When I typed in the word religion on Google's search engine, it gave 1,570,000,000listings. Assuming that 15% of those were repeat entries, if I were to spend just five seconds visiting each site with no break, it would take 13,083,000 days (over 35,000 years) just to visit them all! Sometimes I wonder if people have the same sense when they approach this subject. Everyone has an opinion about religion—but who is right?
The word religion occurs five times in the New Testament drawing from three different Greek words. The first two occurrences have to do with the teachings of Judaism. The third usage pertains to practical application by widows who follow Jesus Christ. Then we have the final two instances in the book of James: "If anyone thinks he is religious without controlling his tongue, then his religion is useless and he deceives himself. Pure and undefiled religion before ourGod and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world. (1:26, 27)
In this passage three striking truths emerge which lead to profound implications.
Truth #1. Unpolluted—this is a pristine goal for which to aspire!
Truth #2. God expects us to care for those who are needy and hurting.
Truth #3. Religion that does not produce godly speech is rubbish!
Who do you know that is untainted by sin? James wrote, "Adulteresses! Don’t you know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? So whoever wants to be the world’s friend becomes God’s enemy” (4:4). Who do you know that is completely unselfish? " Indeed, if you keep the royal law prescribed in the Scripture, Love your neighbor as yourself, you are doing well. But if you show favoritism, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors" (2:8,9). Who do you know that utters flawless speech? "But no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison" (3:8). Therefore, no human-manufactured religion is capable of meeting God's standard.
Good without God is like seeds without water. Any definition of religion that calls for our achievement in order to accomplish success is fatally flawed if there is a God and the Bible is accurate in stating His standards. This is what makes Christianity distinct from every other religion. Only Jesus is able to deliver what God accepts. He reaches to save us but on the basis of our relationship to Him and not on our merit. "His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness" (2 Peter 1:3). When we revere and love Him obeying the leading of His Holy Spirit, our lives reveal the seal of eternal life that springs from a temporal existence adorned with meaning; hope that stands above pain and suffering; and joy that is unquenchable and vibrantly inspiring. How we define religion reveals what we know of Christ.
Whenever we put theology or a plan of salvation or any line of explanation before a man’s personal relationship to God, we depart from the Bible line, because religion in the Bible is not faith in the rule of God, but faith in the God who rules.—Oswald Chambers in Shade of His Hand
Religion: 1.a. Belief in and reverence for a supernatural power or powers regarded as creator and governor of the universe. b.A personal or institutionalized system grounded in such belief and worship. 2.The life or condition of a person in a religious order. 3.A set of beliefs, values, and practices based on the teachings of a spiritual leader. 4.A cause, a principle, or an activity pursued with zeal or conscientious devotion.--The American Heritage Dictionary
©2003 Daniel York ARR. Reveration is the weekly devotional ministry of First Cause. If you would like to receive these devotionals go to www.firstcause.org and click on the “Click here to receive weekly devotionals” box. Unlimited permission to copy this devotional without altering text or profiteering is allowed subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.
Ecclesiastes 12:10-The Teacher sought to find delightful sayings and to accurately write words of truth. (Holman CSB)
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Photo used under Creative Commons from Rachel Maxey Miles