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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

What the Bible Says about Religion

Sometimes I think the biggest stumbling block to a person seeking God – is religion.

Let me try and explain what I mean.

First of all what I do not mean – this is not about an excuse to not go to a healthy church, practice a life of integrity or hold to sound Theology.

But as God said to Samuel when he was choosing the next King of Israel  ( 1 Samuel 16:7) -

“For the LORD does not see as man sees;  for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."

What may surprise you is that the word “religion” is rarely used in the Bible – but when it is the Greek word used is :  


It means:

1) religious worship
a) esp. external, that which consists of ceremonies
1) religious discipline, religion

(Note: The word rendered “Worshipping”    in Col 2:18 is the same Greek word - see the passage below for context)

From Vine’s Greek Dictionary:

Religion  thrēskeia:

signifies "religion" in its external aspect (akin to threskos, see below), "religious worship," especially the ceremonial service of "religion;" it is used of the "religion" of the Jews, Act 26:5; of the "worshiping" of angels, Col 2:18, which they themselves repudiate (Rev 22:8,9); "there was an officious parade of humility in selecting these lower beings as intercessors rather than appealing directly to the Throne of Grace" (Lightfoot);

in Jam 1:2627 the writer purposely uses the word to set in contrast that which is unreal and deceptive, and the "pure religion" which consists in visiting "the fatherless and widows in their affliction," and in keeping oneself "unspotted from the world." He is "not herein affirming . . . these offices to be the sum total, nor yet the great essentials, of true religion, but declares them to be the body, the threskeia, of which godliness, or the love of God, is the informing soul" (Trench).
The 2 key words here are:

Not that there is necessarily anything wrong with something being external or ceremonial – but if it is has not first penetrated the heart – if it is empty of pure love motivation, humility, integrity and sincerity ( not to mention some rationality) then it is of no value and you’re missing the point ( see 1 Corinthians 13 etc) .

Note what the Bible says about true religion:

Jam 1:26 If anyone among you  thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one's religion is useless. 

Description: 1:27 Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world

The 3 things pointed out?

Bridling one’s tongue – or controlling it. No hateful speech, gossip etc..

Visiting orphans and widows in their trouble

Keeping oneself unspotted from the world  - pure, holy, just… a clean life.

Another variation of the Greek word is ethelothrēskia translated as “self-imposed religion

1) voluntary, arbitrary worship
a) worship which one prescribes and devises for himself, contrary to the contents and nature of faith which ought to be directed to Christ
b) said of the misdirected zeal and the practice of ascetics

The former and latter Greek words are both found in the following text:

Col 2:16 So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival 
or a new moon or sabbaths, 

Description: 2:17 which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. 
Description: 2:18 Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not  seen, 
vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, 
Description: 2:19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God. 
Description: 2:20 Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations-- 
Description: 2:21 "Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle," 
Description: 2:22 which all concern things which perish with the using--according to the commandments and doctrines of men? 
Description: 2:23 These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of 
no value against the indulgence of the flesh.

Now we acknowledge the English definition of religion contains elements of Christianity -
Definition of RELIGION

: a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices

: a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith

However - though the English Dictionary meaning of Religion may describe parts and forms of Christianity – the real thing  - the substance of it - is so much more than that. 

Unfortunately  the term “Christianity” can cover many things and there have been gross misuses of the name. 

I’ve met many people who have seen some of the history of religion, including nominal “Christianity” (not sincere or understood – only outward) , or have grown up in a household of hypocrisy and rules only – and have been hurt or turned off.

I ask these people to just  look at Jesus Himself – read about Him, read what He has said and how He acted…. ( you know – Matthew, Mark , Luke and John.. and the rest of the New Testament)

True Christianity is about a relationship ( with Jesus Christ) not religion.

That is not just a cliché statement – it is real and true, a summation of what you will discover upon a reading the Bible.

This “True”, “Relational” Christianity -

 is not binding, but rather freeing.

It is not the closing of the mind, but the opening of it.

It is not superstition but well thought out, well placed , experienced faith.

Although it can be beyond our reasoning ( as one would expect God to be), it is by no means Unreasonable.

As one put it:

“Religion is man reaching out to God. The Gospel is God reaching out to man.”

What is the Gospel?    Enter John 3:16 … and 17

Jhn 3:16 "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 

Description: 3:17 "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

And as the picture says:   Jesus is my Saviour – not my religion.

Now, if I may , let me suggest that you consider finding a Bible, wiping off the dust, opening it to somewhere like the Gospel of John – and read about Jesus for a while.
Forget the system for a while – discover the Person.

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