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When we ask or answer a question, we have to be sensitive to the multiple meanings of words. The word "religion" means different things to different people. I'm going to answer this in several different ways. Hopefully one answer will address your heart-question. A) If your question is whether one can simply be "spiritual" (in a New Age sense) and through this have saving faith, then the answer is no. Currently there is a lot of right-brained, touchy-feely, experience-based spirituality and many people want to simply "feel" or have religious "experiences." These experiences can be very real, but they are not all from God. Many people are deceived by having a very strong, peaceful, or beautiful experience and thinking it's from God or an angel. God has already told us about Himself and His Son; this information is in the Bible. When we discard the Bible and intellectual doctrines out of hand and simply want to rely on personal visions and revelations, we're setting ourselves up for deception. B. Just believing in "God" or a god -whether you're part of organized religion our not- does not equal saving faith, either. There are many "gods" in this world, and faith in a "god" (i.e. a higher power) alone is not enough for salvation. We'd better be SURE that the "God" we believe in is the one Who has revealed Himself to mankind, not a figment of our imagination or a human creation. Again, we believe that the true God revealed himself in the Bible. But we have to believe in more than just "God." The Christian way is VERY narrow and Jesus honestly is the stone over which many people stumble. You can see this in public, where it is often permissible to pray to "God" but offensive to pray in the name of Jesus. Jesus said that He was/is the ONLY Way to the Father. (John 14:6) If we truly believe in "God," then we'll believe what He said about His Son. 1 John 2:23 says, No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also. C. If you define "belonging to a religion" as "being part of a Christian church" then no. You don't have to belong to a church to have true faith in God or Jesus. There have been many Christians in history who, because of their location or unusual circumstances (i.e. being in prison) were not "church members" or involved in organized religion. These people had a sound grounding in the Bible, though. They were not just "being spiritual" or just inventing their own "god" to worship. Yet the Bible tells us that under normal circumstances we're not to forsake assembling together. Being part of a fellowship of believers is important for us emotionally as well as intellectually and spiritually, and it serves as a witness to the world. D. As a final note, some Christians define "religion" as "working to earn salvation," "man's search for God," or as just following a set of rituals. You may hear that "Christianity is not a religion; it's a relationship." In this sense as well, Christians don't belong to a "religion." We're in a relationship is our savior. Christianity is different from many other world religions in that 1) God sought out man, not the other way around 2) We have a Savior who himself claimed to be the Son of God 3) whose followers died still claming that He actually rose from the dead 4) The life of our Savior and our scriptures can be verified historically and 5) our salvation is based on our faith in Jesus, NOT on good works, rituals, or ascetic practices such as denying ourselves food, shelter, marriage, etc. I hope that one of these addresses your question.
FAITH IN GOD WITHOUT THE RELIGION? Expect to see this question and ideology frequently these days. Dissociation from religious institutions is all the rage. One view of religious television money marketing is enough to make us all want to become monastic. Many churches, void of leadership, have become mere shells with play-actors who sustain their religious entertainment. Still, there are those men of God--true to his Word who lead with integrity. Jesus loved the church (not religion) and gave himself for it. The true church of Jesus will remain to do his purpose, even amidst the clamoring religions. It is essential that one not belong to any religion, or any local church for that matter, to have true faith in the God of our Bible. This statement assumes an understanding that religion is mans poor efforts at being good to appease the gods. It understands that Christianity is not this religion. Christianity is Gods best effort at redeeming sinful man by the sacrifice of his Son, Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sin to those who receive him. (I John 4:10) Religion will of necessity have an arbitrary god that bears little if any resemblance to the God of our Old and New Testaments. (II Corinthians 4:4) Religion will always play its game of one-up-man-ship---one man trying to be better than another--doing more and bigger deeds than the other. The bible reveals God's attitude about such competitive effort. "We are unfit to worship you; each of our good deeds is merely a filthy rag." (Isaiah 64:6) Religion will fight and war to preserve itself and remain top dog. True faith in God changes the heart of man from cold stone to warm embrace. Faith in Jesus Christ strips away the outer facade and phoniness. Loving Jesus means religion and it's laws no longer matter. (I John 4:4-16) True faith in God is faith in Jesus who puts us to work loving others. We become good deed doers, not to earn points, but rather to please him with our obedience. (I John 5:1-4) Religion deceives people by threat and demand. It keeps them with the same abused power. Christianity presents the truth of Jesus Christ and lets an individual choose freely to accept or reject this love. To receive Jesus Christ is to become a child of God and to receive eternal life. (John 3:5-8) Everyone is a part of Gods creation and He loves them. Only those who receive and have faith in his Son, however, are his children. Religious people must earn their way and never have any assurance of love and future hope. To become a child of God is to acknowledge one's utter helplessness. God loves us, not because we are good--we are sinful. He loves us because it is his nature to do so. We cannot earn this love. It is freely given. "Money paid to workers isn't a gift. It is something they earn by working. But you cannot make God accept you because of something you do. (religion) God accepts sinners only because they have faith in him." (Romans 4:4-5) To remain a child of God is simple. God birthed you. He won't un-birth you. He will work to grow you and me into the likeness of his Son Jesus. (Romans 8:28) You didn't do anything to earn his love--you won't do anything to make him take it away. Be assured that the Christian, unlike his religious neighbor, will join with fellow believers on a weekly basis for worship and encouragement. "Some people have gotten out of the habit of meeting for worship, but we must not do that." (Hebrews 10:25) We take our far from perfect selves down to a designated building and join with other equally imperfect children of God (why do you think he calls us children and sheep?) We worship daily. We worship on the golf course, and the laundromat, the grocery store, the office, the beautiful mountain, the sparkling sea, in our closet, shower or bedroom. Yes, at all times, but we do not forsake the Sunday-Day of the Lord gathering--not without disobedience. Avoid religion like the plague that it is. (Romans 14:7-8) l Glenn Harrell
Yes, you do not need to belong to any religion to have true faith in God. Just look at the creation and know that a mighty God created it. Just read the Bible to know the true God. Just believe and accept Him that is the Alpha and the Omega and sent His Son to die for your sins and give you eternal life. He will guide you the rest of the way.
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