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The Kingdom of Heaven or Religion?


We wanted to know the important differences between the Christian religion and all other religions; between the part of the Bible before Jesus was born, and the part after he was born, between the teachings of Jesus and the teachings of all other religious leaders. We were not interested in the small differences that most people argue about. We asked God to show us the important differences, and he did.

What we learned is that the Christian religion (as Jesus was teaching it) is so different from all other religions that you cannot truly call it a religion. In many ways, the groups that call themselves Christian are more like the other religions than they are like Jesus and his first followers.

There are some important ways that almost all religions are the same, and it happens that these things are, at the same time, the things that make them all different from what Jesus was teaching. We will talk about six differences.

A. Buildings


Almost all religions are deeply interested in buildings. They have many special names for their buildings, and in one way or another, they give more time, money, and love to the buildings than they give to God and other people. Different religions often compete with each other to make bigger and better buildings.

This strong interest in buildings was a problem from the start, between God and people. The first book of the Bible says that "Cain moved away from God... and made a city." (Genesis 4:16-17) It says that the people of Babylon made God angry with their interest in making a very tall building. (Genesis 11:3-4)

Religious people want others to love their buildings. (Luke 21:5-6) And they become angry when other people say anything against their buildings, and all the money that they waste on them.

Why was Jesus killed? The Bible says that the one reason that the religious leaders agreed on was that he was killed because he was against their building. (Matthew 26:59-61)

The building in itself was not bad; but Jesus was against the LOVE that the people had for their building. It was a love that they should have had for God and others, and not for a dead building. Churches today spend about 90% of their money on buildings, and less than 1% to help the poor. The Bibles says that where we put our money is where we put our love. (Matthew 6:21)

When Jesus said, "It is finished," as he was dying on the cross, he was saying that God is finished with the way of religion. God showed the truth in this by destroying the covering to a special place where the Jewish people believed God lived. He did this at the same time that Jesus died. (Luke 23:45-46)

Jesus had said to a woman before this happened, that a time was coming when it would not be important where people go to pray, but only that they have the right spirit in their hearts when they pray. (John 4:21-24) In the kingdom of heaven you do not go to church, because you are the church. Acts 7:48) The first Christian to die for his faith died a few minutes after saying this to the religious leaders. And religious leaders become very angry when we teach this today.

The new part of the Bible is clear about the truth that God lives in the hearts of people now, and not in buildings. (I Corinthians 6:19) This is a very big and important difference between the church that Jesus was making and the buildings that religions all over the world are making to this day.

B. Health


Because religious people love the building more than the God who lives in it, when they hear that God lives in our bodies now, they start to love their bodies too, and to teach that this is what God wants. Again they are showing more love for the "container" than for the God who lives in it.

Almost all religions have teachings about how to be healthy (Mark 7:3-4), and they try to make these rules equal to (or more important than) the really spiritual rules that Jesus was teaching. Health rules about eating meat, drinking alcohol, using sugar, taking drugs, and other things like that have become religious rules.

They say that people who follow their rules about health are more spiritual than people who do not follow them. But Jesus said, "Nothing that goes into your mouth can make your heart bad." (Mark 7:15) People said that Jesus was an alcoholic and a pig because he was not afraid to drink alcohol and to eat food that the religious people said was bad for him. (Luke 7:34) He said that God can protect us from danger if we eat or drink food or water that is not good for us. (Mark 16:18) Jesus said that Peter should kill and eat animals that his religion said were dirty animals. (Acts 10:9-16) This was because he wanted Peter to live and work with people from other religions, who did not follow the rules of Peter's religion. Health rules can help people to be more healthy; but when religions make them into religious rules, they separate people and make each side believe they are better than the other side.

Many people with healthy bodies are not humble. They have a sick spirit. They do not have much true love for other people. Healthy people can be cruel to sick people, by saying that the people are sick because they are bad and because God is angry with them.

God wants us to have healthy hearts more than he wants us to have healthy bodies. It is not spiritually important if we are sick or crippled. (Matthew 18:8-9) Often a sick person is more humble than a healthy person. (John 9:39-41)

One day our bodies will die. (I Corinthians 6:13) Religions that encourage people to pray for God to heal them often teach that the most spiritual people are the healthy people. Healing becomes another force to separate people. But in the kingdom of heaven, we are not looking for perfect physical bodies. (Romans 8:23) We are looking for new spiritual bodies, after our physical bodies die. (I Corinthians 15:50-53)

C. Special Religious Actions


Almost all religions teach people to do special religious actions that the people believe will make them spiritual. There are many different names for these actions. The churches call them "sacraments", and the Jewish religion called them "sacrifices". But Jesus said that God is not interested in sacrifices (or sacraments). (Hebrews 10:5-6) What God wants is love. (Mark 12:33)

Most religions teach people to say magic words that they say will give them spiritual strength. (Matthew 6:7) The churches often write out words for people to use when talking to God. This could go against the teaching of Jesus about secret prayers in our hearts, where others cannot hear them. (Matthew 6:6) The words we use are not important. God hears the language of our spirit. (Romans 8:26) If our spirit is wrong, special words will not help. If our spirit is right, special words are not needed.

