Vol. 5, No. 4
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Sometimes I hear people ask, "What is religion?" To be sure, religion is more than "going to church" as we often say. In the old days before air conditioning when people kept the doors and windows of the church building open, dogs were known to wander in among the worshipers. If "going to church" made one religious, I suppose then that the dogs would qualify. Of course, it is much more than attending services.
The word religion is found only five times in the King James Version of the New Testament. Three times it is used in reference to the Jew's religion (Acts 26:5; Galatians 1:13-14). In James 1:26, reference is made to one who appears religious. In James 1:27, reference is made to "pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father." Our English word religion comes from a Latin term meaning, "To bind together again." True religion, then, is that which binds a person back to God. People who are lost in sin are separated from God and need to be bound together again with him (Isaiah 59:1-2). So, if somebody says, "I'm not a particularly religious person," they are saying more than just, "I'm not a church-goer." What they are really saying is, "I am not close to God." If they are not close to God, then, they are close to the devil. It is either one or the other. James wrote, "Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you..." (4:7-8).
Religion is not merely a "system of faith" as the Dickson New Analytical Study Bible defines it. Men have devised many systems of faith, and many different religions. The Bible, however, says that there is but "one faith" (Ephesians 4:5). It must be admitted, then, that true religion comprises that one faith and none other.
Real or true religion is practical Christianity that touches every aspect of one's being. I like these words from A.M. Burton, as he properly defines real religion:
Imagine, I say, a congregation of genuinely converted Christians, prayerfully avoiding every wrong, humbly and lovingly active in every good work. What would such a religion working through such a congregation be? Would it not be the real religion? Would it not be the religion that honors God and blesses men?
The true religion is a matter of faith and works, of profession and performance, of theory and practice. It overlooks nothing good. It ministers to body, mind, and spirit. It does right things in the right way and in the right spirit. It worships God. It serves man, in spirit and in truth. It yields the fruits of the spirit. It makes better men, and after that still better men. It sanctifies the home, it improves the community, it makes peace, it brings happiness. The true religion is the religion of faith, hope and love; the religion of holiness and righteousness, the religion that prays for and works for the doing of the will of God on earth, here and now, as it is done in heaven" (Gleanings, pp. 86-87).