Religion and Christianity — What’s the Difference?
‘Religion’ literally means “to bind back” and refers to the human attempt to bind back to God, that is, reconnect with him. Christianity, by contrast, is God connecting with humanity through the gospel of Christ and spiritual regeneration by the Holy Spirit. Putting it another way, religion is what people try to do for God in their own strength while Christianity is what God does for us through Christ. Religion is what people do for God in the flesh while Christianity is what God does for us in the spirit.
Religionists are focused on their own attempts to connect with God when they should be focused on God’s superior method of connecting with us. Man’s way is of the flesh while God’s way is of the spirit. As such, religious people lack the life, power and joy that only the Fountain of Life can give (Psalm 36:9).
Jesus plainly pointed out the failure of religion when his disciples asked him who could be saved:
“With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”
You see, salvation through the flesh — through religion — is impossible. But with God it’s not only possible, it’s available to all. That’s Christianity — real Christianity, not the counterfeit legalism or religious “Christianity.”
There’s an excellent saying that distinguishes religion from Christianity: Religion says “do” while Jesus says “done”; religion says “slave” while Christianity says “son” (or daughter). Let’s consider both parts of this saying in light of what the Bible teaches: Concerning the first part, religion stresses rules: “Do this” or “Don’t do that,” whereas Christianity stresses that the law has been completed through Jesus Christ. As Romans 10:4 points out: “Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.” Before Jesus breathed his last on the cross he said, “It is finished,” which literally means “Paid in full.” concerning the second part, religion is all about making people slaves to the religious system, whereas Christianity is about making people a part of God’s family through spiritual rebirth (Titus 3:5). This regeneration includes the attainment of righteousness:
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
2 Corinthians 5:21
The word ‘become’ in the Greek is ginomai (GHIN-oh-may), which means “to come into being; to be born.” Hence, believers are born the righteousness of God spiritually, which explains why the Bible says the new self — i.e. your born-again spirit — was “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24). As such, believers walk in righteousness simply by learning to live out of their new nature with the help of the Holy Spirit, not by trying to force their flesh to conform to a never-ending list of religious laws!
Needless to say, the difference between religion and Christianity is like night and day.
The Failure of Both Religion and Irreligion
Because Christianity is often confused with religion and many believers and sects take on religious elements, people tend to think that Christianity is all about delivering people from irreligion or lawlessness when, actually, the LORD’s calling us out of religion just as much as He’s calling us out of irreligion.
You see, both religion and irreligion are two sides of the same bad coin. You could also refer to them as legalism and libertinism. Legalism is sterile religiosity whereas libertinism is lawlessness or fleshly license. Both legalism and libertinism are ineffective in solving humanity’s root problem — the sinful nature and the corresponding separation from God — and therefore the “coin” needs thrown out altogether in favor of God’s way, which is “the Way” (Acts 9:2). What is the Way? spiritual regeneration through the awesome news of the message of Christ and the resulting redemption from sin, reconciliation with the Creator and attainment of eternal life. Praise God!
For more details on this topic see this video.
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