Summary: Can a person be a Christian without all the religious trappings? When people reject religion what do they reject? Are we talking the same language?

How to be a Christian Without Being Religious

James 1:27, Matthew 23:26-28

1. What do you think of when I use the word religion?

∑ For some it is large impressive cathedrals both old and new

∑ Others it is the experience of worship in a church assembly

∑ For others it is weddings, funerals and the like

∑ Maybe you thought of televangelists

2. A whole lot of people today are saying that they want God but don’t want religion. There is a lot of reasons for that but it is a widespread statement of people who have deserted faith. They just want to be a Christian without being religious.

3. When you preach a lesson like this you are going to offend someone. I am not trying to be offensive.

I want all of us to know what God thinks religion is. We are going to be looking at it a lot today so we need to make sure we are all on the same page and more importantly on God’s page.

True Religion according to God Is…..

"27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." James 1:27, NIV.

When people say they want to be a Christian without being religious this isn’t the religion they speak of. They are referring to ……

Organized Religion

1. Really it’s disorganized religion - I’ve been working with churches for 30 years and believe me they aren’t very organized.

2. A very negative perception by many people. Why?

a. Seen as institutional and irrelevant

b. Seen as being very hypocritical. Especially in the light of child sex abuse cases that have come to light in many churches.

c. Seen as being old fashioned and out of touch with modern communication styles etc.

d. Seen as being more interested in money than spiritual issues

3. This attitude is reflected in the followed poem called Return the Cross to Golgotha

I simply argue that the cross be raised again

at the center of the marketplace

as well as on the steeple of the church.

I am recovering the claim that

Jesus was not crucified in a cathedral

between two candles;

But on a cross between two thieves:

on a town garbage heap;

at a crossroad of politics so cosmopolitan

that they had to write His title

in Hebrew and in Latin and in Greek...

And at the kind of place where cynics talk smut,

and thieves curse and soldiers gamble.

Because that is where He died,

and that is what He died about.

And that is where Christ’s men ought to be,

and what church people ought to be about.

Jesus had something to say about organized religion and from His statements we can discern what we should really be about.

1. Outside Inside

Matthew 23:26-28 “Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”

Appearance versus substance

* Being a Christian means being concerned about what is really on the inside.

* Being religious means only being concerned on what the outside looks.

1 Samuel 16:7 “…. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.””

2. Camels & Gnats

Matthew 23:23, 24 ““Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices--mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law--justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.”

Details Details!

Details are important but not when you neglect the more important matters.

* Being a Christian means being concerned with what God says is important.

* Being religious means being only concerned with the little issues that you think are important and neglecting the big issues.

I hear of a church recently that had a great disturbance amongst the members when one of the sisters in the church started to bake the unleavened bread for the communion. It was different. It was a bit chewy and so some complained they could not break it. They felt breaking it was important. It tasted different to the previous bread they used. A major inquiry was made into what the sister was putting in the bread. The story goes on as it does in many a religious group and gets nasty. Do you think this is what Jesus had in mind when he gave us this spiritual meal to remember His love and sacrifice?

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