I recently read a news article detailing a study that indicated “religion” is heading for extinction in certain parts of the world. There have also been a number of recent headlines pertaining to “religion.” “Religion,” as generally defined, has been the source of much controversy and division in every nation throughout history. A working definition of “religion” could include: 1) people’s beliefs and opinions concerning the existence, nature, and worship of a deity or deities, and divine involvement in the universe and human life; 2) a particular institutionalized or personal system of beliefs and practices relating to the divine; 3) a set of strongly-held beliefs, values, and attitudes that somebody lives by; or 4) an object, practice, cause or activity that somebody is completely devoted to or obsessed by. 1

In realistic terms, “religion” is whatever or whoever one’s life centers around. As human beings, our “religion” is whatever or whoever occupies our time, our resources, our thinking, our choices, and our worldview, as in essence, this is “what” or “who” we worship. Whether one agrees or not, the word “religion” is actually inclusive of all “ism” terminology, ideology and theology (humanism, atheism, liberalism, conservatism, globalism, occultism, Satanism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Islam, etc.). It would also include sports/heroes, music/idols, Hollywood/stars, careers, schools, political parties, etc.. In that light, it’s highly unlikely that “religion” will ever become nonexistent. In our nation, the founding fathers were wise enough to discern that whatever lens we view the world through is the one that will permeate our thoughts, our actions, and our society, and consequently, they established “freedom of religion,” NOT “freedom from religion.” There is a big difference. Our founding fathers understood that as human beings, separation between church and state is not possible, and therefore, contrary to the teaching of the past 40+ years, is not written in the Constitution.

Jesus Christ did not come to begin another “religion,” but rather, He came to establish the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth. He came to be the only way for mankind to receive a restored relationship with His Father, our Creator God. The one true living God,  Jesus Christ, Holy Spirit and all of the living creatures of the Kingdom of Heaven are in a vibrant and living relationship with one another, and with all those who believe and receive the gift of Jesus’ death and resurrection. The Kingdom of Heaven is not a religion, but rather an eternal existence that begins the moment one receives Christ’s gift of salvation, and involves a journey of ongoing transformation into His likeness throughout this life on Earth. Christianity may be viewed as another one of the world’s religions, but the term “Christianity” did not originate with Christ, His disciples, nor the early church. As His disciples, Jesus commanded us to share the Good News of the Gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven, not “religion.”

Those who have not believed, received, or surrendered to the genuine gift of God’s Son and His Holy Spirit have not had their spiritual eyes or ears opened to see past “religion.” In the name of “religion,” people often act quite contrary to the ways of Christ. Jesus came as a demonstration of the supernatural love and healing of His Heavenly Father, and to destroy the works of the devil. Satan uses “religion” to keep people in blindness, bondage, and ‘turned off’ to receiving a revelation of a true relationship in Christ. For two thousands years “religion” has misrepresented Jesus, the Bible, ‘Christianity’ (disciples of Christ), and God. The end result has been anger, hatred, hardheartedness, close mindedness, fear, and many “religions” in opposition to the Gospel of Christ. Yet, in the midst of it all, our Father God continues to pour out His love, grace, mercy and forgiveness over the nations through imperfect vessels (us). He will continue to do so until Christ returns.

In the 38 years I have walked with the Lord, the most important reality I’ve come to know is an intimate, vital and living relationship with Jesus, my Savior, the voice of Holy Spirit speaking to me and leading me daily, and God, my Father, who loves me unconditionally, in spite of all my imperfections. I am a worshiper and am passionate about my Lord. Everything about my “worldview” draws from this ever deepening and personal relationship. The world would say I’m very ‘religious,’ but I say, He’s my everything, and I pray to be delivered from misrepresenting Him in any way through “religion”.

