In all world religions being religious is desirable. The word “religious” in this context is devotion to the precepts of the belief system. Participating in the various ceremonial activities is part of being religious.
Christianity is different. Being religious has both a positive and negative connotation. If you are a spirit filled believer in Jesus Christ, then the Bible commends your religious devotion to following the commands dictated in the Bible. Obedience is a sign of true belief. James makes a case that true faith without doing good works is dead (James 2:26). Here the word dead points to a lifeless faith. Jesus would say be religious and follow me.
However, if you call yourself a Christian and are not indwelt with the Holy Spirit, then don’t be religious. Practicing the Christian faith without the Spirit of Christ is only an illusion and will not please Jesus. Jesus had something to say to those people who go through the motions of Christianity but are not spirit filled believers. Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' 23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.'”
It is possible to be involved in many religious practices but still end up in hell. Jesus says he knows only those who do the will of His Father. What is the will of the Father? John 6:40 “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.” True belief is characterized by a changed life made possible through the power of the Holy Spirit.
I am using the word “religious” in this series in a negative sense. I previously acknowledged calling someone a religious person can be thought of as a compliment; admiring his devotion to his beliefs. For the spirit filled Christian being religious is a positive trait, in that you are devoted to following Christ. For this reason I have decided to use italics when using the word religious in a negative sense. This will draw attention to the reader to look for how I define religious. My concern is directed towards all the false religious individuals who call themselves Christian and yet are not spirit-filled believers in Christ. They go through the motions of religion but are not true followers. At death Jesus will tell them He never knew them.
The Apostle Paul says in Romans 8 this false believer is person who is devoted to the flesh and doesn’t have the mind of Christ. Flesh in this context refers to our propensity to live in sin and be controlled by it. Paul writing to the church in Rome used strong words for the false religious person. He said they cannot please God. Romans 8:6-8 “For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, 7 because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, 8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” Without the Spirit no one can please God. He was confronting the church at Rome that obviously had both Spirit filled believers and false religious believers. How does someone know which side of the fence you are on?
At the church at Corinth Paul encouraged those professing a faith in Jesus Christ to examine yourselves to make sure you have the Spirit of Christ. We read in 2 Corinthians 13:5 “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?” How do we test ourselves? James 2:14-26 gives us one measure of true faith; we will do good works. This subject I will answer in more detail in a later post.
Christianity is unique. All other religions want religious people dedicated to their beliefs. Yet, in Christianity Jesus wants spirit filled believers practicing their religious beliefs and the fleshly religious people to stop their phony devotion and turn to Him in faith. The problem is all who fall into the latter category are unaware of their predicament. This is why the Bible has multiple warnings to become a true religious follower of Jesus Christ.
 I will use italics unless I use another clarifying distinction is present. Such as the person was devoted to a false religious practice. The formatting would not allow me to use italics in the title.