Spiritual But Not Religious

Jesus was opposed to organized religion with official doctrine (or dogma), hierarchical leadership structure, and a codification  of rules and practices. Jesus taught us to be spiritual and not religious (SBNR).

Some will say that being spiritual and being religious is the same thing and that you can't be spiritual without being religious. Some people will say that the SBNR movement is confused people who are not sure what to believe, so they pick and choose from other religions what they like. Then there are others that will say Christians that say they are spiritual but not religious are just too lazy to go to church.

The word 'religion' comes from the Latin word that means 'to bind' or 'to tie'. Religion binds you to a certain traditional way of thinking. Religion with its immovable dogmas tries to put God into a box with a list of 'features' and 'requirements'. They condemn and judge outsiders and enslave their own. Religion is so busy observing man made rules that they miss God. Religion is spirituality that is made useless because of all the added baggage.

Mark 7:7-8 (AMP)

In vain (fruitlessly and without profit) do they worship Me, ordering and teaching [to be obeyed] as doctrines the commandments and precepts of men. You disregard and give up and ask to depart from you the commandment of God and cling to the tradition of men [keeping it carefully and faithfully]

Some will say that only their own religion will lead to God. Others will say that all religions lead to God. I believe that no religion leads to God (not even the Christian religion) as religion (as the word implies) ties you down and tries to limit a limitless God.

Jesus called the religious leaders in the religion He was born and raised in hypocrites, pretenders (Matthew 23:15), serpents and 'spawn of vipers' (Matthew 23:33, Matthew 12:34). What Jesus taught was not religion. God is bigger than one religion. Jesus is the answer to all religions.

Jesus did not start churches

Jesus did not start one single church (as we have churches today). He did not instruct us to attend a weekly Sunday morning church. He did have a following, but the following consisted of a small group that He was teaching to teach others (making disciples - what we are also instructed to do). The bigger groups that sometimes gathered were people that he taught and healed, but the group changed as He moved from one place to another. It was not a specific group that gathered on a weekly basis. Before He left and moved to the next area He did not appoint leaders or deacons in that group.

Jesus used the word 'church' only twice and only in the Gospel of Matthew. In both cases the original word He used for 'church' was 'ekklēsia'

ek-klay-see'-ah:

a calling out, that is, (concretely) a popular meeting, especially a religious congregation (Jewish synagogue, or Christian community of members on earth or saints in heaven or both): - assembly, church.

The core of the original word used by Jesus means 'calling out' - a following. It could also mean a religious congregation or church, but if we look at the rest of the teachings of Jesus it is clear that Jesus meant a following and not a church as we have churches today.

Jesus was against a hierarchy of religious leaders

Jesus did not appoint pastors, deacons, church councils or any hierarchy of religious leaders.

Matthew 23:8-10 (AMP)

But do not be called Rabbi (Teacher); for One is your Teacher, and you are all [equally] brothers. Do not call anyone on earth [who guides you spiritually] your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. Do not let yourselves be called leaders or teachers; for One is your Leader (Teacher), the Christ

People (Pastors, Prophets, Preachers, etc) want to be important. Even when Jesus was with the disciples it was already a problem, up to the point where Jesus had to reprimand them.

Matthew 20:25-26 (AMP)

But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles have absolute power and lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them [tyrannizing them]. It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant

Churches, deacons, elders and leaders in the Bible

There are a couple of verses in the New Testament that does mention deacons, elders and leaders. None of these comes from Jesus. As we have seen, we should focus on the teachings of Jesus as only the teachings of Jesus is the Word of God. It is clear that what Paul said about leadership in the church and what Jesus said are the exact opposite.

Many people use Acts 6:1-5 as instruction from God that we should appoint deacons. Just because the early Christians appointed deacons does not make it the will of God. They made mistakes - appointing deacons was one of them

There were disciples that neglected to look after those in need because they felt they were too important, so they decided to appoint 'less important' disciples for these trivial tasks. Were these 'important disciples' more important than Jesus? How in complete contrast is this behavior to what Jesus taught and how He lived!

Jesus knew He had a very short time (3 years) for His ministry. Jesus knew how important it was for His message to get out. Yet, He made time to feed the people. Twice we read how He was concerned about the people being hungry and fed them. He did not have a 'I don't have time for this' attitude. He had time for the sick, children and showed the disciples how we should serve one another by washing their feet.

