- (By CP Cartoonist Rod Anderson)
Much of what takes place in the realm of religion is actually dangerous to your soul. It leaves you worse off after engaging in it. Check out these 7 ways religion can mess you up:
1) You jump through religious hoops while lacking a relationship with God.
This is the most obvious problem with religion, and the most prevalent. "Let's see. How can I hope to have God accept me? I will try doing religious stuff. Yeah. That's the ticket. That should get it done."
Nope. Not even close.
2) You become proud of your religion.
Pride and religion should not go together. Why then does religion tend to generate so much pride in the heart of man? And why does it often lead people to view themselves as superior to those outside their religious group?
Obviously, we need a connection with God that will actually change our heart and produce genuine humility. It's a good thing Jesus came to give people such a heart. And boy do we all need it.
3) You become judgmental.
The tendency to look down on others is unfortunately a common problem in religious circles. It's the opposite of what Jesus taught His followers. But that doesn't mean every professing Christian got the memo. There are actually plenty of people in every religion who tend to be judgmental. After all, it's a natural response once you "get a little religion."
True religion, on the other hand, is not judgmental. And the love of God is the only source of true religion.
4) You gain knowledge but don't grow in love.
"Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up." (1 Cor. 8:1) It's easy to gain knowledge, but not so easy to grow in love. It's easy to learn facts, but not so easy to forgive. It's easy to get an education, but not so easy to treat everyone with kindness. Love is often difficult because it doesn't come naturally to love people unless they love us first. Jesus loved the unlovable, and that includes you and me.
5) You get just enough religion to become miserable.
The initial breakthrough into Christianity comes through repentance and faith. You start out where every Christian begins as a spiritual infant. Your growth is then largely expressed in the way you view others and the way you treat others. As you care for people with Christ's love, you experience joy in your Christian walk. But when a Christian is less than charitable toward people, he can quickly find himself becoming miserable.
Some of the earliest Christians discovered firsthand that getting stuck in spiritual infancy is a bummer. The apostle Paul wrote to them, "Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly – mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly?" (1 Cor. 3:1-3)
Unless our religion produces a loving heart and a willingness to turn away from sin, we will lack the stability and the contentment believers experience when they grow beyond the infant stage of Christianity.
The eyes, the mind, and the heart are all "vital spiritual organs." If any one of them is not focused on Christ and His love, it is easy to stray from a close walk with the Lord. This spiritual immaturity produces restlessness rather than peace.
And it's a big reason Jesus called people to follow Him. He never said, "You can stay right where you are at spiritually, mentally, and with your current priorities." That stagnant approach doesn't benefit anyone.
6) You try to live with a foot in each camp.
You would be less conflicted in this life to flat out reject Jesus and live for sin, than to accept Jesus only to live a life of complete compromise. There is only one way to be happy in Jesus, and that is to trust and obey. If I trust in Jesus but don't yield myself to the Holy Spirit's leading, I end up living a divided life. This places one foot in Christ's camp, and one foot in the camp of sinful compromise.
Something has got to give. You will eventually give yourself over to one of the camps. That is, unless you want to keep living a double-minded life with no peace.
7) You ride "the religion train" to hell.
Think how insane it would be if the various religions (which obviously contradict each other) could all deliver your soul from hell and bring you safely into heaven. But that's not the way it works.
In God's design, there is truth and there is one path to heaven. Jesus came to earth in order to rescue us from sin, death, and hell. It's true. Religion cannot save your soul, but Jesus can, and He will as you trust Him and accept His free gift of eternal life in heaven.
The religion train has many passengers. But you don't have to go along for the ride on that disastrous journey. Instead, you can go with Jesus today. You can trust Him to meet all the needs of your soul, both in this life, and in the life to come. As someone in our church mentioned the other day, Christians have "life after life." And it begins the moment you accept Jesus as your Savior.
So will you opt for religion, or for a relationship with Jesus instead? There is no need to get messed up by religion, especially since the arms of Jesus are inviting you to a life that will actually satisfy your soul and please your Creator.
Jesus said, "I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly." (John 10:10) So if religion is all you have ever known, isn't it time you meet Jesus and experience spirituality as God designed it?