Wednesday, August 06, 2014


Religion is a much misunderstood word. It is even the cause of real debate on occasion. [Not to mention wars.] The New International Version of the scripture says it quite well when speaking about religion that could be considered real and valid in James 1:27 when it says this, "Religion___[A derivative of threskos; meaning a ceremonial observance__religion__ worshipping__with emphasis on the external, says Strong’s Word Studies]___that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

Across the years I've been asked many, many times, "What religion are you?" I've always answered that question this way, "I don't have a religion. In fact, I may be the most non-religious person you're likely to meet." The person asking the question usually looks at me as if I'm a little odd. [Correctly so, perhaps!] Were they to then go on and ask me, [they usually don't] "Aren’t you part of the Christian religion?" My answer would still be No!  The "Christian Religion" can be totally different than having a relationship with Jesus Christ."

All of this is meant in a very serious and respectful manner, I assure you. But it is a simple statement of truth as I see it, and my purpose is NOT to try to get anyone to see it my way at all. I have some very good friends, even blog friends, who would disagree with my assertion and view of this. You know what? That’s OK! Our fellowship is not based on a certain view of a certain topic. 

I hold to my view because of my understanding of what I see as a biblically based principle that says being a Christian is more than simply saying one believes in Christ. [The devils believe that way too, and tremble, scripture says.] Christians are people [This rules out there being Christian literature, songs, schools, nations, etc.] who share His life. Our privilege is to say with Paul, "For to me to live is Christ."

For the Christ followers seen in the New Testament, Christianity was not a sales pitch to get people to make a decision about belief. [Though no one doubts that the will and even a belief system is involved.] They had no desire to share a carefully worked-out gimmick that would manipulate an on-the-spot decision to "get somebody saved." For them, witnessing was a spontaneous enthusiasm for a way of life, that was inexplicable except for the One Who is Himself the Source of that life, that on occasion brought about questions asked by others which allowed for the truth of the gospel of Christ to be shared and, hopefully, heard and accepted.
Someone I admire and deeply appreciate said it this way....

"The first century Christians were people who knew Jesus in a unique way. They were in love with Him. They were filled with His Spirit. Because He was their very life, His fruit [The Fruit of the Spirit] was evident in the way they lived. Peter tells us that as we live out that fruit as we're doing good to others, it will attract their attention and they will want to know and ask, 'why are you living life the way you do?' It is then that we can speak up and tell them as explained in this verse, 'Always with the utmost courtesy, be ready to give an answer.'  (1 Pet. 3:14-15 The Message) When this happens, God has placed the opportunity in our laps to share the Good News of the Gospel gently and respectfully."

So, witnessing is more than a "sales pitch" to get people to change their belief or their behavior by deciding in the moment that they accept certain thoughts about Jesus and are willing to do certain things for Him.  [Be baptized, go to church, say a prayer, tithe, etc.]  Christianity is simply not a life filled with doing certain religious things. [Even Southern Baptist things.]

So you see, Christianity is not a religion at all.

It is a new life shared with the One Who is Himself... Life.

Next time in Part 11, I will show the biblical illustration of this. 


Aussie John said...


Timely! I'm about to enter hospital to have a retrosternal goitre removed and will face the question,"What denomination/religion are you?"

Having answered the question a couple of times previously, I usually answer "Christian", although thinking that "follower of Christ" may be more appropriate.

The usual comment is a surprised,"Who will we call in an emergency (if you're dying :).

"You see, it is not a religion at all."


Paul Burleson said...

Aussie J,

I'm glad you caught the point being made. I'm not adverse to using the "normally understood by our culture" designation of "Christian" religion or denomination, but I do believe it wise to occasionally remind ourselves and others why that is an impossibility.

Christianity is a new life and a shared life with God Who is our Creator. It isn't "doing" anything.

[Except as the Shorter Catechism says it by asking in question one of the catechism. Q."What is the chief end of man?" A. "Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever." ] If "enjoying" is doing something. so be it.

Thanks Aussie J.

Paul Burleson said...

