Author: Ron Graham
Christianity, to be a valid and scriptural religion, must be total. It must balance true doctrine, spiritual experience, and dedicated service.
Many people approve of religion, but they limit its application.
When you consider those approaches to religion, it seems pretty obvious that true religion would not be one of those to the near exclusion of the others, but rather a combination of all three, properly balanced.
People try to promote and grow their church, or try to solve problems, by deprecating one of these aspects of religion, and emphasising another. That may appear to work, but it's an illusion.
Religion, the practice of faith, must be holistic. It must involve the whole person. It must embrace head, heart, and hands, all three.
Paul told Timothy, "Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season, reprove, rebuke, exhort, with much patience and instruction. For the time will come when people will not endure sound doctrine... and will turn away their ears from the truth..." (2Timothy 4:1-5).
Paul clearly valued true doctrine. He saw a departure from that doctrine as a falling away, an apostasy. We must therefore get our heads around the truth and lend our ears to it.
Different doctrines divide. It is unwise to ignore these divisions. It is unwise to deprecate doctrine and treat it as irrelevant to true religion. You put yourself at odds with Paul.
One of Paul’s nightmares was that God’s children would be "tossed here and there by every wind of doctrine" (Ephesians 4:13-15).
Indeed, you put yourself at odds with Jesus who said, "Make disciples in all nations... teaching them to observe all things that I commanded you" (Matthew 28:18-20).
"My doctrine is not mine, but his who sent me. If any man is willing to do his will, he will know of the doctrine, whether it is from God, or whether I speak from myself. He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory..." (John 7:16-18).
Yes, we have to get our heads into that doctrine of Christ. We must use our intellect to consider, learn, understand, and teach that doctrine; and reject all other.
"May God grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner man; so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may... know the love of Christ... filled up to all the fullness of God" (Ephesians 3:16-21).
Statements like this are frequent in Paul’s letters. They take religion into the heart. They speak of the fire and joy within.
The doctrine of Christ is "a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills but the Spirit gives life" (2Corinthians 3:6).
This doesn't mean that we must not engage Christ’s doctrine intellectually. It means that we must go further and experience the doctrine of Christ spiritually. The head knowledge must be heart felt.
It would be a strange religion indeed that insisted on sound doctrine but discouraged that doctrine from creating intense faith, hope, love, joy, peace, zeal, or any other such spiritual experience.
Some people have a fear of “emotionalism” in religion. There is good reason for that. Some people are jumping and shouting for Jesus, but behind all the hullabaloo there is false doctrine and deception.
We rightly reject their spiritual experience as phony. However we should not reject a true spiritual experience, any more than we should reject true doctrine.
James 1:27, 2:14-24
"Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father, is to visit the orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world" (James 1:27).
"What use is it my brethren if a man says he has faith, but he doesn't have works? Can such faith save him?... a man is justified by works and not by faith only" (James 2:14-24).
We must be "useful to the Master, prepared for good works" (2Timothy 2:21). Religion is not just about head and heart; it's about hands too.
For some people religion is all talk and no walk. On the other hand, for some it's all about good deeds of charity without attention to the spiritual. True religion is hands on religion. But that's not all it is.
So we come back to what real religion is. It's a balanced combination of sound doctrine, spiritual experience, and dedicated service. Paul expresses all three of these in his prayer for the Colossians (Colossians 1:9-11)
NOTE: I didn't invent the head-heart-hands schema. It's quite commonly used.