I find it very interesting that many today claim to follow Christ but say they are not “religious”. They claim that following God is only a matter of the heart, and has nothing to do with external things. They say they are spiritual without being religious.
Unfortunately, I believe they are right that too much emphasis has been given to the externals and too little emphasis has been given to the heart. Jesus and Isaiah both said about the people of their days, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” (Matthew 15:8-9).
However, just because many who claim to be “religious” are only going through the motions and busying themselves with religious activities without any real devotion to God, we cannot give into the temptation to swing to the opposite extreme.
Theologically, people are perpetually going to extremes. Here are some of the extremes to which people have gone:
1. “My friends and family think being a Christian is just about ‘going to church’, so I’m not going to meet anywhere or with anyone. I’ll just be a lone Christian!”
But the Word of God says, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25).
2. “My friends and family think that you are saved by Christ’s sacrifice by just getting wet, so I’m going to believe you don’t have to be baptized at all!”
But the Word of God says, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16).
3. “Churches just care about money, so I’m not going to give any money to any church!”
But the Word of God says, “Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches ofGalatia, so you also are to do. On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come” (1 Corinthians 16:1-2).
4. “Religion is from man, not from God!”
“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (James 1:27).
Just because one extreme is wrong, doesn’t mean the other extreme is necessarily right. Just because some religions are man-made, does not mean that all religion is man-made.
Let’s remember, Christianity is a religion. It is not a man-made religion. There are many religious groups which claim to be Christian which are not from God. They “teach as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:9). And there are many external religious ceremonies, traditions, and practices which are from man, not from God. Just because these practices ought to be abandoned does not mean all external practices ought to be abandoned.
Keep being religious; but only practice the religion which is “pure and undefiled before God”.