I’ve experienced and encountered many things growing up in the church, including marrying a pastor’s son, and ministering in many different denominations, from Methodist to Lutheran to Catholic to Evangelical Free to Charismatic and non-denominational. Our family has been actively involved in church leadership, worship, family and children’s ministries for many years. It wasn’t until a few years ago, however, when the Lord actually pulled me out of all I’ve ever known in my daily/weekly life revolving around the church, that I could really take hold of some significant Kingdom truths with clarity. Before I continue, I want to emphasize that God deeply loves the Church He is building on the Earth. In His mercy, however, He gives each of His churches and ministries only a ‘piece’ of His revelatory truth (one piece for each in His gigantic Kingdom puzzle). In His great wisdom, this is His higher way of getting us all to function as His Body, working together in unity and love under the headship of Christ.

For the past six year season, the Lord in His goodness, gave me a “time out”, so-to-speak, because He had things He desired to teach and reveal to me about Kingdom identity and giftings. I was hungry, thirsty and seeking. I have learned how incredibly amazing, loving and good my Father God truly is. I’ve learned how He sees me – perfected  in His love – thank You for the cross, Lord! I’ve learned how intimately personal Holy Spirit is. I’ve learned to see with eyes that are filled with the Father’s love for all mankind. I’ve learned to hear words of Truth that cut through all of the untruths screaming at us through every medium we continuously have at our fingertips. The Lord in His patience and kindness gave a me season of hiddenness so that I could actually learn to live in His truth from the place of heart transformation, rather than from ‘head knowledge’ or ‘religion.’

For example, the Fruits of the Spirit, are not just “nice” virtues to strive for, but rather, they are the very nature and character of Father God and Jesus. When we cooperate with the transforming work of the Holy Spirit, these Fruits actually become our nature in relating to Him and others, renewing all of the shortcomings in our personalities, cultural influence, generational influence, educational influence, etc.. Loving God and loving others unconditionally through thick and thin, the greatest Fruit, cannot be accomplished in one’s own strength. Unless one chooses to deny one’s fleshly instincts and cooperates with the Holy Spirit, we are incapable of loving unconditionally, or possessing inexplicable joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control that overcomes all circumstances and adversities. To walk out this life with these character virtues impacting and blessing others is impossible without being in continual relationship with the One who already established the example and sends the One who empowers us to follow Him.

“Religion” causes people to do things that are not representative of a loving God at all, even with the most seemingly ‘noble’ of intentions (i.e. the extremes would be carrying signs that say “God hates gays,” or killing people/blowing one’s self up in the name of Allah for rewards in heaven, burning down churches and torturing those who confess Christ, to professing to know Christ yet acting/speaking no differently than those who don’t know Him, to speaking prophetic words that do not edify, encourage or build up others). We are all work-in-progress, needing to die daily to our fleshly desires.

The world needs to experience disciples of Jesus, sons and daughters of the King, in action – in thought, word and deed – and not another “religion.” If we are truly going to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Earth, we are going to have to invest the time getting to know our King, desiring and being obedient to His heart and purposes manifesting through us. His purposes include a Church who understands overcoming all of the adversity and circumstances of this life through His Heavenly perspective – one that cannot be shaken. This relationship is rooted and grounded in His love, and in that sure foundation we receive His love and give it away to others, especially the unlovely. We receive His joy and share it with those who need comfort. We receive His peace and carry it to those experiencing unrest. We receive His patience and demonstrate it in the midst of a highly impatient, fast paced society. We receive His kindness and share it with the unkind. We receive His goodness and share it with those who’ve lives have been consumed with bad. We receive His faithfulness and give it away to those who’ve only known unfaithfulness. We receive His self-control, denying our own flesh, for the sake of preferring others.

Scripture says that pure and undefiled religion is to care for widows and orphans. I believe that lens is how we, who call ourselves Christians or followers of Christ, need to proceed as we experience a worldwide shift in this time of history. Putting aside our own needs, desires, and comforts for the sake of others IS walking out a fruitful life in a nation that has known much blessing.

