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JOHN PEARRELL: True Christianity is not a religion, it is a relationship with God

Arnold Toynbee once observed, "Most people have not rejected Christianity but rather a caricature of it. They have created a straw man, called that 'Christianity' and decided against it."

I find that statement so true. I think the average person today has very little concept of what the true message of Christianity is.

Most, even in our churches for instance, believe that Christianity consists of a long list of rules and regulations which one must follow if they are going to gain entrance to heaven. While that is the common view, it is a wrong view.

Indeed, the Bible says, "Since you died, as it were, with Christ and this has set you free from following the world's ideas of how to be saved -- by doing good and obeying various rules -- why do you keep right on following them anyway, still bound by such rules as not eating, tasting, or even touching certain foods? Such rules are mere human teachings, for food was made to be eaten and used up.

These rules may seem good, for rules of this kind require strong devotion and are humiliating and hard on the body, but they have no effect when it comes to conquering a person's evil thoughts and desires. They only make him proud." (Colossians 2:20 23, The Living Bible).

News flash: Jesus didn't come to make bad people good; He came to make dead people live. Most today seem to have the idea that Christianity is just another self-help approach to life's problems. They see Christians as burdened down by a whole list of things they are not allowed to do.

Sadly, many church people see the faith that way as well, but the Bible says "So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don't get tied up again in slavery to (all kinds of rules and regulations)." (Galatians 5:1, NLT).

In fact, the Christian who is truly living as a Christian finds him or herself free from even needing to follow any kind or rules or regulations (Galatians 5:18).

Those who fail to realize the uniqueness of the true faith have turned Christianity into a new form of Pharisaism with all kinds of religious regulations that they bind upon people, and it is this false form of Christianity which most (and I would say rightly) reject.

True Christianity is not a religion, it is a relationship. It is a living relationship between an individual and God. It is a relationship we enter into not by our own works of righteousness but through the mercy and grace of a loving God.

Those who submit to the religious form of Christianity are pretty upset over what I have written, and no doubt some will write into the electronic form of the paper and start listing all the reasons they feel what I am writing is wrong. To them I say see Colossians 2:20-23 above.

To those of you who reject the Christian message please do yourself a favor: make sure it is the true Christian message you are rejecting and not some caricature of it.

Dr. John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church in Covington. For more information, visit the Gateway website at www.gatewaycommunity.org.