“You must be very religious!” is a comment I often hear whenever I share my faith in Christ. Confusing Christianity and religiosity is common, even among faithful church-goers. Let me assure you that there is a very big difference.
Webster’s dictionary defines religion as: a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices; a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith.
This means that a religion is belief in a person or object; it is also the observance of worship to that person or object. Every organized religion has its set of laws, rules of conduct, and ritual to venerate their object of worship. And religions abound. The exact number of religions in the world is unknown, but best estimates place the number around 4200. The following list is of the 12 major world religions according to size.
Christianity: 2.1 billion
Islam: 1.5 billion
Secular/Nonreligious/Agnostic/Atheist: 1.1 billion
Hinduism: 900 million
Chinese traditional religion: 394 million
Buddhism: 376 million
primal-indigenous: 300 million
African Traditional & Diasporic: 100 million
Sikhism: 23 million
Juche: 19 million
Spiritism: 15 million
Judaism: 14 million
(these are the most current approximate estimates from: www.adherents.com)
It troubled me to see how many faiths were considered Christian, when they really are not. Even more distressing is how many professed Christians are confused with this issue. To clarify: Christianity is the only belief that acknowledges Christ as God and as the only Savior; He is the cornerstone of Christian conviction. There are many religions that acknowledge Christ as a prophet or a very good man; professing belief in Jesus, while disbelieving that He is God or that He is the only Savior. Another common misconception is that a religion is ‘Christian’ because belief in a god is involved. Belief in a higher power is universal and there have always been other gods that men idolize and worship. The ancient Egyptians had over 2000 gods that they worshipped in biblical times.
It is amazing how many believers struggle through their circumstances without ever thinking of picking up their Bible to read what God says regarding their situation. I agree with what Clarence Randall once wrote: ‘Faith is more than thinking something is true. Faith is thinking something is true to the extent that we act on it.’
First of all, it is important to fully understand the meaning of Christianity and salvation. Our Christian faith is different from other spiritual beliefs in some very significant ways. Christianity is the only faith involving a personal invitation from God to get intimately involved with Him. It is the only faith in which God tells us, in no uncertain terms, that there is only one path to Him. There is no other faith in which a loving God promises to bless those who meet the terms of His agreement. Christianity is also the only faith in which God requires an RSVP; this requirement to respond to God’s call is unique to Christianity.
This faith of ours is an active participation lifestyle. It begins with an initial response to God’s invitation to love Him, but it must continue in a change of lifestyle. Relationship means a connection with someone; and that takes involvement. To quote my husband “Love is an Action Word.” Love caused God to draw us to Him. It is love that causes us to want to build a closer relationship with Him. It is love that stirs up our desire to please Him.
Dr. Bob Utley, Professor of Hermeneutics (Retired) says: …“Salvation is not a product, but a relationship. It is not finished when one trusts Christ; it has only begun (a gate and then a road)! It is not a fire insurance policy, nor a ticket to heaven, but a life of growing Christ-likeness. We have a proverbial saying in America that says the longer a couple lives together, the more they begin to look alike. This is the goal of salvation!”
You have to know what you believe and why. If your faith is to hold up in the midst of the difficulties of life, you must be convinced that the principals you live by are based on truth, and not based on lies. Unmovable faith is what you need to stand against the pressures of this world. Without a solid foundation your faith won’t hold up when you face the losses of life.
If you don’t know what it means to be a Christian you may be tempted to rely on someone else’s opinions. Without a solid foundation, you will be tricked into believing false doctrine that will take you away from God and away from His purpose for you. A weak Christian foundation will cause you to doubt what you believe. And when your beliefs are put to the test-and they will be-you won’t be able to defend what you believe.
People will ask you…
Why did you become a Christian?
What is Christianity?
How does a person become a Christian?
What happens when you become a Christian?
What does it mean to be a sinner?
Does becoming a Christian make you sin-free?
Are you prepared to answer these questions with absolute authority? Can you give skeptics an answer that will convince them that your belief is based on truth? If not, why not? God wrote a book that has the answers to everything you are searching for. ‘The Ultimate Guide to Better Living’ was written with you in mind, and it is at your disposal. The author would love you to read it.
1 Peter 3:15 says “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope (the trust-the faith) that you have.” Keep in mind that “Your faith is as strong as the foundation on which it is built.”