There is a movement bubbling up today that goes beyond cynicism and celebrates a new way of living, there is coming a generation that stops complaining about the church that it sees and becomes the church that it dreams of.” – Shane Claiborne
Religion’s not your thing? You say that attending a Church service is passé, or irrelevant? Tell me your story.
“I tried that church thing. Bunch of hypocrites mixed in with losers and assorted other misfits who can’t (or won’t) have any real fun. Who needs the drama? Bible thumpers really annoy me anyway. Hanging with the “sinners” is way more fun. I’m basically a happy person. I guess I believe in a higher power; you know, the man upstairs. Just not sure what or who that is. I’ll live my life the way I like and do good things whenever I can. But religion, what’s the point…? I really don’t get why people even go to church.”
Okay, I catch your drift, and I really do understand how you feel. But, to my way of thinking, you are just one of a multitude of “happy agnostics” for whom God is… well… whatever God is.
However, you’ve asked a fair question, “Why do people go to church?” What compels the Sunday-go-to-meeting folks to return week after week to the place where the so-called faithful gather? Is it just:
- All of the above?
Yes, for many those are some of the main reasons. Week after week people all over the world respectfully go through the motions prescribed by their religion more out of blind tradition than genuine devotion. That’s the problem with vision-less religion in general.
How do you define religion? Is it just a set of philosophies which help you to understand the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe? Is it something that you follow with blind ritualistic devotion? Is it an acceptable moral code for governing the conduct of human affairs? And if so, does that make “church” an assembly of persons who share a common adherence to a particular set of doctrines and practices which help to manage their lives on earth? Or is religion the hunt for the truth?
“Listen man, religion is all about the higher power dude. Something is out there see and I believe in it, you know. I’m good with that. And life is, you know, being alive. Religion to me means living like a good person should. And “truth”, that’s whatever works for you at the moment… My truth can be totally different from your truth, and yet they are both still the truth, right? Anyway, who cares about all this stuff?”
Well for one, I care. And, no, I do not believe that everyone can have their own private interpretation of “Truth.” Some things are absolute. To me, knowing the absolute truth is very important. I suspect that I am not alone in this conviction. No sane person would deliberately believe in a lie. Would you?
For some, truth is living in harmony with perceived fact or moral conviction. But, is that just the product of a cultural consensus? Is truth subjective or objective; relative or absolute? Tell me, what is truth?
“You will NEVER know the truth until “The Truth” becomes your life and your life becomes His. Truth requires absolute, total surrender to the Son of God. It is an exchange of life in the most intimate way in the universe. It is a marriage of souls. It is a bond that sets free. It is a paradox. And when you enter this paradox, you will be free indeed AND you will then also know True LOVE.” – Gary Amirault
Have you ever heard of Pontius Pilate? He was in charge of the Roman province of Judaea from 26 -36 AD. Pilate is perhaps best remembered for his role in the trial and crucifixion of a man called Jesus. Here is the Biblical account:
33 Then Pilate went back into his headquarters and called for Jesus to be brought to him. “Are you the king of the Jews?” he asked him. 34 Jesus replied, “Is this your own question, or did others tell you about me?” 35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate retorted. “Your own people and their leading priests brought you to me for trial. Why? What have you done?” 36 Jesus answered, “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.” 37 Pilate said, “So you are a king?” Jesus responded, “You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.” 38“What is truth?” Pilate asked. Then he went out again to the people and told them, “He is not guilty of any crime. (John 18:30-38)
At first, Pilate finds no reason why Jesus should be sentenced to death. He even tried to persuade the crowd to let him go. However, being a quintessential politician, he soon caves to the madness of an unruly special interest group (the angry mob). But, not before attempting to avoid personal responsibility for sentencing Jesus to death by ceremonially washing his hands of the whole matter.
Let’s not miss the significant statements Jesus made regarding the truth when he was being interrogated by Pilate. He said, “I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth” and “All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.”
Pilate’s well-known response to Jesus still reverberates in the hearts of mankind to this day. He said, “What is Truth?” When it comes to that question, you may be more like Pontius Pilate than you care to admit.
As a Christian, I accept something as truth only if it is consistent with my understanding of the thoughts and ways of the Supernatural being whom I believe to be the designer of all things. The scriptures teach us that His thoughts and ways are on a much higher level than ours.
8 “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
“And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
9 For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so my ways are higher than your ways
and my thoughts higher than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9 NLT)
Oh the foolishness of mere mortals to think they will ever be fully aware of what the architect of all things knows. God alone delineates truth because He is the truth. The Creator is the basis of all we perceive as reality.
