The Problems with Running to Religion

Amber Ginter

iBelieve Contributing Writer
Updated Apr 26, 2021
The Problems with Running to Religion

From the outside, I was a "good Christian serving the Lord." I surpassed all the requirements, had an open heart, and truly desired to help others. Presence does not equal relationship, nor does ownership equate to freedom. Today, I wonder how many people have the opportunity of knowing Christ in their lives, yet they send Him back without ever being changed.

As a Christian teacher in a public school, one of the most challenging things for me to explain to people is that I am not merely religious, but that I believe in Jesus. In Scripture, the Pharisees were spiritual in knowledge, but their hearts were far from the Lord. In society, 70.6% of people claim the label "Christian," yet I wonder how many people live out that personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Though it might sound far-fetched, many label "Christian" on their Facebook profiles yet live their lives contradictory to that status. These people possess an external intelligence of what it means to know Jesus and have an intimate relationship with Him. Still, their obsession with rules, laws, and regulations overpowers and blinds their comprehension to the point of obstruction. Instead of pushing them closer to grasping the beauty of God, it drowns them in legalistic obsessions and imperfect personifications that they cannot and will not achieve.

While I have tried my best to live a life of personal friendship with Jesus Christ, there have been times where I have cared more about how many hours I read my Bible, how many events I volunteered for, and how many people I evangelized to in a week. From the outside, I was a "good Christian serving the Lord." I surpassed all the requirements, had an open heart, and truly desired to help others.

But on the inside, I was checking boxes, living within the walls of religion rather than freedom in Christ. And if we aren't careful, I'm afraid that far too many of us get caught up in Church, evangelism, ministry, volunteering, discipleship, and servanthood, all good things, that we forget what is best. We forget about Jesus, leaving Him at the cross He died to save us from, forsaking genuine time with God for mere intellect and service.

The Things We Get Wrong about Possession and Ownership

In 1 Samuel chapter 4, we meet a group of people who have been close to the Lord but have forsaken Him for idols time and time again. As God's chosen people, the Israelites know what it's like to obey and serve the Lord, but they are also experts at straying from Him to do what they believed was righteous in their own eyes (Judges 17:6). Moving the Ark of the Lord to defeat the Philistines, Israel was dumbfounded when they were not only conquered, but the Ark was captured and carried off.

Taken to Ashdod and put by Dagon's Temple (a foreign god), by 1 Samuel chapter 6, the Philistines were begging to return the Ark they stole because of the destruction and chaos it brought to their land.

"The hand of the Lord was heavy against the people of Ashdod, and He terrified and afflicted them with tumors, both Ashdod and its territory.” (1 Samuel 5:6, ESV)

"The Ark of the Lord was in the country of the Philistines seven months. And the Philistines called for the priests and the diviners and said, "What shall we do with the Ark of the Lord? Tell us with what we shall send it to its place.” (1 Samuel 6:1-2, ESV)

And why was it presenting such turmoil? Because even though the Philistines captured and stole the Ark of the Lord, just because they now possessed its presence didn't mean they had a relationship with who it represented.

"They sent therefore and gathered together all the lords of the Philistines and said, "Send away the ark of the God of Israel, and let it return to its own place, that it may not kill us and our people." For there was a deathly panic throughout the whole city. The hand of God was very heavy there.” (1 Samuel 5:11, ESV)

Presence does not equal relationship, nor does ownership equate to freedom. Although the Philistine's physically placed the Ark of the Lord in their town, they did not serve or honor God and continued to exercise other gods' religions. The Philistine's didn't realize that though they had access to the source of life, they were going to send it back and reside as empty-handed as when they first began.

Today, I wonder how many people have the opportunity of knowing Christ in their lives, yet they send Him back without ever being changed.

What Do You Need to Do "While He May Be Found"?

While I fully comprehend that the Ark was stolen and captured, don't you think that if the Philistines would have turned to God, He could've stolen and captured their hearts? Instead of seeking God while He may have been found, they prostituted His home and allowed Him to come and go in their lives without making an impact on their souls.

If the Ark of God reigns in your life (aka, a relationship with Jesus Christ), allow Him to transform you. You should be radically different when Jesus enters your life, and if you're the same, I ask that you take a moment to analyze the heart God’s given you and how Christ has made an impact on how you're living.

I don't know about you, but I don't want to be like the Pharisees and Philistines who factually knew all about Jesus but forsook Him for false and idolatrous religion.

As Michelle Martin sings in her newest song, "Religion,"

"You're in a box. You're on a shelf I've made for you. Try to contain. Try to restrain the way you move. Trapped inside all the stories of old, you're so much more than what I've been told. You're not here in a box up on a shelf I've made for you. Jesus, revive me once again. Jesus, remind me what it means to be your friend. I'm so sick of this tired old religion. Holy Ghost, come light the fire again."

Friends, if you don't have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, I invite you to reach out to a friend or me. Religion is meant to guide, yet often confines, but Jesus brings freedom.

Religion says, "do," Jesus says, "done."

If you already maintain a friendship with Jesus, I encourage you to press a little deeper and ask the Holy Spirit to rain new fire. Evaluate your life and see if you're living for Christ or dying to your own religion which He has saved you from for all eternity.

"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17, ESV)

Photo Credit: © Unsplash/Ben White

amber ginter headshotAmber Ginter is a teacher-turned-author who loves Jesus, her husband Ben, and granola. Growing up Amber looked for faith and mental health resources and found none. Today, she offers hope for young Christians struggling with mental illness that goes beyond simply reading your Bible and praying more. Because you can love Jesus and still suffer from anxiety. You can download her top faith and mental health resources for free to help navigate books, podcasts, videos, and influencers from a faith lens perspective. Visit her website at

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