It breaks my heart to know that some people believe our beloved Father is an angry God that is ready to punish us and “take us out,” but not understanding that Jesus took that wrath on Himself on our behalf for all eternity. During my “time out,” I received a revelation of the fullness of the truth of the New Covenant, and all that the death and resurrection of Jesus accomplished on my behalf. Yes, there will be judgment at the end of this life should we choose to refuse Him, but until our final dying breath, He is yearning for each and every individual to say, ‘yes,’ to Him. It grieves my heart to see the name of Jesus being removed from so many prayers and gatherings in our nation, as well as the Lord’s name being used in vain alongside the multitude of common four letter profanities, treated as though it were not the most precious and glorious name ever to be released from a person’s lips. Why aren’t the names of other ‘gods’ used as profanity or removed from prayer gatherings, events, and schools? Too many have bought into the lie. The nations have not yet fully seen the manifestation of the power contained in the name of Jesus and in His shed blood.

I desire to know His truth in the person of Jesus Christ. I want to speak His truth into the atmosphere of these times we currently live in. God is still on His throne and none of what’s happening comes as surprise to Him. Man has rejected Him since the beginning of time, yet He is not angry and pouring forth His wrath, because Jesus endured an agonizing punishment on behalf of all mankind, that we could choose to receive Him as the Way. Rather, God is jealous for us, and He is yearning for us to draw near to Him – to His Son. The truth is, without Him, we don’t possess what is needed to be able to endure the evil of this age that is coming against mankind. The truth is, that unless we say ‘yes’ to our God, we are not aligned in Christ’s protection over us from the true enemy of this life – Satan and his demonic forces, who seek only to lie, kill, steal and destroy. Whether we want to face the truth or not, there are two kingdoms manifesting on the Earth and we are actively engaged in one or the other: the Kingdom of Heaven, or the kingdom of darkness. There is no fence: the devil himself owns the fence and is continually moving it. Instead, God himself has established a plumb line that is suspended from Heaven. There is a big difference and we all must choose.

God in His sovereignty has always given mankind a sovereign choice to accept or reject His love in relationship. No one would choose a Bride that was forced upon them. Regardless of whether we know Him, have chosen Him or not, He is jealous for every single person, and loves us with such a passion that He saw us before we were even born, and ordained good plans and purposes for our lives. He sent His only Son to make things right between us, fully knowing that many would never choose Him. This short life on Earth is here and gone. We really can’t afford to waste a single day thinking we don’t need Him, that He doesn’t love us, or that He won’t accept us. Why would we risk getting to the end of life or having life cut short, getting to the other side when His judgment actually comes, having to face the question of whether we just weren’t listening, whether we just plain refused Him, or whether someone didn’t tell us? He wants us to know that we are deeply loved by Him. He wants us to live and prosper. He wants us to know that He desires to lead us away from whatever leads to destruction.

We are told in Revelation about martyrs, persecutions, earthquakes, shakings, and overcoming. Regardless of one’s eschatological beliefs, we live in the “last days,” and Jesus promised He will return. Because He doesn’t exist in time as we know it, no one knows the hour, month or year. However, He did say we would recognize the season. As in each generation, now is the time to seriously consider whether denying Him in this short present life is worth risking not being able to spend a glorious eternity with Him. There is enough going on in this Earth that everyone should sense an urgency to discern Truth concerning eternity and where/how we will spend it. There is a call to establish His Kingdom on Earth as it is in Heaven.

If there’s anything I’ve learned on this side of things, it’s that disciples of Jesus live to hear His voice and desire to follow His leading in an amazing relationship of love and trust. We know and trust His love for us. We know and trust His plans and purposes for us are always for good. We know and trust His will to provide for us and protect us. We know and trust He will use us to be His love, His joy, His peace, His patience, His kindness, His goodness, His faithfulness and His self-control on the Earth to those in need. If we are not overcoming our circumstances by His Spirit, His Word, and His blood-covered nature, it’s because we are all a work in progress throughout this life. Yet, with each passing day through seeking Him and being in relationship with Him, we should be overcoming our flesh. We should be desiring His presence, His heart, and His will to manifest with our whole being. We should be willing and excited to serve Him and to bring Him glory. We should be leading many to righteousness through our selfless, loving and giving example, and through the very virtues that comprise His nature. If that’s not the case, then maybe we really haven’t been listening, or even worse, maybe it’s just a “religion”?

1. Microsoft Word Dictionary