In a recent conversation with a family member, we were discussing the difference between Religion – Belief – Faith & Relationship with Christ. After our conversation, I was encouraged to write about it.
Who…me? Write about that? I am definitely not qualified to write on that! I have my thoughts & opinions on that, but I am definitely not an expert on that.
But, I was asked to give it some prayerful thought – so, I did. I asked God to help direct me – to post / not to post. And, if I were to post, what should be included?
Soon thereafter, I started to receive messages (they were always there – I guess I just started noticing them):
- Christian Movies: God’s Not Dead, Holy Ghost, Son of God, Heaven is for Real, & many others
- The Good Wife – Christian Mediation
- Left Behind Movie (Special call out because this is currently at theaters)
The last one hit me the most because as soon as I was done praying – I sat in bed and turned on the TV – and the movie trailer was on the screen. And, in the book (probably in the movie, too) a pastor is not taken up by The Rapture. So, that one really got me thinking about the differences. Talk about an answer to a prayer!
So, while I am not an expert on the topic, here are some of the highlights from our discussion.
First – The four words are not mutually exclusive. A person can participate in all four at the same time. So, what I am going to share is my thoughts on the differences between each.
Religion (Dictionary.com): a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects
To me – this is the outward expression of belief. This would include things like going to church, wearing a cross, following a specific denominational “code of conduct” (ex. Catholics not eating meat on Fridays during lent), etc. Often, deeper belief, faith & relationship lead to a more visible signs of religion – a tighter adherence to beliefs & practices.
Belief (Dictionary.com): something believed; an opinion or conviction
To me – belief is where it all begins. Belief is the accepting of something that cannot easily be proven. Here are some examples of questions on belief:
- As a Christian, do I believe that Jesus is the Son of God?
- Do I believe He was sent down from Heaven by God to die on the cross for my sins?
- Do I believe that I am filled with the Holy Spirit?
Unequivocally – YES!
And, while I do think some people can have religion without belief (going through the motions without much thought or action), I do not believe that a person can have faith or a relationship without belief. (Spoiler Alert – In Left Behind, this is why the pastor believed he was “left behind.” He knew all the right things. He did the right things, but wasn’t in relationship with Christ.)
Faith (Dictionary.com): the obligation of loyalty or fidelity to a person, promise, engagement, etc.
To me, faith is taking belief to the next level. I can believe that Jesus is the Son of God, but do I have faith in His teachings? Do I trust that it is true? Will I change my behavior based on it?
Here is how I differentiate faith & belief in a different context – I can believe the plane I am boarding has the ability to get me to my destination. That said, do I have faith that it actually will get me there safely? Or, I think of it like this. I can have a belief – but, will I step out on faith?
Relationship (Dictionary.com): a connection, association, or involvement.
Think about those words.
– I have a connection with Jesus.
– I am associated with Jesus.
– I am involved with Jesus.
If those statements are true, would you act differently? Would you pray differently? Would you seek Him first in all situations?
Think about it – He is all-knowing, all-powerful and ever-present. Who best to talk with first prior to any decision but Him?
The gospels have a great deal to say about Jesus and Heaven. Here are two from Matthew:
Matthew 7:21-27 (GNB): “Not everyone who calls me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but only those who do what My Father in Heaven wants them to do. When Judgment Day comes, many will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord! In Your name we spoke God’s message, by Your name we drove out many demons and performed many miracles!’ Then I will say to them, ‘I never knew You. Get away from Me, you wicked people!’
“So then, anyone who hears these words of Mine and obeys them is like a wise man who built his house on a rock. The rain poured down, the rivers overflowed, and the wind blew hard against that house. But it did not fall, because it was built on rock.
“But anyone who hears these words of Mine and does not obey them is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain poured down, the rivers overflowed, the wind blew hard against that house, and it fell. And what a terrible fall that was!”
Think about what Jesus is saying – “I never KNEW you.” It is beyond works & good deeds. He is asking for a relationship. A true connection. It is emphasized in the next verse.
Matthew 19: 16-17 (GNB): Once a man came to Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what good thing must I do to receive eternal life?”
“Why do you ask Me concerning what is good?” answered Jesus. “There is only One who is good. Keep the commandments if you want to enter life.”
So, when I read these passages, the way I interpret them is that there is a difference. And – it is…
Based on this, Christ is asking for a relationship. He wants to “Know” us. That is how our names are written in The Book of Life.
Since this is already a long one, I will focus my next post on my thoughts on “how” to be in a relationship with Christ. Again – just my thoughts, based on what I have read and my interpretation.
I again come to You with many Thanks! Thank You for opening my eyes to Your Word. Thank You for helping to provide me the courage and knowledge to share my thoughts on this very important topic. Thank You for allowing me the opportunity to share these thoughts with others.
During these next few days, I will pray about my next post – the “how” to be in relationship with You. I pray that You continue to open my eyes, my ears and my heart to Your Word. I pray You help me find the right words, right passages, right messages to share Your Voice with others.
In Jesus’ Name,