It would seem that religion and faith are one and the same, but they are not. I’m not sure that the father of our faith, Abraham, ever thought there would be a difference but certainly there is. As the Jewish church incorporated more and more religious practices, something was lost in the intimate relationship aspect. In a way, the church and its leaders became the religion, with communal worship practices slowly replacing the simple faith. In the time of Jesus Christ, the church was very religious as it strictly observed all the religious traditions, practices, and ceremonies. Even so, despite its fervent religiosity, the church and its leaders didn’t recognize God (Jesus) walking among them. In fact, the church was so religious that the church persecuted Jesus. The truth is religion and faith are not necessarily the same.
Religion is the practice of one’s faith but it is not a relationship with God. Religion teaches us all about God but our souls will never be content to just know about Him; our soul seeks to have a relationship with our Lord. Likewise, the church is not God. The church is technically merely the body of believers. The hierarchy of the church was never meant to be as religious and powerful as the church was in Christ’s time. The hierarchy of the church was never meant to be as religious and powerful as it is in our time.
In too many ways, the church and God stands separate. As Jesus could in His time, we could give many examples of where the church has turned a blind eye to the Scriptures so it can be socially expedient and politically correct. More and more it seems that we are repeating our faith history. The end-times church will do exactly that. The church is very religious, has all kinds of traditions, practices, programs, and ceremonies but is often disconnected from the essence of God and true piety. Whereas man thought the Church in Jesus time was holy, God did not. That should be a warning to us as it begs the question: Are we mostly religious or are we mostly spiritual? It’s good to remember that we will all stand in judgment of our loving faith in God, not our faith in the church or religion.