Faith vs. Religion
Are faith and religion the same?
Sometimes people confuse faith with religion: they believe devotion to their religion is the same as devotion to God. People are often considered devout adherents to their church if they follow all the rules and do all the required activities/rituals. But does that prove devotion to God? Not necessarily. We can do all those things but not be devoted to God; and we should be devoting ourselves to God.
According to Dictionary.com, one of the primary definitions of faith is "confidence or trust in a person or thing." We can say that faith in God is a covenant between the "believer" and God, where the believer puts confidence and trust in God and is devoted to God in whatever way he or she can be.
The same website says one of the primary definitions of religion is a "specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects." So, you might say that someone's a part of a religion if he belongs to a group that agrees on what God is, why He created us, and what our purpose is.
Being a strong follower of our religion is not a bad thing. But it's important to examine what we're following. It's possible, in adhering to religious practices, that we might find ourselves growing farther from God instead growing closer to God.
To prove this, we can look at a Bible character from the New Testament. Saul, who later became Paul, was a Pharisee. He was part of the respected religious group. Many people at that time believed that if you were a Pharisee, you were really close with God. During Saul's life, the Jewish authorities thought that Christians were heretics and were preaching and living against God. In trying to be faithful to his religion, Saul persecuted Christians. He was convinced he was doing God's will. But by being faithful to his religion, Saul was actually being disobedient to God.
Thankfully, Saul finally saw the error of his ways. He actually became a Christian after seeing a vision of Christ. This made it possible for Saul to understand what he should be doing. And this time, by truly being obedient to God, he became closer to God. Because of his own experience and conversion, Paul knew the power of grace, the saving and redeeming power of God. And he shared that power with the world. Paul affirmed, "But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain" (I Cor 15:10 KJV).
To me, this means God's grace and our inward devotion to Him are more important than outward rituals. Paul became inspired by faith in a new religion that required him to prove his faith by loving much and doing good. Paul explains that by being faithfully devoted to God, we become closer to God and feel God's blessings. If we have true faith in God, we can help others feel God's blessings, too.