I have finally thrown myself over the edge on blogging. I was encouraged by a friend, Jerry Gamblin, so some blame should reside with him!
There seems to be a war on the word "religion" these days. Let me say first that I agree with the concept of what most are saying about the difference between religion and relationship with Jesus. I just think that there is a false dichotomy being set up. Mostly, it seems to me a matter of order. If we try to use religious practice to gain God's approval without meeting Jesus, then all the negative comments about religion are right on. However, meeting Jesus will cause us to be religious people. The big theological word is sanctification. This is the process of God making us more and more like Him. It happens between when we first accept Christ and when we meet Him face-to-face in Heaven. James 1:26-27 give the contrast between false and true religion. Being simply religious, without a relationship with Jesus, will result in empty legalism. However, abandoning everything associated with religion tempts us to have a relationship that doesn't result in transformation.
To be fair, I don't think any of the folks who have spoken or written negatively about religion are actually against transformation. Many of them are godly people I respect. My fear is that many people who hear Christians saying that religion is bad will treat "religion" and "church" as the same thing. I'm sure there are plenty of things that go under the headings of church and religion that are not pleasing to Jesus. Anything that has people involved is going to be less than perfect but, let's not throw the baby out with the bath water.