This question really asks us to do some thinking, some serious, prayerful thinking. These days we hear a lot about “spirituality”… “I’m spiritual, but I’m not religious.” Well excuse me for also asking this, but must the two – spirituality and religion – be mutually exclusive? And, what in your mind is the difference?
Somehow I think [and there are many factors that play into why I think this way which I’ll not approach here in this article] this stands out as a form of spiritual arrogance, and even a kind of judgement: “I’m spiritual, ‘enlightened’, you know. You by my standards, alas, are only religious because you claim to be a Christian. You know, that’s not very trendy, not very cool, and it certainly is not politically correct either.”
And then there’s the “higher consciousness” people. I don’t know what their definition of consciousness is, since I’ve never really heard it described by them, in most cases. Some kind of sound bite, I guess, picked up in a weekend seminar. But it is a very popular, catchy word, don’t you think? It sounds really deep. And I so want to be a part of consciousness, not just religion.
Dear reader, before we all walk any further down this road, I’d like for us to stop for a “moment” to define for ourselves the following words:
I really would like you to give this some seriously prayerful thought, asking the Holy Spirit to guide you as you do.
And then also, please, might you consider why perhaps those who do not embrace the Lord Jesus, redemption, and salvation have come to these conclusions. What might they perceive about us [individually or collectively] which would put them off from considering the claims of Christianity?
Ready? OK, take 5 [minutes, hours, days, weeks…] Then would you be so kind as to share your thoughts?
At the moment of this writing I’d like to share a few ideas from my own perspectives. I’d certainly invite some commentary on this. Please do share what you’ve come up with, if you are so moved, especially what the Holy Spirit stirs in you.
My particular focus in this writing is essentially summed up with the “poster” included here, namely that Christianity is not a “religion”, but rather it is “salvation consciousness”.
Let’s begin with a very simple definition of consciousness – first of all, that it is the awareness or perception of something within or outside a person, the awareness of a reality.
In this respect it has some commonality with St. Paul’s definition of “faith” in Hebrews 11:1, where the Amplified Bible puts it [faith] so eloquently – “…the proof of things we do not see and the conviction of their reality – faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses”. [Emphasis mine] Thus faith and consciousness may be seen as spiritual perception, awakened awareness of something rock solid and real, although not perceived by the five ordinary senses. It is something inwardly revealed.
But then, what is religion? Primarily it means the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power – God, a god, or gods, the details of that belief as taught or discussed, a particular system of faith, practice, and/or worship, perhaps based on the Latin “religare”, meaning “bond” or “reverence”. Ideally it would seem that a religion would be based upon something inwardly revealed, concerning which there is deep conviction.
Speaking for myself – the only real and experiential frame of reference I have – I was brought up in a “religion”, and later came to “consciousness” or personal awareness of my relationship to the Lord Jesus. The former is something I deeply respect and hold dear. Without being brought up in a religion, I would not have access to much of the spiritual information which is still precious to me [the requirements to memorize many Scripture passages, hymns, parts of catechisms, and the like]. I went to parochial school. Can you tell?
The latter – my “faith” which later sprang out of it, and is an ever expanding phenomenon of awareness. There were questions about Who God is, Who Jesus Christ is, who I am, what the plan of salvation is all about, and the work of Jesus Christ in His passion from the cross through His ascension.
There were souls in that early religious context whose lives evidenced a living awareness of our Savior and a deep love for Him. These were and are people I deeply respected and admired, and I’m sure they had my back in prayer in the years I went wandering. Yet there was also one person in particular who shared her experience with me during the time when I began to sense that things needed to change in me and in my life. That was a case of divine timing!
So it is vitally important that we do share our story with those the Holy Spirit prompts us to share it with. This woman even told me that she did not know why she was sharing her testimony with me, but had felt prompted to do so. The synchronicity of her doing that was so obvious to me that it was the straw that broke the camel’s back, and I surrendered myself to Christ. Then the changes in me and my life began by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Let me simply wrap this up with the beautiful prayer of St. Paul in Ephesians 3:14 and following: “… I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; 17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; 19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.” [KJV]
Nearly forty years ago, when I really began to awaken and become aware – when I received the intervention of the Holy Spirit in my life, and surrendered myself to the Lord Jesus Christ – when beginning to read the Scriptures on my own and not simply hearing them as a part of a liturgical context – this text packed a wallop for me more than any other. I still marvel at it. I’d say that Paul’s prayer is a pretty tall order, but this, in a nutshell, is what we’re meant to come to consciousness about! It’s where Christianity goes from being a religious belief system to a living reality.
I realized at that time, and continue to marvel at it, that there is so much more to being a Christian than I’d ever realized. God’s intention for us, here revealed by Paul’s prayer intention in concert with God’s will, is that we would have a gigantic, expanding, mind-blowing comprehension – an awareness, a consciousness – of all that we are in Him, and all that He wold like to be in and through us!
This is why I submit that Christianity is not a religion; it is salvation consciousness, to say the least. It is so much more than many of us realize, the awareness of the experience of God interacting with us, through us, in our lives.
Approaching this Thanksgiving season, I know of nothing that can compare for which to be eternally grateful.