CHRIST VERSUS RELIGION
This young man Saul was born into and raised in the Jewish religion (Acts 22:3; 26:4-5). Saul was a religious person not just by teaching or training but by birth. Many of us were also religious people. We were born into and raised in Christianity. We were religious by birth. You may feel that it is good to be born into and raised in religion. It seems better than being born into and raised in a sinful environment. But we have to realize that religion does not help people to fulfill, to carry out, God’s plan. Religion is even something against God’s plan; it may be good but it is something other than Christ. It is hard for some people to really know Christ because they are so religious. They may know the doctrines, teachings, forms, rituals, and regulations, but they do not know the living Christ Himself
In 1933 I was invited to speak in a chapel at a university in mainland China. Most of the audience were Christians, but they did not have the assurance that they had been saved. I had the burden to raise the question—"Do you have the assurance that you have been saved?" While I was speaking, a certain pastor sitting in the back was shaking his head in disagreement with what I was saying. This pastor might have contended for salvation by grace, but if you asked him if he had been saved, he would have responded, "Who can know today whether or not he has been saved?" This pastor might have had the doctrine of salvation by grace, but he did not have Christ Himself. It is possible to be involved in Christianity and yet not have Christ. You may have the forms and the regulations and yet not have Christ.
I was born into Christianity in mainland China. Before I was born again, I would contend with the Buddhist monks whenever they said something bad about Christianity. I fought for Christianity, yet I had not repented, prayed, and accepted Christ as my Savior. I had Christianity, but I did not have Christ. I had the religious forms, but I did not have Christ. I had the doctrines, the teachings, but I did not have Christ.
We need to look at today’s situation in the light of this fellowship. Many Christians are involved in Christianity as a religion with forms, regulations, and teachings, yet they possess very little of Christ Himself. Many people are born into Christianity and have been raised in Christianity, but they do not know Christ. They need the Lord to intervene in their situation so that Christ can be revealed into them. Saul was born in Judaism, into the best religion, yet he needed a second birth. He needed to be regenerated, to be born again with the divine life.
You may say that you have already been born again, that you have already been regenerated. Praise the Lord for this! But do you realize that you have to go on to live not according to your first birth but according to your second birth? You should live not by the life from your first birth, but by the life from your second birth. The Christian life is not a matter of religion, teachings, doctrines, forms, or regulations, but simply a matter of Christ Himself. You have to receive Christ as life, you have to deal with Him as the unique Lord in this universe, and you have to live in Him to be conformed to His image. You need the revelation Saul had on the way to Damascus.
(A Young Man in God's Plan, Chapter 2, by Witness Lee)