My Mama didn’t believe in joining a church because of her Mama’s religion. They taught you would get ‘the Mark of the Beast’ if you did. (I didn’t know what that was.) Grandma’s religion had made atheists of all of her kids because it was, what was then called the “holiness” movement. She wore dark stockings, no make-up and did not believe in having much of anything. There was no radio, television, indoor plumbing and for many years, no refrigerator. She carried wood and coal and used an outhouse until she was 90 years old. Her belief colored all of our lives. Mom and Dad could never agree on what to do about church and so they slept in and sent me to a small church two blocks away.
At that little church, we had a series of pastors, at least two of which I believe loved the Lord. The others were merely religious and not true shepherds.
The one that negatively impacted me the most was a man who had been asked to leave his previous denomination – and pastorate (at least that is what I remember.) Reverend was very unhappy. He had five children who were unique in that they didn’t even fit in and I know that was painful for them.
His wife was the one that still causes me to shake my head. One thing I remembered vividly was that she wore silk stockings with a seam down the back and acres of unshaved hair beneath them. She taught Sunday School. Her favorite song was “Holy, Holy, Holy” and I always felt she was singing about herself as she closed her eyes and warbled in a high stringy soprano.
She didn’t like me much. I was a bit of a leader among our small fellowship. The kids voted for me to give the Youth Sunday sermon. When the news got to Mrs. Reverend, she took me aside and said, “Reverend and I don’t believe that we should have someone in the pul-pit (emphasis on pit) that isn’t a member of the chucha (no ‘r’ and strong last ‘ch’).”
I was very hurt and confused. I left and went to a church across town until they left. It was years before I could hear the song ‘Holy, Holy, Holy and focus on the one it was about.
At no time did anyone in that small church talk to me about the Gospel. There was no power and often little love. It was a place where some folks were thought of as pillars and others as necessary but not honored.
When I went through my rebellious years, I turned from traditional ‘religion’ and started looking at alternatives including the New Age. I found the focus on me and I liked it. I had a new religion and I was the ‘god’ of that religion. It was comfortable but it did not satisfy. I did what felt right in my own eyes.
Many years later, as I drove down the street listening to R. W. Shambach on the radio, the Holy Spirit spoke directly to my heart and my life changed forever. I had an encounter with the Living God. I learned that afternoon that God was real, He loved me and had a plan for me the most amazing thing of all, I found out that I was forgiven. God Himself walked me through receiving His forgiveness and washing me clean. No one can ever convince me that God is not real. He is real! I am His and He is mine.
Religion is an ugly thing. It is a practice of traditions not instituted by God. It is primarily cultural and doesn’t focus itself on the love and Presence of God. It talks about God but doesn’t really know Him and can be a mere history lesson.
Religion is found in many different forms and even embraces Christianity that has explained away the power of God. Because they do not experience it, they deny it. I includes many different belief systems from all around the world. It incites people to have wars to protect their doctrines and beliefs. There is form but no supernatural power.
What religion has is tradition, judgement, culture, doctrine, history, and social clubs as well as conflict with anyone who disagrees with them. What God has is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
Righteousness is His gift to us at our acceptance of His Son’s finished work.
Peace is ‘shalom’ in Hebrew which means wholeness – complete in Him.
Joy comes from His Presence and has no opposite and is found only abiding in Him.
A relationship with the Living God is far better than religion.
Are you in religion? Or do you personally know and fellowship with the living God?
If you don’t know Him, I invite you to an encounter with the Living God by accepting the finished work of His Son, Jesus Christ. It is easy to do. Just call on the Name of the Lord Jesus and believe with you heart – NOT your head – and you will be saved and He will send the Holy Spirit to Guide you into all Truth. Then ask Him to make Himself real to you and He will.
Let me know if you make this decision.