If we say that we have any “religion” at all, we’d better make sure it’s real!
These days, the term “religion” has taken on a bad connotation and left a bad taste in the mouths of a lot of people. And I can’t say that I blame them. After all, “religion” can be one of the most soul-damning things on the face of the planet.
People do crazy things in the name of “religion”… and most of it doesn’t line up with the Scripture. Row after of row of church pews are full, on both Saturdays and Sundays, of people who might know MUCH of the Scripture at face value, but very little of it from the heart.
The “religion” I’ll be speaking of in this post has to do strictly with an unfeigned faith in Jesus Christ, who WAS the WORD. The kind of religion that makes us walk and talk and think and act differently. Not just when we’re in church. Not just when we’re with other Christians. But rather, when we’re with those who need Jesus most.
So I’ll say it again… if we say that we have any “religion” at all, we’d better make sure it’s real.
What Is Real Religion?
To define “real” in this post, I would have to say it points to things like being genuine and honest, and sincere. The opposite, then, of real would be counterfeit, false, hollow… you know, a sham.
If religion is not REAL, it is only skin-deep. A show. If it IS real, it’s intrinsic, substantial, solid, and lasting.
We all know the difference between real and fake. Solid gold, for instance, cannot be misconstrued for aluminum. Real natural stone cannot be confused with plaster and paint. With those things in mind, now think about our religion.
It might be weak, and it may be sick, but that isn’t what we’re going to discuss, although it IS worthy of discussion at some point.
Is our religion true?
The world we live in today plainly
tolerates promotes a complete lack of moral character such as has never been seen before. It almost seems, at times, as if the very gates of hell have been burst open right here on earth. There’s no sense in attempting to speak to the atrocities that we see on a DAILY BASIS… there are far too many to speak to here today.
That’s why making sure your religion is REAL is of the utmost importance.
The Importance of a Real Religion
Reality is very important. In everything we do. We don’t see much of it these days, but it’s important. Do Christians believe that, though? Is it really important in any given church? Many say “Yes!” with a hearty look in their eye. But many are the same people who believe that everyone has a good heart when you get right down to it.
But the Scriptures say differently about that very thing…
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?Jeremiah 17:9
For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:Matthew 15:19
This kind of thinking – that everyone is really good at the core of their being – actually diminishes the very value of reality by believing that everyone has it.
Is it a delusion? If it is, it is a wide-spread one. But I recently spoke about Jesus saying that the road was narrow and the gate, strait. The road to destruction, as it should so happen, is BROAD, and that particular gate is WIDE (Matthew 7:13).
Reality Is Actually Rarer Than You Think
The ONLY judge than can truly try the subject of reality is the Scripture. There is no other measure that we can use against “right and wrong”… no other feasible moral compass.
Within the very Word itself, we see how important it is, and how dangerous it is to NOT BE real. In fact, many of Jesus’ parables drew a very clear and solid line between those who truly believed and those who were, at best, playing a part. If you don’t believe me, go back and take a look at some of these parables:
- The parable of the wheat and tares (Matthew 13)
- The parable of the sower (Mark 4)
- The parable of the two sons (Matthew 21)
- The parable of the two builders (Matthew 7)
- The parable of the wedding garment (Matthew 22)
- The parable of the draw-net (Matthew 13)
- The parable of the ten virgins (Matthew 25)
All of these great parables have one major point that truly stands out… the absolute and unmistakable difference between reality and unreality with regard to faith/religion. How useless is a Christianity that lacks truth, reality, and thoroughness?
Calling Out the Pharisees for Not Being Real
In one chapter alone, Jesus calls out both the Scribes and the Pharisees a number of times for the “hypocrites” that they were. How severe, when He tells them – quite plainly – the very real threat:
Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?Matthew 23:33
But how could He say that? How could our very merciful, gracious and LOVING Savior tell someone they were in danger of damnation? These sharp words cut right to the heart of these “moral” and “decent” people. Whereas they certainly weren’t as bad as some, they had a form of righteousness that was not truly real.
The simple fact is, Jesus meant to teach that a religion that was nothing more than a profession and an outward appearance was absolutely and utterly detestable in the eyes of God.
Wasteful extravagance and purposely honoring the lusts of the flesh are certainly sinful acts all by themselves. They can completely ruin a person, religious or not. But, according to the Scripture as I have read and understood it, nothing… NOTHING… is as bad as hypocrisy and the lack of a real faith.
Real Things Are Always Imitated
There are no parts of a Christian character that are without an imitation by the enemy. And those imitations are spoken of in the Scriptures, just to make sure that those who truly study, and rightly divide the Word (2 Timothy 2:15) will find them and harvest them.
There is a repentance that is totally unreal. Many think that to simply utter the words, “Father forgive me!” is good enough. First of all, that is not repentance AT ALL. THAT is simply, at face value, asking for forgiveness. But it’s important to remember that this step FOLLOWS that of true repentance.
