“You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will … consider nothing sacred… They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!” 2 Timothy 3:1-5 (in part)
Sadly, in my lifetime I have witnessed the demise of many pastors and spiritual leaders… those who act religious but lack the power of the Holy Spirit. In this age we live in, we are seeing entire religious systems fall because money and power have become their gods. Institutions and people in professions we trusted have failed us.
How does this even happen? If we view religion as the true representation of God (as many do), this does not make sense on any level.
To understand, we need to look at the purpose of religion. The Creator designed human beings with a ‘God vacuum.’ This is the space that can only be fulfilled and completed through a personal relationship with the God of the Universe. When people reject the knowledge of God, it creates a vacuum that must be filled with something else. This is the reason that many people struggle with addictions. We probably all know of people who have attempted to use drugs, alcohol, food, sex, etc. to numb the pain and fill the void.
Did you know that some people attempt to use religion to fill that void? As hard as it may be to believe, religion can actually keep people from finding the Truth. Religions exist because we were born with a desire for knowledge that God placed in all of mankind, but often systems of religion redirect that passion toward people, institutions, and traditions… and away from God. The Pharisees whom Jesus encountered are prime examples.
Please do not misunderstand. I am not saying that churches or denominations are a bad thing. Many pastors are true believers and do a fantastic job of representing Jesus Christ here on earth. But I am saying it is important we recognize that religion does not point the way to eternal life, only Jesus does. And in fact, many religious systems attempt to find a way around Jesus' redemptive work on the cross by replacing the free gift of salvation with a list of do’s and don’ts based on the assumption that we can work our way into heaven.
Religions are theories made by man, but Biblical Christianity is divinely inspired. Religion makes you work for your salvation; but in Christianity, Jesus paid for your salvation. All you have to do is accept His gift.
Think of it this way: Religion is like that crash-diet that we have all been on in the past. We starve ourselves in hopes of losing weight quickly. We are always checking the scale and counting the calories. It is ok for a while, but then the cracks start to show. We start dreaming about binging on chocolate cake; we wake up and think about eating all day long. Before we know it, we are eating cake, ice cream, potato chips, pizza and all those things we were trying so desperately to avoid.
Christianity is more like the exercise plan where we start slowly. Instead of becoming fixated on the results, we focus on the process. We concentrate on becoming healthier by making subtle, small choices. Pretty soon we feel better physically, so we start eating better. As the results begin to show and our friends begin to comment on the positive changes, we are more inspired to work harder.
In Christianity, the process is to focus on our relationship with Jesus. The more we concentrate on learning about Him and reading His Word, the more we want to know about Him. The gains come in small increments, but soon we learn to think and act more like Jesus. We begin to understand that getting to Heaven is not the main objective, it is our reward for accepting the free gift of intimacy with God.
Do you want to avoid becoming misled by so-called spiritual leaders who worship money and power instead of the One True God? Reject any religious system which worships the creation—rather than the Creator—and focus on the supernaturally inspired message of the gospel which has the power to transform our weak human nature.
For more on this discussion, please pick up your copy of “Through the Lens of Love & Truth: A Look at Christian Conservatism in America”