Tuesday, May 8, 2007

The Religious and the Righteous

After considering several different articles on religion the following statements seem appropriate.
  1. Religion is a cause or activity pursued with zeal or conscientious devotion.

  2. Formal religion is a ritualistic practice or worship expressing a belief in a deity and/or other objects of human affection and devotion.

  3. Organized religion involves a code of ethics and a philosophy accompanied by creeds and doctrines. It can be ceremonial, symbolic or both in external expressions of beliefs.
Most religions are based upon superstitions, myths, fables, and false teachings derived from traditions, dreams, visions or imaginations and have no meaningful lasting benefit. One who pursues a cause or activity with zeal or conscientiousness is said to be religious. Considering the above the conclusion could be made that it is possible to be religious about most any or every thing.

“And Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious (the translation could be suppositious) in all respects. For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ What therefore you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you (Acts 17:22-23 NAS).”

There are many different religions in the world today just the same as it was the day Paul went into Athens. There are those who call themselves Christian and those who call themselves by some other name. Within the Christian group there are many different denominations or religions.

Jesus said, “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it. For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it (Matt. 7:13-14 NAS).”

The broad gate certainly includes many of the different religions of the world and, of course, worldliness. The narrow gate is the gate of righteousness entered only by the ones that have been made righteous by grace through faith in Christ. Many of the religious worship a God they do not know because they have never had a personal experience with Him; they have only had an emotional, ritualistic religious experience. They believe what they think they know about God but know not God. They are perishing because they follow after false teachings, myths, fairy tales, superstitions, dreams and other religious concoctions. They are in need of the knowledge of the truth; but most of the religious reject the truth because they are enjoying what they are doing and to accept the truth would require a change in their life styles and fleshly pleasures.

“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being My priest. Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children (Hosea 4:6 NAS).”

It was to God’s people who had drifted away from righteousness by faith and had become bound by ritualistic religion that Jesus spoke the following words.

“Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying, ‘The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things, and do not do them. And they tie up heavy loads, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger. But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries, and lengthen the tassels of their garments. And they love the place of honor at banquets, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called by men, Rabbi’ (Matt. 23:1-7 NAS).”

When Moses lead God’s people out of Egypt into the wilderness God gave them laws of worship of Him that would replace the heathen religions they had learned while in Egypt. Every law of worship, the tabernacle and all the instructions God gave them was a message in type of the promised Messiah who was to come. They were to understand the message by revelation from God and carry out each sacrament in obedient expectation and hope in the coming Messiah. In doing so their acts of faith was reckoned unto them as righteousness. Deceitful men soon crept in and began to add to and take from what God had commanded the people to do and they completely forgot the message of promise and drifted into meaningless ritualistic religious worship.

In the following scripture Jesus is proclaiming that He is the promised Messiah and that He is the fulfillment of the law and the sacraments.

”All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son, except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father, except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My load is light (Matt. 11:27-30 NAS).”

When He addresses “all who are weary and heavy-laden” He is speaking to those who have been lead into all types of meaningless ritualistic worship.

The apostle Paul wrote to the church at Corinth warning and telling them to avoid deceitful men.

“But what I am doing, I will continue to do, that I may cut off opportunity from those who desire an opportunity to be regarded just as we are in the matter about which they are boasting. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their deeds (2 Cor. 11:12-15 NAS).” “But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, that they were saying to you, ‘In the last time there shall be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts.’ These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit. But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith; praying in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life (Jude1:17-21 NAS).”

After the first apostles went to be with the Lord deceitful men crept into the early Christian Church and turned the church toward the study and adoption of codes of ethics, philosophy, creeds and doctrines; God’s peoples focus shifted away from the simplicity of the gospel and something within them died. They incorporated heathen religion, worldliness, fables, myths and fairy tales into the church worship distorting the truth and polluting the name of the one and only true God. These men were as the Scribes of the ritualistic religion of the Jews. Debates and division soon consumed the presbytery just as it did the people that became known as the Pharisees, Sadducees and other sects of that time; and now the present so called “church” is no longer one body; they have become many different bodies or denominations known by many different names. Each group has their own code of ethics, philosophy, creeds and doctrines and their own ritualistic ceremonial symbolic worship but know not and do not the will of God. Therefore we conclude that ritualistic religion is likened unto a spiders web, it entangles the prey while the adversary sucks the very life out of the victim; leaving nothing but a carcass of dead works.

The apostle James contrast the religion that is unreal and deceptive to that of the “pure and undefiled;” the only religion accepted by the Holy and Divine true God.

“If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless. This is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father, to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world (James 1:26-27 NAS).”

When Jesus was talking with the Samaritan woman at the well during their discourse He explained to her pure worship. He never mentioned idols, rituals and other traditional forms of worship.

The woman said to Him, “Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall you worship the Father. You worship that which you do not know; we worship that which we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth (John 4:20-24 NAS).”

“Pure and undefiled” religion is very simple; the believer has a love for God and a love of his fellowman; he has been made righteous by God’s grace through faith and is being sanctified through obedience to the word of God; love motivates him to the work of service that God has prepared for him to do. There are no required traditional religious rituals to embrace, no chants, no sounding gongs or clanging symbols; only the expressions of joy and the worship and praise of God the Father through His Son Jesus from a pure heart of Godly love.

The church has need of repentance from the dead works of tradition and ritualistic religion and return to the simplicity of the good news concerning the Kingdom of God. Jesus died in our stead because of sin. He was resurrected because of our justification and reigns because of righteousness. Only by God’s grace through faith in Christ Jesus are we justified and cleansed from sin, thus are we made the righteousness of God.

There is only one kind of faith that God’s grace works through---that is divine faith. Divine faith is a gift from God. He speaks, we hear, believe and obey---that is divine faith. Faith works by love. God first loves us, we have a revelation of that love and love Him in return; obedience is an expression of love. This is the gospel of our Lord and Savior; pure and simple.

Religion does not lead to righteousness nor does it express or reflect righteousness. The religious believe what they think they know about God. The righteous know God, or rather are known by God; they hear Him, believe Him, obey Him and are a reflection of Him.

Pastor Jake

1 comment:

Reformer said...

What about Buddhism, there in modern practice they stay away from deities. They rather view it as a way of life. Just wanted to point it out as a religion that does not fit into the 3 statements you made at the top of the post.

Good post.