So what are the Scriptural instances of fake repentance? We can start with Saul and move right along to Ahab, and Herod. Even Judas was sorry for his sins. But not one of them repented UNTO SALVATION.
Is there fake faith? Without question, there is. Remember Simon Magus, from Samaria (Acts 8)? He believed, but his heart was certainly not right in God’s eyes. Faith, also called “belief” in the Word, is in the very character of demons as well… They understand it to the core of its definition and meaning:
Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.James 2:19
What about holiness? The Word tells us that there is no doubt there is a fake holiness. Just looks at Joash. That Judaean king put on every garment of goodness and holiness until the priest Jehoiada died. At that time, Joash’s religion died right along with it (2 Chronicles 24). Even Judas fit in with all the other Apostles. Having walked with Jesus, ate meals with Him, and learned every lesson the other Apostles did, he was still a thief and a traitor (John 12)
Do love and charity also have counterfeits? The Scriptures say they do. There are many who can very easily show affection, speak affection, and relate to others as dear brothers and sisters in the faith. But their heart carries no real love at all. John and Paul both speak about love, and how it should not be in word only, but also in deed, and without being disguised.
A fake humility? Yes again. Some people can appear very humble, all the while hiding pride in their hearts. Paul calls this a voluntary humility and a “show” of wisdom (Colossians 2).
There is plenty of fake praying. Jesus spoke harshly against the long prayers of the Pharisees (Matthew 23). He doesn’t say that they sinned by NOT praying, or by praying prayers that were too short. His intention was to let people know that their prayers were not sincere. They weren’t REAL. They felt like if they prayed long enough, and used enough fancy words, the people would see them as religious and righteous. But Jesus saw them for what they really were: FAKE.
Worship can be faked too, and we see plenty of that in this day and age. Jesus was speaking about this in Matthew 15:8 when he said that people would draw near to Him with their MOUTHS, and show honor with their LIPS, but their heart was far from Him. The Jews of that day were NOTHING if not formal and flashy and prominent. But if Jesus says they weren’t real, then they weren’t real.
Believing the Importance of Reality from Scripture
It’s obvious that the Old and New Testaments alike place tremendous importance on being real. These Scriptures show us that we had better be on sharp guard so that we do not become formal or fake or operating “in name only.” And it’s been that way since the founding of Christianity. Nothing has changed except the way mankind twists and changes it to spread man-made tradition and doctrine as far as it will go, IN PLACE OF reality.
Belonging to a church is one thing. All the pomp and circumstance of the worship services, the baptisms, the marriages, funerals, and revivals… all per respective doctrine, leave many lacking when it comes to the reality found in the Scriptures. But when we THINK about those doctrines, do we find them in our hearts? Are they influencing our lives? Do we think about it, feel for it, and do we even TRULY UNDERSTAND IT?
Many times the answer is no. Can we say that we could walk alongside Peter, John, Paul, James? Or are we now, all these many years later, followers of Churchianity as opposed to Christianity?
We can pride ourselves all we want to on various aspects of our service (which should be a daily walk, not a “meeting time”), but does it have grace? Are we walking in faith? Have we repented, and do we continue to do so when there is a need? Have we been baptized for the remission of sins in the Name of Jesus, and received the Holy Ghost with the evidence of speaking in tongues? (Acts 2:38-39)
Do we strive to search the Scriptures to find what true holiness is, and then do we adhere to that when we find it? Are we holding ourselves accountable to the Scripture with regard to our conduct and our speech… not just in church, but EVERY DAY AND EVERYWHERE?
Ritual or Reality?
How many times do we see “brethren” getting utterly excited about the things going on inside the churchhouse? We often see people completely FOR or AGAINST specific things, clothing, decorations, “sacraments”, holidays, and so much more. This is a heart set on the things of the world, magnifying the flesh and the earthly matters. Of course, we can celebrate and have fun, but we must not allow those things to rule our FAITH.
What matters more is the work of the Holy Ghost on the INSIDE of us. A delight in reading the Word, in speaking of it, walking it, and separating ourselves from everything in the world that seeks to pull us in the other direction is necessary to become people OF the Name, and not merely A name.
There are many that, for all intents and purposes, look as if they are purely motivated toward the Gospel. They speak the loudest of their faith and condemn those who live in any manner that is not in line with it. They run after the most popular preachers, ministers, teachers, and worship groups. And they are familiar and fluent with a “kind of doctrine”. When in the light of public appeal, they take on a form of godliness that looks great on the outside. But it’s just not real.
But when the music fades, when the preacher’s echoed sermons fade away… when those a pew over are no longer looking… when good deeds are yesterday’s news… do we retain our Godliness? Or do we become comfortable in the familiarity of our lip service in public and then go on to do otherwise in private?
Are Our Revivals Real?