In order for one to discover Divine Truth, one must be willing and able to go beyond the religious dogma that divides, rather than unites, humanity.” – Jason E. Marshall
When Jesus spoke to the one whom he referred to as our “heavenly father” (God), He asked that His disciples would be made a distinct and separate class of people on the earth. How? He asked the Divine Spirit to open our minds to THE truth. This is what he said to his followers shortly before leaving the earth:
13-19“… I’m saying these things in the world’s hearing so my people can experience my joy completed in them. I gave them your word; the godless world hates them because of it. …They didn’t join the world’s ways, just as I didn’t join the world’s ways. I’m not asking that you take them out of the world, but that you guard them from the Evil One. They are no more defined by the world than I am defined by the world. Make them holy – consecrated – with the truth; your word is consecrating truth. In the same way that you gave me a mission in the world, I give them a mission in the world. I’m consecrating myself for their sake so they’ll be truth-consecrated in their mission. (John 17:16-19 MSG)
Truth as it is revealed to us by the Creator of all things is what sets us apart from the spiritually blind inhabitants of earth. When you are in tune with the one true God of the universe, you are, in fact, the genuine “illuminate” – the enlightened ones.
Jesus also said,
“You will know the truth and the truth will free you”. (John 8:32)
“What do you mean set me free? I’m already free. I am the master of my own fate and the captain of my soul. I don’t need that God crutch. That’s a bunch of religious BS. I don’t believe it.”
That’s fine. Suit yourself. But would you at least hear me out?
According to the Liberator Jesus, Truth is what unshackles mankind from:
- The bondage of empty religious traditions
- The prison of endless guilt & fear
- The pain of loneliness and rejection
- And the robotic cycle of spiritual obligations void of joy and significance
When this man called Jesus of Nazareth visited planet earth, He claimed to be on a mission to teach us the actual meaning and purpose of life itself. The crux of His message was very clear and simple:
- You are lost – I AM the way.
- You are deceived – I AM the truth.
- You are the walking dead – I AM the genuine life you need.
Isn’t that what we all want – a way to the truth and genuine life – not mere physical existence? This Jesus made a very bold declaration:
23-24 “The difference between us,” Jesus said to them, “is that you come from below and I am from above. You belong to this world but I do not. That is why I said you will die in your sins. For unless you believe that I am who I am, you will die in your sins.”
25-26 Then they said, “Who are you?” “I am what I have told you I was from the beginning,” replied Jesus. “There is much in you that I could speak about and condemn. But he who sent me is true and I am only speaking to this world what I myself have heard from him.” (John 8:23-26 – PHILLIPS)
Wow. Jesus claimed to have come from another world. He spoke of our need to listen to what he was sent to the earth to tell us. Jesus promised to reveal a definite purpose for our natural terrestrial life and then to guide us into a time without end (eternity) when this temporary physical existence is over. That’s not religion, philosophy, or dogma – that is the truth.
Many churches of all persuasions are hiring research agencies to poll neighborhoods, asking what kind of church they prefer. Then the local churches design themselves to fit the desires of the people. True faith in God is being replaced by trendy religion that serves the selfishness of man.” – Billy Graham
So then, why do people go to church? Thought I forgot, didn’t you. Yes, we’re back to our original question once again. Why do I assemble with other people who believe like I do on a regular basis? Certainly, for me, it’s not out of duty or obligation. It’s not “go to church or die.” Been there, done that. If you must have “reasons”, church is a place:
- To celebrate life beyond mere existence
- To encourage and to be encouraged
- To see reality unfold more clearly
- To grow in genuine wisdom and knowledge and understanding
- To learn how to serve the purpose of our Creator by becoming an instrument for His use in this lost and rapidly decaying world order
Perhaps the most compelling reason for why I still choose to assemble with a group of like-minded people can be found in this passage from the very Book of Truth that forms and feeds my faith in God:
25 Let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are doing. Instead, let us encourage one another all the more, since you see that the Day of the Lord’s return to earth is coming nearer. (Hebrews 10:25)
He’s on the way back to the earth. Soon we shall behold Him – face to face. Until then, I’ll spend my time in comradery with those of like faith and remain occupied in the work that I’ve been called to do. Hopefully, I am investing my “gifts” wisely. That way, when my day of reckoning arrives, I’ll have something of eternal value to show for my life. What about you? Hmmmmm?
Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is a noted author, broadcaster, a popular Bible teacher and a rabbid Coastal Junkie®
For additional information write to: Coastal Life Ministries, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, Florida 34656.