We don't read how Stephen went and became this obedient deacon, accepting his new 'office' and doing what he was told. Instead, we read how he kept on witnessing for God, up to the point where he was stoned to death for what he said. What is very interesting is that what he said - why he was stoned to death. He was stoned to death because he said that Jesus came to destroy the old religious system where it was all about the 'Temple' and the religious hierarchy that goes with it (John 2:19).

When the Jews asked him if Jesus really said that He will destroy the temple (Acts 6:14), he answered them by explaining the history of the temple (Acts 7:1-47). He is not talking about a single building, but the religious structure/organization of the temple ('church') of the Old Testament. He then ends with:

Acts 7:48-51 (AMP)

However, the Most High [the One infinitely exalted above humanity] does not dwell in houses made by human hands; as the prophet [Isaiah] says,‘Heaven is My throne, And the earth is the footstool for My feet; What kind of house will you build for Me?’ says the Lord, ‘Or what place is there for My rest? ‘Was it not My hand that made all these things?’ “You stiff-necked and stubborn people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you are always actively resisting the Holy Spirit. You are doing just as your fathers did

THIS message, that it was the end of temples (church buildings) and obviously their precious status and various 'offices' that they held, infuriated them to the point that they killed Stephen. And who was the one who was behind this attack on Stephen? - Paul! (Acts 7:58).

Paul did amazing things for God and there is a lot we can learn from him. He is however not a second Jesus. He was filled with the Holy Spirit but that did not make him perfect (just like we are not). He came from a very religious background and his ideas about leadership in the church was in direct contradiction to what Jesus taught.

No Religious Rituals - No Old Testament Rules

The religious leaders often confronted Jesus because He didn't care much about the religious rituals of the day (washing of hands, working on the Sabbath, fasting).

Jesus did not start a holy sacrament with the last supper - in fact, it was completely the opposite. Jesus simply said that when you get together (as friends do), and have a meal together (as friends do), think of me - talk about me - continue to spread My message.

Gospel of Thomas, saying 6

His disciples asked him and said to him, "Do you want us to fast? How should we pray? Should we give to charity? What diet should we observe?" Jesus said, "Don't lie, and don't do what you hate, because all things are disclosed before heaven. After all, there is nothing hidden that will not be revealed, and there is nothing covered up that will remain undisclosed

Gospel of Thomas, syaing 14

Jesus said to them, "If you fast, you will bring sin upon yourselves, and if you pray, you will be condemned, and if you give to charity, you will harm your spirits.

Jesus is not saying that it is wrong to pray, but that if you do these things as a religious practice it is harmful to your spirit.

Matthew 6:6 (AMP)

But when you pray, go into your most private room, close the door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees [what is done] in secret will reward you

It is no longer about public religious worship.

Many Christians will quote the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5) to say that Jesus taught us to uphold Old Testament laws. The opposite is true - click here to read the article Jesus and the Law.

It is no longer about a specific religion - it is spiritual

John 4:23-24 (AMP)

But a time is coming and is already here when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit [from the heart, the inner self] and in truth; for the Father seeks such people to be His worshipers. God is spirit [the Source of life, yet invisible to mankind], and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth

Jesus was talking to a Samaritan woman at the well. She asked Him where is the correct place to worship (John 4:20-22). The reason she asked this was because in the Samaritan religion that used the Samaritan Pentateuch, the correct place to worship was at Mount Gerizim instead of Mount Zion as described in the Pentateuch used by the Jews.

Jesus did not 'correct' her and gave her instructions on the correct way to worship. He clearly says it is now about being spiritual - it is no longer about religion and worshiping according to specific dogma.

Think of the parable Jesus told of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). In the parable the one that acted in love and had the approval of God was someone from another religion. What was important is not that he belonged to the correct religion but that he loved God and he loved others.

In Matthew 8:5-13 we read how a roman centurion asked Jesus to heal his servant boy. Even though Romans believed in a great number of deities, Jesus admired his faith. Jesus was not concerned about the details of what he believed (dogma).

