Spirituality vs religion is a hot topic in many Christian circles. The words, “spirituality” and “religion” are often interchangeably used, but they do not represent the same thing. In today's teaching, “What does it mean to be spiritual but not religious,” we will explore the distinct differences that exist between religion and spirituality—together with their impact on Christendom and the world at large.
Matthew 23:1-4 ESVThen Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.”
Spirituality and religion are two vast concepts that operate apart from each other. Throughout history, people have made several attempts to blend religion with spirituality; but like two immiscible liquids, these two cannot coexist.
Although sometimes, there seem to exist a thin line between religion and spirituality, they can never be the same thing.
Some Christians assert that spirituality is more of a personal quest for relationship with God, while religion involves an organized entity with focus on rituals and practices, in an attempt to draw closer to God and gain His approval.
I'll say that, religion is void of Grace and the life of God. It is filled with dead works of the obsolete law, and man's strivings to gain God's approval through his own “righteous deeds”. True spirituality is what the Lord Jesus Christ introduced to man while He walked the earth, and through His sacrifice on the Cross of Calvary.
Did Jesus Create Religion?
If we were to ask our Lord Jesus Christ what He thinks of religion, He would still give us the same answers He gave more than 2000 years ago: religion keeps people in bondage and captivity; it prevents them from accessing, encountering and experiencing God.
Matthew 23:13 ESVBut woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.
Jesus Christ is not religious. Both Christian religion and other religions of the world were not created by Him. The Lord did not come to start a “Christian religion”; He came to pave the way for man's reconciliation and relationship with the Father.
John 14:6 NIVJesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Lest we forget, a carbon-copy of what we call Christian religion today existed in those days when our Lord Jesus Christ walked the earth. The Pharisees and Scribes belonged to a religious sect known as Rabbinic Judaism. If we go through Jesus' words in the four gospels, we will find His reactions toward the existence of such a sect and their leadership:
Luke 11:43 NIVWoe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and respectful greetings in the marketplaces.
Matthew 23:23-24 NIVWoe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.
Matthew 23:27 NIVWoe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.
Matthew 23:15 NIVWoe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.
Let's take a look at this last verse. If we were to go around and ask 10 members of different denominations, “Does your church go out on evangelism?,” I'm very sure we're going to get a “yes” from each of those people.
But to most denominations today, isn't evangelism all about convincing people to come and become members of their church? With all sincerity, can we say this is what our Lord Jesus Christ commanded us to do when He said, “Go into the world and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19)?”
What was known as “synagogues” in Biblical times are not different from what we call “churches” today. And for ages, Jesus Christ Himself has been in active contention with the existence of religious sects and cults known as denominations—together with the harm they have done to His Body on earth.
Religion, Dogma And Indoctrination
Religion:- is an organized entity (often cults or sects) whose operations revolve around constant rituals and practices, with the motive to gain the approval of a deity.
Dogma:- is a belief or set of beliefs propagated and accepted by the members of such sects, without questioning or doubting its accuracy and validity.
Indoctrination:- is the act or process of teaching a person or group of people (sect) to uncritically accept a set of beliefs (dogma).
The common name for what we call “church doctrines” today is simply dogma. Just as dogma is accepted by members of a sect or cult without questioning, in Christian religion, church doctrines are often accepted by members of denominations without any form of resistance.
Identifying as a member of a particular religious sect (or “church”—as we call it today), is enough to give the religious leaders of such sects power to demand allegiance to the doctrine of their sect.
It's like signing a pact; that so long one remains a member of a particular cult, they won't go against the do's and don'ts of that cult. That is the first step to indoctrination.
That's when you hear people say things like, “Our church does this and doesn't allow that”, “I'm under the leadership of this church, and we're told to do this and not that.”
To such people, it's more about what their church wants from them and how their church expects them to live, not what God wants from them and how God expects them to live.
It's more about what is written in their church constitution, not what is written in the Bible. Their church doctrine has supremacy over their life; it determines the direction of their life and decisions, but not the holy Bible!
