Practical Application of the Word of God
Would it surprise you if I told you that I’ve been on a journey of losing my religion for quite some time?
If that question and the statement within it strikes fear in you for me as you’re reading this blog, then this post is for you.
In the wild and wacky world of humans who say they speak for God – and even those who believe they are in the place of God – there are words that get so twisted, mangled, spun, and distorted that they are eventually used interchangeably even though they don’t remotely mean the same thing.
And that confusion is part of the spiritual wilderness that many of us Christians find ourselves in the middle of right now.
The few of us who are gradually realizing that we’re not where we thought we were – and certainly not where God and Jesus Christ intended us to be and were and are leading us, because we transferred, perhaps unknowingly, that authority to fallible and corrupt people just like each of us who somehow persuaded us that it was the right thing for us to do – are having to reinforce our foundations by going through these very basic things to ensure that we understand them correctly.
The difference between theology and religion is one of those basic things that is mostly misunderstood. My hope with this post is to give a general overview of the differences with the result being that each of us examines our own religion and theology to ensure that we haven’t confused one with the other and that in the end they are in sync with each other.
So let’s first define correctly the terms religion and theology.
Theology is the study of God. Religion is the application – belief and practice – of what we learn from studying God.
Where do we find out everything we need to know about God? About His relationship to us? About His relationship with us? About our relationship with Him? About what He wants us to do and doesn’t want us to do so that we, as His children, can grow up to be like Him?
God’s word. The Bible. The sole source of truth.
What then is the intended result of learning about and knowing what God requires of us? It is applying what we learn by putting it into action in every part of our lives. This is the only true religion.
However, most of us as Christians are further away from this than we may know or would like to believe.
Because we have been fed a corrupted theology and encouraged to practice a corrupted religion.
Because humans have set up organizations, called them religions, and have inserted themselves and their organizations as theology.
At best, they promote themselves as representatives of God (“follow us and you’ll be following God”), or, at worst, they put themselves in the place of God (“do what we tell you to do and nothing else”).
This is not a new phenomenon. If we’re studying our Bibles, we’ll see that humans have done this since the creation.
Go back and really study the major and minor prophets and look at what God says He hates about their theology and religion (and these were people to whom God had revealed Himself just as He has revealed Himself to us).
Study the gospel accounts (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) and listen to what Jesus Christ says to the religious leaders He dwelt among.
We can’t recognize what is happening now if we don’t know it’s just another iteration in a long continuum of what human beings have been doing to trainwreck true theology and true religion.
One of the casualties of this corruption of what God intends is the intimate and direct relationship that God and Jesus Christ want with their children and younger siblings. That relationship is defined in scripture.
Religious organizations discourage, perhaps not intentionally or even knowingly at this point in time (most have been around long enough that they simply do what has always been done, but the original founders certainly knew what they were doing), that relationship (Bible study) by promoting their own dogma (websites, study papers, booklets, magazines, etc.) as truth.
Religious organizations also discourage this relationship that God intends with each of His children and Christ intends with each of His younger brothers and sisters by promoting the idea that only certain people (ministers, elders, etc.) have the special knowledge required to understand God, Christ and scripture and that it’s not accessible to the “lay” people except through the certain people the organization has given titles to.
It is rare these days to have ministers, whether in preaching or in counseling, say “Let’s go to the Bible and see what God says” as their starting point. Instead, it is more common to hear “our organization,” “our fundamental beliefs,” “our website,” or “our study paper” says and then to launch into the subject.
That is a corruption of both theology and religion. And we all need to lose them both and go back to God’s word as our sole source of truth and believing and doing what He says to believe and do.
So when I say I’m losing my religion, I hope you understand that I’m not some radical heretic who is abandoning God, Jesus Christ and God’s word.
Instead, I’m even more committed to weeding out of my life the corrupted version of religion that has been, perhaps unwittingly and unknowingly, gradually promoted to replace the true religion that is the intended result of our studying the true theology of God’s word.
This is the intended spiritually mature result of eating the Bread of Life and being fully nourished by it. If we find ourselves malnourished or always hungry, then perhaps it’s time to lose what we’ve been taught religion is and go to God and find out what true religion is and do it.