I say to you that many [Gentiles] will come from east and west, and will sit down [to feast at the table, and enjoy God’s promises] with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven [because they accepted Me as Savior]

All the roman had to do is to accept Jesus as his Savior - to follow His teachings. He did not need to convert to a religion. Jesus is the answer to all religions. Of course if you accept Jesus your idea of God will change. However, if you look at the teachings of Jesus you will see that the idea of God does not need to be written in stone (religious dogma). We can accept and love others who have bit of a different idea of God and the creation. We can witness to them and tell them the Good News about Jesus without expecting them to loose their culture or to change and think like us.

John 10:16 (AMP)

I have other sheep beside these] that are not of this fold. I must bring those also, and they will listen to My voice and pay attention to My call, and they will become [b]one flock with one Shepherd.

Jesus was talking to the Jews when he said 'Not of this fold'. He was talking about people of other cultures, people with other ideas of God. Jesus did not have Xenophobia like the Jews of the Old Testament or even the Jews that was with Him.

Mark 9:38-40

John said to Him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we tried to stop him because he was not accompanying us.” But Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for there is no one who will perform a miracle in My name, and be able soon afterward to speak evil of Me. For he who is not against us is for us

Again, Jesus did not say that they first have to find out all the details of what the person believed. The fact that he acknowledge Jesus and was using His teachings was enough for Jesus.

Religion can't do this. Religion has a very narrow idea of God and if you don't fit into that mold you are rejected. If you look at the history of the Christian Religion and even Christians today, if someone says he believes in Jesus and even believes Jesus is the Son of God, then it is not enough. Followers of Jesus are rejected because of how they see the 'Trinity', the Holy Spirit, the Divinity of Jesus and a lot more.

These requirements came 200-300 years after Jesus left. People like Iranaeus and Constantine wanted to make the Christian faith more structured and organized. The spiritual movement started by Jesus was to vague and agile. What you need to control people is a structured, well defined religion.

People think that they are obedient to God when they hate and reject others that are different - they are wrong.

Knowledge of God is not limited to the Bible

The Jewish nation might have been chosen by God as the nation from where Jesus would have been born - but that is all they were chosen for. Because they have been chosen, the Old Testament is filled with prophesies about the coming King. The Old Testament books are invaluable and should be studied - but these books are not 'The Word of God' (click here to read full article).

God loves all nations and is God of all. Some religions might know a bit more about the real God than others, but most know at least something about the real God. Even Paul understood this:

Romans 1:19-20 (AMP)

because that which is known about God is evident within them [in their inner consciousness], for God made it evident to them. For ever since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through His workmanship [all His creation, the wonderful things that He has made], so that they [who fail to believe and trust in Him] are without excuse and without defense

There are a lot of cultures and nations all over the world. They have been living for centuries in a world that was created by God. There are so much we can learn about life, health, spirituality - why limit yourself to one nation and their history.

As we have seen in the previous section, the idea that we should have nothing to do with other cultures or nations comes from the Old Testament Jews, not from Jesus.

Gospel of Thomas, saying 39

Jesus said, "The Pharisees and the scholars have taken the keys of knowledge and have hidden them. They have not entered nor have they allowed those who want to enter to do so.

Religion, especially the Christian Religion will try to limit you with what you can read and study. Knowledge is dangerous for any religion because its followers will quickly discover that there is more to God than their limited view. That is why so many churches will encourage to read and study the Bible and nothing else. As we have seen in 'The Bible is not the Word of God' - this idea does not come from God.

In Luke 19:1-6 Jesus tells a story about how we can learn even from criminals. Read the story, the person Jesus was talking about lied and stole from his master. If you read the rest of the chapter it is clear that He did not say we should steel, but that we can learn from others that are very different from us.

Paul didn't get everything wrong

1 Corinthians 2:15 (AMP)

the spiritual man [the spiritually mature Christian] judges all things [questions, examines and applies what the Holy Spirit reveals], yet is himself judged by no one [the unbeliever cannot judge and understand the believer’s spiritual nature]

The word for 'judges' above is:

anakrinō (an-ak-ree'-no) - properly to scrutinize, that is, (by implication) investigate, interrogate, determine: - ask, question, discern, examine, judge, search

Search for the truth (See saying 2 in the Gospel of Thomas at the bottom of the page). Leave your religion behind and truly discover God in your life.