I have made the point on a couple of occasions that Christianity is not a religion. To some of you, that statement may seem a bit off, even a bit heretical. But I assure you, you will find no scriptural support for the view that Christianity is a religion. Religion is a man-made construct, the forms and rituals in which we express beliefs, traditions or dogmas. From the time of early Hebrew worship, God struggled to help his people understand that their worship of him was not about ritual; it is about the state, the humbleness and the motivations of their heart.
Hosea 6:6 For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.
Psalm 51:16-17 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.
1 Samuel 15:22 But Samuel replied: “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.
Again and again through scripture, God tells us that his delight is not in sacrifices, but in a heart and mind that are more and more aligning themselves with God’s ways. Obedience to God’s law, meekness in light of God’s majesty, praise in light of God’s glory. Those are the things that are pleasing to God.
The New Testament makes this even clearer. “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3;18)
So Christianity is not a religion, it is a life-transforming faith in Jesus Christ. I asked this question in my sermon two weeks ago: “If you are not fishing, are you really following?” in reference to Jesus’ call to Peter and Andrew, that he would make them fish for people. That if we are following Jesus then we are following him on mission. I think I could just as easily say that if you are following Jesus then you must be more and more conformed to the image of Christ.
Galatians 5 outlines for us the fruit of the Spirit, fruit that should be more and more evident as we follow Jesus more deeply. Paul proclaims, in Ephesians 4:17-24, that we are to put off the old ways of life and put on the new life that is made in the likeness of God.
Our faith is a transformative faith, not an empty religion. A follower is constantly striving for less of themselves, and more of Christ.
When you look in the mirror, who do you see? Yourself or Christ.