Many religions teach people to cut their bodies in some way, to show that they are better than other people. The Bible says that God is not interested in this. All he wants is for people to believe him. (Romans 3:28-30)

Many Christians tried to make new sacraments to take the place of the Jewish sacraments that followers of Jesus stopped doing. Jesus said that we should cover people with the spirit of truth that is in his teachings, but the early Christians tried to cover people with water, the way Jewish people (like John) often did. (Luke 3:16) Paul started doing that too, thinking that there was magic in the water, but he quickly learned that these actions separate people too. God showed him that he should not be trying to follow the Jewish understanding of sacraments. (I Corinthians 1:17)

The actions that God wants people to do in his kingdom are not special religious actions. What he wants is for us to obey his Son, Jesus. (Hebrews 10:7; I Samuel 15:22)

D. Holy Days and Meetings


Almost all religions have special holy days and/or weekly meetings. They have these meetings over and over, because they believe it will make God happy. (Hebrews 10:11) The problem is that the meeting or holy day is only for a short time. When it is finished, people leave the meeting or other holy action and return to living as they lived before the meeting. By the time another holy day comes around, they need to do the same things over again, because it has been too long between meetings.

The followers of Jesus lived with him, seven days a week. (Luke 8:1) The Bible says that they "showed" that the kingdom of heaven had changed their whole way of living. The first Christians lived together seven days a week. (Acts 2:44-45) They were able to use every day to do good. (Acts 5:42) The Bible says that we should not stop living together, the way most people do today. (Hebrews 10:25)

The reason for this difference between religion and the kingdom of heaven is because religious leaders do not feed the people who follow them. Religious leaders teach the people to work for money six days a week and to give God one day a week.

Jesus said that people should stop working for money. (John 6:27; Matthew 6:24, 31-33) If we stop working for money, we can work for God. When we work for God, we do not need a special "rest" day, because our whole life will be filled with the rest that God gives (Matthew 11:28-30) All days will be holy days in the kingdom of heaven.

This teaching about God feeding the people who work for him is a teaching that no other religious leader has the faith to teach their followers. It, too, is an important teaching that makes Jesus' teachings different from all other teachings in the world.

E. Leaders and Groups


Most religions are very interested in their leaders and in the rules of their group. The rules separate people in one group from people in other groups. Because of this, people from different religions argue, fight, and start wars against each other.

Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven is invisible. (Luke 17:20-21) Being in a group, or not being in a group will not make any difference to people who are in the kingdom of heaven. You join the kingdom of heaven by having faith in God, love for others, wanting to know the truth, and being humble.

We find that religious people are more interested in learning the name of our group, the name of our leader, and how our rules are different from their rules. They have a special interest in the differences, because what they really want is a reason to say that we are wrong and that they are right.

Almost all religions have special names for their leaders. The names make the leaders proud. Jesus said that we should not use special names (like Father, Mister, or Reverend) for our leaders, because we are all brothers and sisters in God's family. (Matthew 23:2-12)

F. Studies about God


Religions have much to say about God. They say that they understand what God can do and what God cannot do. But in the kingdom of heaven, the most important thing is to find out what God wants us to do, and then to do it. No one (but Jesus) understands all about God. (John 1:18) All God wants us to do is to listen to, believe, and obey his Son - Jesus. (John 6:29)

Religious people like to ask us questions about things that do not change the way we live. They want to know if we think there is one God or three Gods, what we believe happens to us after we die, what we believe about angels and devils, what we believe about Jesus being a man and God at the same time, and many other things that do not make any difference in the way that we live. If we give the "wrong" answer to any of these questions, they will use it to say that we are bad and they are good. But Jesus said that he is more interested in finding people who will obey him. (Luke 6:46)

In closing, there are other ways that the kingdom of heaven is different from all the religions of the world, but if you study these six ways, they will help you to understand the difference between what Jesus was saying and what the religious leaders of the world are saying.

(See also The Top Forty)

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