Religion & Spirituality: Institutional Worship vs. Divine Intimacy (1/2)

 Religion and Spirituality

What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled” without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? So faith by itself, without works, is dead. [James 2:14].

Is there a difference between our spiritual and our religious life? How does our outward worship reflect our inner piety? Does our spirituality abide in our soul, while our religion dwells in churches, temples, mosque or synagogues?

Ideally, our religious institutions offer a way to express our inner faith communally. The rituals and symbols of religions engage us in sacred glorification and commemoration, presenting vivid reminders of God while offering pious guidance to our daily living.

To every People have We appointed rites and ceremonies which they must follow: let them not then dispute with thee on the matter, but do thou invite (them) to thy Lord: for thou art assuredly on the Right Way. [Quran 22:67].

Religion: Institutional Worship

Obviously, spirituality and religion should complement each other. A religion is the product of spiritual enthusiasm. A religious community initially owes its life to believers who share their spirituality.

Unfortunately, secular environments often pits organized worship against personal intimacy with God. Culture, affluence and livelihood are among the major influences distracting and distorting our spiritual consciousness.

The achievement of personality means nothing less than the optimum development of the whole individual human being … the vast majority of mankind do not choose their own way, but convention, and consequently develop not themselves but a method and a mode of life at the cost of their own wholeness … Only the man who can consciously assent to the power of the inner voice becomes a personality. [Carl Jung, The Development of Personality].

The essence of religion is worship, and the reason we worship is to come closer to God and to connect with Him. However, our modern perspective sees spirituality and institutional worship as distinct phenomena.

Matters of the spirit appear to reside within and affect us personally, privately, while matters of religion are outward and public, affecting family and social interaction.

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment … Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. [1 Peter 3:3-4 (NIV)].

For many of us, religious rituals fulfill doctrinal obligations. They bring into actuality
the requirements of our faith and help us glorify and commemorate our Lord. Spiritual devoutness, on the other hand, provides the inner piety and God-consciousness that remind and connect us to what we find most meaningful.

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. [Psalm 19:14].

Organizational Golden Calf

Officially prescribed and solemnly observed, our religious beliefs are voiced openly. We display them on holy days, in ceremonies and rituals. They are part of our cultural resume, defining who we are to the inquiring world.

More than one-quarter of American adults (28%) have left the faith in which they were raised in favor of another religion – or no religion at all. If change in affiliation from one type of Protestantism to another is included, 44% of adults have either switched religious affiliation, moved from being unaffiliated with any religion to being affiliated with a particular faith, or dropped any connection to a specific religious tradition altogether. [Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life/ U.S. Religious Landscape Survey].

The traditional role of religion is to provide a communal center for our spirituality. Clearly, our religion provides direction for our spiritual journey toward Divine awareness. However, when we find ourselves worshiping our religion instead of our Creator, we have adopted a man-made idol, our organizational golden calf.

When our emphasis becomes the Church more than the Lord, we have been reduced to worshiping the creation instead of the blessed Creator, and our faith has been reduced to a form of godliness which denies the very power of the gospel. [Rick Joyner].

Spirituality: Divine Intimacy

By contrast, if we pursue an ego-driven illusion of our inner spirit, we have rebelled from our Creator no less than did the accursed enemy of Truth.

Our spiritual path, which we find described in sacred texts and mystical literature, is very narrow. When we try to follow it in our daily life, it does not seem to allow more than one person on it at a time. And, we have to wear so many masks.

The real thing is the gift of the Holy Spirit which can’t usually be – perhaps not ever – experienced as a sensation or emotion. The sensations are merely the response of your nervous system. Don’t depend on them. Otherwise when they go and you are once again emotionally flat (as you certainly will be quite soon), you might think that the real thing had gone too. But it won’t. It will be there when you can’t feel it. May even be operative when you can feel it least. [Letters of C. S. Lewis].

How do we make God’s heavenly will more in accord with what we do on earth? How do we actualize what is conceived by our heart to be the “right things to do?” In other words, how does our spirituality become active, manifested in a religion pleasing to God.

With what shall I come before the Lord? and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my first-born for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you But to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? [Micah 6:6-8].

If our religion is to express the will of God, it has to manifest itself continuously. For us to be truly sincere, our religious life and our spiritual life must be one.

Be mindful of your duty [to God], and do good works; and again, be mindful of your duty, and believe; and once again: be mindful of your duty, and do right. God loves the doers of good. [Quran 5:93].

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Religion & Faith: Institutional Worship vs. Divine Intimacy (2/2)

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