What exactly is religion? It can be defined as an organized collection of beliefs, cultural systems, and world views that relate humanity to the supernatural. You could say that religion is simply good advice on how to live a life in order to gain the favor of a deity. Most religions have a set of religious standards, traditions, and practices that a believer has to follow in order to connect to their god. These religions are based on what you have to do in order to be ‘saved’. I used to think that all religions were the same and for most of my life I denied any particular belief system. Christianity, as I’ve come to understand it, is based on what has already been done because no man can achieve perfection which a holy God would demand. Though the believer strives to live holy and righteous, this is not the focus of the Christian faith. “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” (Colossians 2:8)
In religious practices one is working to prove themselves, to a god and to others that they would be considered good people. If we do something unselfish for someone for the sake of ourselves, isn’t that still selfish? If someone is ‘perfect’ for a time, but then makes a mistake what then? How can an individual ever become worthy of any favor on their own merit? We can’t, according to God’s Word this is impossible! Christians who understand the doctrine of Original Sin hold that people are not inherently ‘good’ (in the sense of righteousness towards God) from the moment of birth, and the only ‘good’ within people is Christ by the working of the Holy Spirit. This is another distinction Christianity has among other world religions. Other religions are based on ‘if I perform and obey, then I am accepted’, Christians, however, are accepted despite performance. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23)
Though we may admit that we are not good, and totally unworthy of God’s grace, we should not continue to live a life of sin and evil. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17) With this knowledge of our salvation, let us not become so arrogant that we lose sight of what God has commanded. With Jesus we do not need to be perfectly righteous, only perfectly in need of Him and to love God and our brothers. There is no standard, tradition or practice that can substitute for this. You need only admit that you can’t do it alone and you need God’s help. When Jesus said “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” in Luke 5:32, he meant those who humbly admit to needing Him. We must strive to live our life like Christ; not for ourselves, but for His glory in all that we do. I pray that others would come to this understanding.