Religion vs. Christianity
Religion binds people up in rules and regulations or in ritualistic patterns of devotion.
Religion results in dysfunctional socialization. It will never produce the functional loving community of mankind that God desires. Religion is unloving and self-serving. What religion offers is a pseudo-love, an addiction to the sense of belonging, an addiction to the sense of being cared for and sought after, an addiction to the sense of meaningful existence and purpose and identity.
This expose of religion is in no way designed or intended to impinge upon the reality of Christianity. Careful distinction between religion and Christianity must be made. Religion is the man-made aberration that attempts to impose absolutism, authoritarianism and activism upon other men.
Christianity, on the other hand, was never meant to be a religion. Christianity is the dynamic spiritual life of the risen Lord Jesus indwelling the spirit of man so as to create functional behavior to the glory of God.
We are called Christ-ones, Christians, and no one understands what that means unless they have received the life of Jesus Christ into their spirit. A Christian is not an individual who has "got religion," or "joined a church" or repeated a creed, or said "the sinners prayer" or been baptized in water. Rather, a Christian is a person who has received the Spirit of Christ into their spirit (Rom.8:9), and then lives by that indwelling Christ-life, manifesting the character of God in their behavior to the glory of God. That is what Jesus wanted to see in the Christians of the churches of Revelations and in Christians of every location in every age.
Life is in Jesus Christ alone. Jesus said "I am the resurrection and the life" (John 11:25); "I am the way, the truth and the life" (John 14:6). Paul explained that "for me to live is Christ" (Phil. 1:21); "Christ is our life" (Col. 3:4). Unless our activity, whether individually or collectively, is the "manifestation of the life of Jesus" (II Cor. 4:10,11), then it is not the expression of life. Activities that are not derived from the life of Jesus Christ are but the expression of "dead works" (Heb.9:14); they "bring forth death" (James 1:15).
Religious activities may appear to be so "alive" with enthusiasm and excitement, but if they are not activated by the life and character of Jesus Christ Himself by His Spirit, they are a "dead loss." Religion propagates a pseudo-life that appears to be "alive," but is actually dead because it is devoid of the divine life of God in Christ. Lifeless religion is so deceiving because the undiscerning think it is alive, when it is really dead.
A command of Jesus to Christians is to "remember what you have received and heard" (Rev 3:3).What had they received and heard which they are now to remember? Had they received an ideological belief-system, or a morality code, or membership in an organization, or a ticket to heaven? No, that is what religion offers. These Christians had received Jesus Christ by faith not according to the basic principles of the world (John 1:12; Col. 2:6-8), and heard His call upon their lives. They were to "remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead" (II Tim. 2:8).
When we become Christians we "put on the new man" (Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10) and are clothed in His righteousness, holiness, love, joy, peace, etc. Whenever we revert to the practice of religion we are clothed instead with self-effort, self-justification and self-adulation. Such behavioral garments are soiled, stained and polluted by the satanic motivation of the flesh in conjunction with his world-system.
"Grace" is more than a wish for God's graciousness and mercy. In Christian usage it is God's activity by the risen Lord Jesus, in accord with His character. It is the operative dynamic of Christianity, in contrast to the human performance of "religion," with its "works" of self-effort. "Peace" is likewise more than just a "shalom" greeting. Christ is our peace, as He provides the functionality of God at work in man and among men. It is the "peace of God that surpasses all comprehension" (Phil. 4:7), in contrast to the frustration of "religion."