While traveling in a remote area of India, we were passing by an estimated 500,000 pilgrims walking barefoot up to 500 miles toward the temple of Shiva that rested on top of a mountain. Many had bloodied and blistered feet. Once they reached the temple, their heads would be shaved and they would receive a bit of sandalwood paste that had fallen off of an idol. Drinking the paste in a mixture was said to secure the favor of Shiva, and they would get the desire of their heart.
Not long afterward I found myself in Tibet, where the pilgrims were falling forward to reach the great temples of Buddha. Some had come as far as 300 miles in this manner; they would stand, make a praying motion with their hands, and fall forward. While lying prostrate, they stretched out as far as they could and placed a piece of paper at the end of their fingertips; this was the marker for where they were to stand next and fall forward. Men, old women, and children alike were slowly working their way to Lhasa by the length of their bodies. Some even had callused foreheads. These types of activities are played out around the world.
We often look at the passage in Ephesians where Paul mentions that there is one Lord, one faith, one baptism and apply it to the Christian Church. However, it must be viewed in a broader sense. Taken as a whole, the world brandishes very many religions, but there is only one faith. Religion, as it is most easily defined, is success resting at the feet of man. All religions have this in common, even the Christian religion, for it becomes a religion when the enemy and the flesh of man move focus away from the work of God to the work of man.
I visited an Orthodox Religion “church” building in India after visiting several Hindu temples. I turned to my friend and said, “Do you think a Hindu would feel the least bit uncomfortable in this Orthodox religion?” He replied, “No, the Hindu would have everything he needs here: candles, icons, idols, a secret place for priests, gold altars, and more.”
The common thread of religions—that success rests in man’s effort—is often accompanied by the tantalizing hope for success through somehow twisting the arm of the false god to get a favor. In contrast, there is only one faith, so never let it be said that people belong to different faiths; they only belong to different religions. The one faith is faith in the only God, His only Son, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. The success of the one faith ends at the feet of God, who loved us and gave us His Son. God works in us, Christ moved into us and is our life, and the Holy Spirit makes the things of God and Jesus not only reasonable but also doable in His power. It is all about the accomplished and ongoing work of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. If we move from the one faith that believes in what God does, period, then we move into an obsession with self and what men must do and find one of the most miserable religions in the world, which is Christianity without Christ.