Many believers struggle with wanting to know, of all the different Christian Religions that exist today, which is the "true" religion. Throughout Christian history, Christians have had to endure countless theological disputes, particularly as it applies to Catholicism. In the 16th Century, prominent religious figures protested Catholic doctrine and practices which gave way to the Protestant Reformation (a protest for reform). The Reformation movement was initially intended to reform certain beliefs and practices of the Roman Catholic Church; however, it ultimately gave rise to new religious denominations throughout Western Europe which eventually found their way to America.
What is Religion?
Christian religions are built on core beliefs that are promoted and defended to be the true and accurate interpretation of God's Word. Some religious doctrines and teachings emphasize "Holiness", while others emphasize the importance of "Grace." Some place significant importance on performing certain sacraments and rituals, while others place little or no emphasis on such matters. Popular religions today emphasize scripture as a tool for prosperity, while others emphasize the importance of prophecy. My concern is that diverging and emerging beliefs within the Catholic and Protestant faiths are causing Christians to become skeptical as we continually seek the "truth", and are beginning to see little reason to believe at all. Many Christians are questioning the relevance of Christianity to modern life.
The Challenges Religions Present.
Over the centuries, the different doctrinal interpretations of God's Word and varying religious practices have caused Christians to focus on the differences between the religions, thus what divides us instead of unite us in the Body of Christ. To overcome this propensity, we must focus on our core beliefs and at the center of it all Jesus Christ and His teachings. So what are our core beliefs that we must focus on? As Christians, we believe that Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah and He is our Lord and Savior. We believe that He suffered, died, was buried, and rose from the dead. We believe that these things occurred so we may have eternal life. We believe that Jesus Christ sits at the right hand of the Father in unity with the Holy Spirit and that He will return to judge the living and the dead. We believe that He will grant eternal life to those who believe and that our salvation is based on our faith in Him and Him alone. We believe we must abide in Him and He in us, for without Him, we can do nothing. We believe in following His royal commandments - "To love the Lord your God with all our heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength...Love your neighbor as yourself. "There is no commandment greater than these." (Mark 12:30-31).
Problems Associated With Religions.
My concern is that too many Christians depend on religious institutions and its supporting organizational doctrine to find, understand and know God. The truth is that Christ did not come to the world to start or deliver a religion. You cannot find God in religion because He’s not there. He is in you and I and His truths are found in us as believers. My concern is that human-made religions invite biases toward and discrimination against other people and religious organizations - whether Christian or Non-Christian. This, coupled with many Christians already struggling to understand the relevance of their religious faith in modern life, can cause significant discord among Christian believers. This is so because we all live under different value sets and not one value set is the same. None of our values were formed exactly in the same way. Therefore our beliefs and resulting attitudes toward what is true and not true or what is wrong or not wrong varies. Subsequently, this leads to varying attitudes and beliefs relative to who God is; the conditions for salvation; and what He Wills for our lives.
A Scripture-based Example
In Genesis 4, we find the story of Cain and Abel, the sons of Adam and Eve. It came to pass that Cain, a tiller of the ground, brought an offering to God. His offering was “fruit of the ground”. (Genesis 4:3). Abel, on the other hand, was a shepherd and offered God as his offering the “firstborn of his flock and of their fat.” (Genesis 4:4). God was very pleased with Abel’s offering and was not pleased with Cain’s offering of fruit. Cain became very jealous and angry at Abel and killed him. (Genesis 4:8). Now, you may ask what does this have to do with the topic of understanding religion? The answer is that it represents a major recorded incident of man interpreting God's will, just as religions attempt to do. At the very core of the atonement of our sins is the spilling of blood. It was so at the beginning of time and remains true to this day. Cain had determined that there was a different truth. He believed that an alternative approach could satisfy God. He chose fruit as a means of atonement. Abel on the other hand knew what God’s will was relative to the offering - that being, the spilling of the lamb’s blood. It wasn’t just any lamb either. It was a choice lamb fit for God. The point is that Cain and Abel operated under very different sets of values and principles based on specific attitudes and beliefs they held toward God and acted accordingly. True believers of Christ aren’t religious at all! They are followers of Christ which means that religion has nothing to do with being a Christian. Christianity is is a profession of and commitment to a relationship with Jesus Christ which can only occur by means of our abiding in Him for all things. A relationship that leads us to be one with God.
We Must Turn to The Christ In Us For the Truth
My intent is not to discourage anyone from being religious or attending their place of worship. My point is that we must not rely on our religion to find and experience Christ and God's Will for our lives. Such a quest will only to divide us as brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ. As believers, we must rely on the Holy Spirit (the Spirit of Christ) who resides in our soul to define and lead us to the truth. The truth is within us, for this is where the resurrected temple exists, and the High Priest resides. We must turn inwardly and by our faith, listen to the "Christ In Us". As scripture tells us "This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!" (Matthew 17:5). By doing so, we find what unites us in the Body of Christ.