Every time “Israel” comes out of “Egypt” there is a mixture of true zeal and false profession. Anytime there is a true outpouring of the Holy Ghost, there are plenty standing by, just in the sidelines, to find a means through which to discredit it.
How many people become absolutely ecstatic with joy in finding peace in Christ Jesus, only to suddenly become utterly convicted of their sin, but really, there is no grace at all. These are they who truly endure for a season, as the seed of the Gospel falls on the stony ground of their hearts, but that fall away in seasons of temptation and hardship (Luke 8:13). This faith is not real.
It’s NOT revival if the old sins and old habits return as soon as the excitement has passed. This kind of religion is not real either… it is easier to liken it to Jonah’s gourd. It has no root, no life-force on the inside, and can both rise and die in a single day.
This kind of revival only serves to give unbelievers more opportunity to blaspheme God’s name and cause, and hurt the forward momentum of the true Gospel of Jesus. Is this kind of Christianity REAL?
The Times Dictate A Command To Boldness
It is a sorrowful thing to have to look at “religion” and see anything less than the New Testament model of believers. It’s disheartening to wonder what Jesus would say if He stood in the midst of the CHURCH… not even on our immoral and hostile STREETS… to address the believers. But we live in an age that simply DEMANDS bold and plain speech concerning the Spirit of God and Christianity as a whole.
If we are to carry this Gospel further on, as Jesus intended it… if we are to see lives transformed, the sick healed, the bound delivered, and the captive made free… if we are to see that signs and wonders truly do “follow them that believe”… then we MUST speak freely! Whether it seems bold or not!
The REALITY of faith has fallen by the wayside. It has been replaced with something that may seem similar to the religion established in the book of Acts. But it’s not. There is a staunch adherance to doctrine, but not GOD’S. There is a dedication to “church and state”, but not GOD’S. It’s also true that there is a way that seems right to a man, but the end of that way is DEATH (Proverbs 14:12). And all the while, the enemy of this world and OUR SOULS is utilizing every opportunity to destroy everything in his path.
What Do We Do?
The plan of salvation according to the Scriptures is a little different than what many churches agree on. Again, as with everything I speak on and believe with every fiber of my being, I can only speak to the results of my study and fervent prayer for the wisdom that only the Holy Ghost can bring.
I use to believe in the “popular” version of salvation, which states that all you have to do is believe in your heart that He IS and you will be saved. But if this were true, then even the demons would be saved. Even Satan himself would surely be saved because he CERTAINLY believes!
Faith in Jesus
It all starts with a TRUE and REAL faith in Jesus. It’s knowing that there is no way to attain a saving grace for ourselves, and we believe that His death on that cross was the once-and-for-all atonement for our sins… by which we have forgiveness. Our works have nothing to do with it! It is truly “grace through faith”:
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.Ephesians 2:8-9
Repentance is absolutely necessary. Through our confession of sin, and asking God’s forgiveness for those sins, God’s Spirit will help us to turn away from sin and look towards His eternal righteousness. Repentance is what opens the door of the forgiveness God has for us:
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.1 John 1:8-9
Another essential part of the salvation spoken of in the New Testament is baptism by immersion in water. It is NOT a symbolic ritual, it does NOT represent “being dead to sin and raised in the newness of Jesus” nor any other symbolization. The Bible speaks clearly to what baptism is really about:
Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.Acts 2:38
Baptism is a part of entering the Kingdom of God (the bride of Christ Jesus) and is NOT a ritual for the joining of a local church body. It is not representative of a church membership.
For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.Galatians 3:27
Also known as the baptism of the Holy Ghost, this is God’s seal on our lives, a guarantee of our inheritance as a joint-heir with Jesus. The Spirit will work in us, anointing us, and empowering us to be His witnesses and it is for every born again believer, as we’ve already seen in Acts 2:38-39. Furthermore, it was not just for the disciples, otherwise, Peter would not have said that it was for “all those who are afar off.”
Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is gold? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of flesh is flesh; and that which is born of Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.John 3:3-7
Baptism In the Name of Jesus
Here are a few Scriptures that talk about the necessity of baptizing in the NAME of Jesus, and not merely His TITLES.
Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.Acts 2:38
…only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.Acts 8:16
And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord…Acts 10:48
When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.Acts 19:5
All of these are examples of the Apostles fulfilling Jesus’ commission:
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.Matthew 28:19
He did not say “names” – plural – because there is only ONE NAME whereby we might be saved:
Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.Acts 4:12
The Evidence of Speaking in Tongues
There are many scriptures that speak to the amazing gift of the Holy Ghost, both directly and indirectly. I encourage you to seek out your own answers by diligently studying the Word for yourself on this account. In the meantime, here are a few, just from the book of Acts, to get you started.
…And ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.Acts 2:38-39
And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.Acts 2:4
For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God.Acts 10:46
And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.Acts 19:6