So long it comes from their church, there is neither resistance nor questioning, because it is believed to directly come from God. At this stage, indoctrination is already successful!
If you watch closely, this is what has been taking place in diverse Christian denominations for a long time now.
Have you ever sat back to ask yourself these questions:
- Why do denominations rarely do the same thing or agree to the same thing?
- I thought they are all using the Bible. But why is there so much division?
- Why does so much diversity exist among denominations?
- Why is it that one denomination is always different from the other?
- I thought the Body of Christ was One, or is it now divided?
Isn't in interesting that in Christian religion, one denomination always feels they are better; always believes they are serving the true God and living right, while other denominations are made up of sinful people who are going to Hell? But, isn't that interesting?!
No wonder Paul reproved the Corinthians for attempting to start religious sects and cults, which only births discriminations, confusion, divisions and shameless hypocrisy!
1 Corinthians 3:2-3You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Aren’t you living like people of the world? When one of you says, “I am a follower of Paul,” and another says, “I follow Apollos,” aren’t you acting just like people of the world?
Religion thrives on the platform of dogma and indoctrination. This is because many have chosen to hate the truth, neglect seeking God for themselves, but embrace religiosity. Many have chosen to close their Bibles to sit in the pews and swallow hook, line, and sinker, every word from the mouth of their religious leaders.
Funny enough, religious folks always feel they are the ones who hold and practise the truth, while others are infidels who are quarantined for final destruction in Hell.
The menace of organized religion has gone far beyond denominations to affect traditions, institutions, marriages, and basically all areas of human living. Once trapped and indoctrinated, it takes God's special intervention to deliver anyone from religion!
What Does It Mean To Be Spiritual Not Religious
Our Lord Jesus Christ did not come to make anyone religious; He didn't come to make people members of different denominations—with different doctrines, dogma, practices and views to life. He came to raise a spiritual people who have a living, active and intimate relationship with God.
Today we have “churches” secretly dabbling into the occult and publicly dabbling into partisan politics.
Today, denominations hate each other because they don't identify with the same political party. With all sincerity, can we then say that this looks like what Jesus Christ came to establish on earth?
Each time I cross paths with a religious person, I cannot stop seeing how much harm religion has done to people.
The fact that you are a member of the largest denomination in existence doesn't impress God. It is not enough to go to church every day. If you believe you're spiritual and not religious, at least, you should be able to comfortably answer the following questions:
- Do you know Jesus?
- How much do you know Jesus?
- How much of His Word do you have in you?
- Are you baptized in and filled with the Holy Spirit?
- When was the last time you received a fresh infilling of the Holy Spirit?
- Can you hear God by yourself and hear Him with clarity?
- When was the last time you had a one-to-one conversation with God?
- Do you have a functional relationship with Jesus Christ?
- Can you say you have an intimate relationship with God?
- Can you say you are walking in complete obedience with God?
- Do you have a private, consistent and vibrant prayer life?
- Do you think God is pleased with the way you're currently living life?
- On a scale of 1-10, how spiritual can you say you are?
As a churchgoer and devoted member of a denomination, if you sincerely answered these questions, you should be able to see for yourself whether you are truly spiritual or merely religious.
What Does It Mean To Be Religious But Not Spiritual
Watch closely and you will observe the following characteristics that are often manifest in religious folks:
- Religious people always believe they are holiest people walking the earth, while others are sinners who need to become members of their church, in order to make Heaven.
- Religious people believe everyone who isn't following and living by their church doctrine is disobeying God.
- Religious people would rather defend their church and church leaders, but not Jesus Christ.
- Religious people have their church leaders and church doctrines enthroned in their hearts, not the Lord Jesus Christ.
- Soul-winning for religious people always means bringing people to church, not preaching Christ, getting people saved and filled with the Holy Spirit.
- I promise, you don't want to date or marry a religious person. It will always be about what their church and church leader wants or instructs.
