- From the Cedar Street Times, Pacific Grove
What does God say about religion?
When we allow man’s ideas of religion to turn us away from God’s will for our lives, we will not enter into God’s eternal family, Matt 12:50, “For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.” Following the Spirit leads to eternal life, Rom 8:13-14, “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” When we set up our own rituals and worship them rather than God, we are left with burnt offerings and the symbols of religion, Mic 6:6-8, “Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” God does not want our burnt offerings, Matt 9:13, “But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” and Prov 21:3, “To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.” He is asking us to respond to His love by walking humbly with Him and passing His love on to everyone we meet, Jn 13:35, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” When we respond this way, others will see His love and be drawn to it.
Gal 2:9-10, “And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision. Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do.” and Jam 1:26-27, “If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain.Purereligion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” God is telling us that true religion requires action. The gospel is only understood when we apply it to our daily lives. This is when it comes to life and changes us from within. God is telling us it is more than a mental exercise, Is 29:13, “Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:”
Going to church once a week and living the rest of our lives reconciled to this world is not pure religion. God wants us to take His love to the rest of the world, so others might see His light shining through us and find their way to Him, Matt 5:16, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Of course, our walk will be easier if we have a church family supporting us, Eccl 4:12, “And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”
1 Tim 2:1-4, “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.” Is God saying this step will prepare our minds for what is to follow? Will praying for those in power and giving thanks for all we have remove the need for laws? Apparently, it will because we will be living the fruit of the Spirit, Gal 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” and it will lead us to a more peaceful life. Would all the discord and stress caused by our fruitless ranting about politics dissipate? Would we then draw closer to each other? Is not the real purpose of religion to lead us to God, which will then motivate us to help others find their path to Him? Will other people be drawn to those they see living a peaceful life, or a life in distress? Is a peaceful life a better life?
Heb 11:6, “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” When we truly believe in our hearts, not just with our lips, we seek the path to God and His righteousness, Matt 6:33, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” God knows we must seek His righteousness to stand against the devil, Eph 6:11, “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” God wants us to know the devil will use our lack of faith to lead us away from God, Gen 3:4-5, “And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” God keeps telling us to seek His righteousness and that He will light our path, Ps 119:105, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” and His path will lead us to His peace and joy, Rom 14:17, “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” Pure religion should lead us to righteousness, peace, and joy. If it does not, then it is not from God. Our peace should extend beyond our weekly visit to a church; it must be the way we live every day. Otherwise, we become the hypocrites who turn others away from God instead of toward Him, for they will not see the light of God’s love reflected in our lives.
Jn 14:6, “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” God is telling us that other ways might have good teaching within them, but they will not lead us to Him. God came to earth to tell us His way is the only way to righteousness. Why else would He leave the glory of heaven to live the humble life of a servant, only to die on a cross for our salvation? God did not come to earth to declare His plan by any other religion. He does not want us stumbling around looking for our own made-up religion. He wants us to know how to live the righteous life, which leads to Him, 2 Tim 3:16:17, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” This is the reason He has given us His Word, the Bible, Ps 12:6-7, “The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O Lord, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever” protected it for centuries, Rev 22:18, “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:” and as proof of its truthfulness made it the most popular book in all human history. We have no excuse for not reading it and no excuse for not reasoning with Him on the issues we do not understand.
Col 2:6-8, “As ye havetherefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.” Can we create a religion better than the one God has offered to all of us? If we could, we would be God. We are not God, even though some of us act as though we believe we are.
Eccl 12:13, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.” This is the message Jesus came to affirm, Matt 25:34-36, “Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.” When we love as God does, it shows in everything we do, Gal 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” Yes, the fruit of the Spirit leads us to become the people created to be part of His family for all eternity. This is the religion Jesus came to give us. Hopefully, we are finding Jesus in the churches we attend.
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