How’s that Bible reading going? If you find something “better” to do, either thank Satan for what he’s given you… or get back to reading God’s word… EVERY DAY!
One of the most important reasons to keep reading and studying God’s word is the simple fact that this world is filled with opinions of God based on ignorance. God has NEVER accepted ignorance nor opinion as a substitute for Godly knowledge, and THAT can only come from knowing God’s word!
Hannah, the mother of Samuel the Prophet, Priest and final Judge of Israel, would dedicate her firstborn son to the Lord with a prayer that reminds us, There is no one holy like the LORD, Indeed, there is no one besides You, Nor is there any rock like our God. Boast no more so very proudly, Do not let arrogance come out of your mouth; For the LORD is a God of knowledge, And with Him actions are weighed. (1 Samuel 2:2-3)
As the northern Kingdom of Israel faced destruction for their unfaithfulness, two prophets of the Lord would expose the sin of “lack of knowledge” as the reason for that failure before God (cf. Isaiah 5:13 and Hosea 4:6). It is not just evident but imperative that we actually know what God says before offering an opinion or, especially, an attempt at obedience.
We are acquainted with the lame expression of some people that they, “love Christ, just not the Church.” Paul destroys that false teaching in Ephesians 5:25-32 as he asserts that Christ’s Church is by God’s definition the very thing He died for and the very thing He saves. If you despise His Church, then you despise Christ. Just as there is only one Lord, He only has one church (cf. Ephesians 4:4-5). If you are not the church of Christ, then you are not saved… according to God.
That brings us to another expression many people love to acknowledge without knowing God’s position on the subject. This one involves religion. Is religion good or bad? Is it right or wrong? It turns out that, just like the ONE church there is only ONE religion in God’s eyes.
A recent popular post on social networking says: Many turn from Jesus because of a bad experience with “Religious” people. We must remind them that Jesus also had a bad experience with “Religious” people: He was crucified by them.
“Religion Will Not Save You. Only Jesus Saves.” Okay, some people claim religion will not save you! What does God say? Let’s begin by understanding that a word, a title, a description may be used to refer to something good and right yet may also be used in a bad sense to refer to the exact opposite. We often use the words true or real when referring to the good sense and fake, or false or bad to point out the opposite meaning. Paul uses this procedure in 1 Corinthians 5:11 to reference the so-called brother that blatantly sins.
In the same way, there is God’s religion and there is false, man-made religion. They are not the same and the fact that people have invented a fake version of what is right does not change the fact that we are saved by religion… as God defines it!
Let’s go to the New Testament where the words for the concept of religion are used very specifically. First, Acts 17:22: So Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects.” Paul uses the word deisidaimōn which means reverencing the gods and divine things, religious; in a bad sense, superstitious. By this he is complimenting their careful and precise discharge of religious services. A seeming compliment that he then shows to be wrongly based.
Acts 25:19 uses a form of this same word to refer to a Roman discussion where Christianity is labeled simply a faction of Judaism. Again, the word can refer to, depending on context, either a real religion or a superstition. In this case Festus, the Roman governor, is labeling both Judaism and Christianity as just another superstitious religion while missing the point that this is really the true religion of God.
Second, is the word used in Colossians 2:23 where Paul writes, These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence. His word is ethelothrēskia and is a compound word that means rather specifically a self-imposed religious piety. It certainly makes clear Paul’s attitude toward false or fake religion, doesn’t it?
The third word is used first in Acts 26:6: since they have known about me for a long time, if they are willing to testify, that I lived as a Pharisee according to the strictest sect of our religion. Here Paul is using thrēskeia, a common word referring to worship or religion. As used here it is clear that Paul is claiming to have been a part of the true religion of the old covenant.
Paul will use this same word in a warning in Colossians 2:18 in a negative way: Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind. But he makes it very clear that the opinion of worship of angels and other false things is NOT the worship or religion of God.
Finally, James brings us the ultimate point of the lesson about religion and whether it has any place in our lives as he says, 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. Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. (James 1:26-27) There are plenty of religions in this world. People can, and do, worship all kinds of things including themselves and their own ideas. But there is also the one true religion that worships and obeys the Lord.
We sometimes only read the first half of James 1:27 and miss the rest of the lesson. Just as vital as caring for those individuals in need, pure and undefiled religion in God’s eyes is keeping oneself unstained by the world. Yes, Jesus saves! But His salvation only comes with obedience to Him. You must BE the Church of Christ. You must live and teach the pure religion of God or you will not be saved.
—Lester P. Bagley