By the way, John. We'll be remembering you before the Lord on this physical need being addressed.

Aussie John said...


Thank you for your prayers! I've now been put on a waiting list until Sept.3.

Victorious said...

Aussie John, I'll keep you in my prayers.

Aussie John said...


Wow! What a family we belong to!

Victorious said...

I've been thinking about the way believers witness and wondering if there really is a "method" that's effective. I tend to think if/when someone gets to a point in life where they are wondering if "that's all there is," they might begin a search. Jesus puts the right "seed planters" in one's path, someone else waters and God causes the growth.

I wonder if we don't place too much importance on our part and under estimate God's.

Just thinking out loud here. No need to respond. :)

Debbie Kaufman said...

This post is so timely Paul as these are things I am currently wrestling with.

Is there a correct theology? Are we to be loyal to just one denomination or can we support churches of all denominations and do as you have described above? Will we ever know that theology is all important and Baptists for example are 100% correct? Or can we support those denominations who preach Christ as the one way to heaven and let the rest go, including mode of baptism etc. The love we have for Christ and others being the all important point of Christianity. Just loving people, doing good, laughing, enjoying this life we have. Trusting God to provide answers to life's stresses.

Victorious you have also voiced thoughts I have had. Just some questions I am wrestling with.

Paul Burleson said...


Good comments, both.

I would say that when I moved from thinking of the "Church" as an organization and began to think of her as an Organism, [His Life and Body] it was a paradigm shift that brought about a whole new way of relating to even "gathered groups" [churches] in a fashion that set me at peace with it all.

I don't doubt that belief [doctrines] about certain issues is alright and even needed for a Christian's walk in Christ, but it is down the line of necessity for real koinonia. HE IS BY HIS VERY LIFE our ground of fellowship.

I travel often and much of my ministry is among gathered groups [Baptist] that have little understanding of where I am and what I teach. But knowing where they are and using language that is common and relational instead of "christianeze" seems to connect with them.

It is exciting to see a light come on in their eyes when I begin to speak of equality, giftedness, mutual respect, and grace that is already ours in Christ and that ALL WHO SHARE HIS LIFE are my brothers or sisters in Christ. It's as if a ministry of "life" takes place instead of "death."

I wish I could say it happens at every place I go. It doesn't. But, honestly, it is the places where it does happen and the people with whom it happens that occupies my attention now days.

Debating doctrine, teaching theology, presenting principles, are not where it's at for me any longer. [I've never has been there much anyway.] I do all of these, but it's in the context of sharing His LIFE instead of BELIEFS.

I may not be explaining it very well, but it is so real to me that the denominational and theological issues so many seem caught up in are not on my radar in my later years. I guess I'll find out one day whether that's good or bad, but right now I'm thinking I'll stay where I am on it all.

You two punched my button in a very positive way. Thanks for listening.

Victorious said...

When you mentioned how exciting it is to see light come on in the eyes of some, it reminded me of something similar.

Many years ago, Iverna Thompkins preached at the AOG I attended. She said that when she was preparing her sermon, she said to the Lord, "Oh Lord, I can't preach about this...they just won't understand it." She heard Him say, "They'll reach up and grab it."

I never forgot that. The Lord knew she was preaching the meat of the Word and it was time for us to digest it.

I can't put it in words, Paul, but when I read or listen to certain people, you know they know the Lord in a way that doesn't allow smokescreens to get in the way of that relationship.

So Paul, even though you may not see eyes light up everywhere you go, maybe they'll "reach up and grab it" later. Some of the words Iverna spoke have stayed with me for over 30 yrs.

Don't ever get have lit up my eyes many times by the words on your blog by making me think and/or confirming something I was pondering.

Thanks very much for your ministry.

Paul Burleson said...


What a delightful comment.

I think one of the serendipities of where I've come to in keeping my eye on those with the light in their eyes is that discouragement is less a factor than ever before in my life. No one can guarantee it won't raise it's ugly head, but that "light looking" I've learned to do is keeping it at bay. Praise the Lord for that.

Good comment.