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There are times when we make a distinction between religion and Christianity by saying the former is wrong and the latter is not. That is an accurate assessment. But did you know that both of them can be bad if your Christianity consists of the following things without a deepening relationship with Jesus?
We know that Christian disciplines are better than religious practices. Of course, they are, but a person can do the “disciplines of Christianity” and not experience “internal-to-external transformation” by the exercise of them.
For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. – Hebrews 5:12-14 (Trained: The word gymnasium comes from the same root for this Greek word.)
That outcome could make Christianity just as dangerous as a religion because the person’s Christianity is not transforming the heart; they are not rooting their behaviors in heart change. The practice of “external Christianity” without an internal, maturing transformation into Christlikeness will end badly for the individual and his relationships.
There is something better than religion and Christianity (as I have defined Christianity by doing the disciplines but not transformed in the heart and lived out practically). A more authentic Christianity is a heart and life that looks remarkably like Jesus
One of the most effective ways you can test your Christianity for authenticity is by comparing yourself with the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Will you do this?
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. – Galatians 5:22-23
Will you take the nine elements of the fruit of the Spirit and apply them to your life by asking yourself three hard but practical questions per element? Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about by taking the first component of the fruit of the Spirit, which is love.
#1 – Loving Your Friends – Do you practically love those who do not love you? If you do, what is an example of loving them “while they were sinners?” (Romans 5:8) You should be able to give several examples.
#2 – Loving Your Family – Do your family members experience your encouraging love more than your negativity or critical spirit?
#3 – Exporting Your Love – Are you exporting your practical love to your spouse and children? How do you know? The evidence of this should be some form of emulating your love.
This kind of exercise separates the religionists–Christian or otherwise–from those who practically and authenticly model Jesus. One of the most accurate tests of Christianity is the effect that it has on others. And those closest to you will be affected the most by the kind of person you are. How is your Christianity impacting those who know you best?
#1 – Joy to the World – Does the world see the joy of Christ in you? Give of few examples of where this has happened.
#2 – Joy In the Family – How do your close friends and family experience your joy in Jesus?
#3 – Joy Exported – How have others imitated your joy as you’ve exported it to them? Kind begets kind.