- Religious people are experts in manipulation. They have been trained to bring people to their church through every available manipulative means.
- Religious people believe that their church members should only marry each other, not anyone outside of their church—because they are infidels and outcasts.
- Apart from their church members and religious leaders, religious people barely pray with or heed someone else's Bible teaching.
- Religious people are not open-minded. To them, anything that doesn't proceed from the mouth of their church leader is falsehood.
- Religious people lack spiritual depth and girth in Christ, and in the things of God.
- Religious folks don't mind displeasing and disobeying God, just to please and obey their church leadership.
- Religious people hate it when their hypocrisy is called out, pointed out or exposed.
If you saw yourself in these characteristics of religious people, you'll do yourself so much good if you repent. But I know that most religious folks have already been hypnotized, many will read this and still fail to see the need to repent.
What Does It Mean To Be Spiritual And Not Religious
Religious bigotry is different from true spirituality which comes from genuinely getting saved, filled with the Holy Spirit and pursing an intimate relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
I'd rather be spiritual than religious. I'd rather be called by God's name than be called a member of a denomination. If God calls me by name, that's enough. That is much better than my name being known by a religious leader.
There are people who want a relationship with the Lord, not denomination. To the religious folks, such people are the “odd breed” that shouldn't live among them.
If members of Christian religion were given the power to crucify everyone who doesn't go to church, they would gladly do it. So long those people still adamantly refuse to submit to religion and denominationalism, they would get crucified!
Jesus did not come to start a religion, He came to put an end to religion. If God was pleased with organized religion, Jesus wouldn't have rained curses upon the Pharisees, Scribes and Teachers of the law.
If Jesus was pleased with organized religion, He wouldn't have sent persecution to disperse the early Church, when they were already comfortably gathered in one place and fighting over food.
If religion had it all together, there wouldn't have been the need for Jesus Christ to be crucified. The Pharisees, Scribes and Teachers of the law would have been just the perfect tool for reconciling man back to God.
But instead of building the Body of Christ, religion and religious leaders tear her apart. They chase after people to make new converts, only to make them twice as much children of Hell as they are (Matthew 23:15).
Luke 18:9-14 ESVHe also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Isn't it interesting that many churchgoers and members of denominations today see and treat non-members of their sects, worse than the Pharisee did to the tax collector in the above parable?
But here is the good news: God justified the tax collector who was seen and treated as a sinner by the self-righteous Pharisee. How I love the way God does His things!
Final Words On Being Spiritual And Not Religious
My prayer for every religious folk who will be reading this is that, the scales of religion falls off their eyes—so that they can begin to experience God for and by themselves—not through religion.
I pray that the eyes of your understanding be enlightened (Ephesians 1:18). So that you may go for the real deal in God, and not the infected crumbs that religion provides.
The best thing that can happen to anyone in this life is to find and know the true God for themselves, not the one presented to them from the pulpit by their religious leaders.
I sure know that if God delivered some who will be reading this from their religious cults and sects, they would begin to question many things they have been taught by their church leaders.
I recently read a story where a particular church leader told his members that Jesus revealed to him the day of His coming. This man went on to instruct his church members to sell their belongings, bring the money to him and travel with him to a particular location—where they will all await the coming of Jesus.
And guess what? More than 90% of his followers obeyed! This didn't happen in 900BC, it happened in 2022, where it is believed we have smart and intelligent people!
Dare you try to convince such church members that what their religious leader told them isn't true, they would be ready to tear you in pieces!
This is just an example of the level of damage Christian religion and denominationalism has done to people.
Today, we have many religious folks who pose as the most spiritual people, the closest to God and the most holy. They discriminate, detest and look down on those who don't subscribe to their religious beliefs. Yet, they're nothing but deceived, hypnotized, manipulated and spiritually-dead folks walking around. We have many people who know their church leaders but don't know God.
Well! The message has been passed. Let's trust that you learned a thing or two by reading this article on “what does it mean to be spiritual but not religious.”
God bless you.
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