I read with interest the article in today’s Herald-Leader, “More Kentuckians turn from religion.” This does not surprise me.
First … what is “religion?” A turning away from religion does not necessarily mean a turning away from faith in God. The objective of believers should not be recruiting more people to attend or join their church. Our objective should be to proclaim the evangel (gospel) which displays the righteousness and power of God.
There is a difference between faith and religion.
Faith is between God and His created mankind. Religion is an organized “systematizing” of the faith. It includes the traditions and rules of man. True, it is an attempt to seek, find and worship God; but it is based on creeds, orthodoxies, traditions and rituals created by man; that may or may not be totally correct understandings.
You will find people of faith inside the churches of man. But you will also find people of faith outside of these “churches.” It doesn’t matter if one chooses to participate in a “church of man” or not.
We must remember there is only one true Church. It’s foundation is Christ Jesus. It is not a place one goes to. It has no denominantional boundaries. It is invisible. The one true Church is simply comprised of all who believe … period. No membership is required … it is automatic. We don’t “go to” church; we “are” the Church.
One need not attend a church of man to worship God. Study the act of worship in the Bible and you will see it is simply a “coming toward” God. It can happen where there are numbers of people, but it can also occur where there is just one person, on his/her own, coming toward God (inwardly … not outwardly).
Second … when people turn from religion, we should ask what is causing them to do so. I once looked down on athiests or agnostics, thinking they were so self-centered that they refused to embrace the obvious truth. But now I ask, what is causing these folks not to believe?
Often it is the manner in which believers live or preach that causes others to turn away!
When believers preach a gospel that tells folks how they can get to heaven (by believing), while also warning that if they do not believe they will end up in hell for all eternity … and if the folks who are the recipients of this “gospel” know that under these conditions many of their family or friends are already in hell with no possibility of rescue … is it any wonder that many respond; “I want nothing to do with a God who would do such a thing as that.”
Now if this “gospel” were the truth, as revealed by God in His Word (the Bible), then we would have no alternative but to believe it; because God is God, and He makes the rules. But this is NOT what the Bible says at all. This is how most church-goers interpret the Bible, and have done so since roughly the 5th century … but it is not what the Bible says.
Read the Bible for yourself, carefully and earnestly. Use a Concordance to study each key word, and trace that word throughout all of the Bible to check (and correct) the translation you are using.
You will clearly see God’s plan revealed … to ultimately save ALL mankind. None will be tormented forever and ever. Sin will be dealt with, and all will one day be reconciled to God.
Besides the preaching of an errant gospel, how do we as believers live our lives in front of the world? God has always chosen individuals or a select group, not because He prefers them but because He desires to use them as His instrument to bless all mankind. Study Genesis, and note the times God says of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob … that He has chosen them so that “all familes” or “all people” will be blessed.
God once chose Israel as His nation, with the intent of blessing all people thru her. But Israel turned inward, thinking highly of herself. The people rested upon their heritage, thinking themselves to be more righteous than non-Israel. So, as the apostle Paul tells us in Romans, Israel has been temporarily set aside until the full complement of nations enters.
This is the age of the body of Christ. Jew and Gentile alike. All who believe are a part of the body of Christ. We are Christ’s “complement” … Christ’s ambassadors (see 2 Corinthians 5). But we, like Israel, have turned inward. We think we are better … holier, smarter and wiser than those who do not believe.
It is thru the body of Christ that God desires to bless all mankind, bringing all into reconciliation with Him. But is our behavior and the “gospel” we proclaim consistent with this purpose?
We must take care what message we proclaim. The many different “churches” of our day are preaching many different conflicting messages. Is it any wonder that many are turning away from relgiion? The “churches” are preaching a horrendous gospel … “God is love, but if you don’t believe while you have the chance He will torture you forever and ever in hell. But God is love.”
Is it any wonder many are turning away from religion?
Could it be because of the erroneous gospel being preached, and the self-centered way believers live their lives, that is causing many to turn away from religion … to turn away from the faith?
In my next blog I plan to spend some time looking at the word translated “hell” in our Bible translations. You may be surprised about what the Bible really says on this topic.