continues to be time for repentance, until there isn't any more time. So much Grace. So much Mercy. It allows us to turn from wickedness and be counted amongst the multitude with Jesus.
One of my favorite sections of scripture is Romans 1. In verses 29 - 32 there is a fairly comprehensive list of behaviors which could be used to identify those who are counterfeit.
"They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them."
Sin loves company. And those who don't indulge will be isolated, mocked, and hated. It's uncomfortable and hard to deal with but requires a strength that we don't natural possess but must be instilled in us and learned over time.
There are two sides in this world. Two religions at work. One leading to Joy and Peace and ultimately salvation though with much self denial and a great measure of self discipline. The other leading to fleeting satisfaction and emptiness and separation from God for eternity. The right choice seems obvious to me, but I've grown up hearing about it (which as an aside, gets way too bad of a rap. Growing up in a family that seeks to follow Jesus is the best way to learn how to do it. The pursuit must become personal for each of us but getting that start is very beneficial and should not be regarded the way that I hear it being regarded as often as it is.) so my bias is undeniable but I've also experienced God in ways that can never be undone so I know He's real and He's the right way.
It's a war. We all choose sides. "Atheists" "Agnostics" "Christians" "Muslims" "Buddhists" Following Jesus or following Satan. It's the war that rages on and will continue to do so until the final acts of these last days are complete and Jesus has restored the Earth with the New Jerusalem.