here’s a huge difference between religion and faith. Religion focuses on methods, styles, patterns: “the way we’ve always done it.” Faith is a relationship with the living God.

Faith is freedom to change anything but the content. The way we worship, the style, the music, the buildings where we worship, all these things change. They are simply containers.

Jesus Himself pointed out that “new wine needs new wineskins” (Matthew 9:17). Containers are no big deal: They only become a big deal when they no longer work to deliver the faith. Then you move to another delivery system.

In the study of missions, this is called contextualization. If you want to get the gospel across to people, if you want to present the good news about Jesus effectively, you put it in containers that fit the context of your target audience.

The fact that Jesus appeared as a first-century Jew, rather than a twenty-first-century Japanese person, is a symbol of fitting into the context. The idea is this: Jesus showed up in the flesh. It’s called the incarnation. It means that Jesus showed up in human flesh. He looked like everybody else. He fit the context.

Since it’s so much easier to be religious, rather than a person of faith—and an effective missionary—the tendency is to drift toward “the way we’ve always done it.” This is a form of idolatry: worshipping the forms, not the substance. The substance is always Jesus!

In Paul’s letter to Titus, the first chapter, he directs Titus to “stop that diseased talk … made up rules” (verses 16-20). Why? What makes this so important? Paul says, “…so they (the believers) can recover a robust faith.”

What is a robust faith? It is strong, alive, active, and impactful to you and through you to others. Religion—a rules-oriented routine—is harmful and dangerous.

In the last paragraph of chapter 1 of the letter to Titus, Paul writes, “They say they know God, but their actions are louder than their words. They’re real creeps, disobedient good-for-nothings.”

Can you feel the strength of Paul’s warning about religion—the practices that we baptize as sacred? Faith is a relationship with Jesus and others. Not rules. Not regulations. Not the way we’ve always done it. Be spiritual, not religious. Don’t get stuck in an old wineskin. If you do, you destroy the faith movement. It is so important to have a robust faith that reaches others for whom Christ died. Don’t be a creep!

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