Maybe it sounds a little foolish to write an article defending religion, but it is and perhaps has always been an easy target for ridicule. Stand up for spiritual ideas, and you will be attacked as bigoted. The anti-religious chorus seems to be gaining steam. Last month I made mention of Mr. Ventura’s disparaging remarks towards “organized religion.” A week or so later, I was reading an interview with a cutting edge computer guru who remarked, “religious people really scare me.” I thought to myself, what is so scary about religion?
Making matters worse, so-called Christians like to adopt similar language with statements like, “I don’t want religion, I want a relationship.” These people should know that the true religion is not an invention of man; it originates from God. When people say, “I believe in God, but I don’t want any of that religion”, they mean they don’t want anything that requires commitment, nothing that ties them down, and nothing that is judgmental.
Not all religion is right. Religion is mentioned in the Bible in both positive and negative terms. The Apostle Paul praised the Athenians as being “very religious” (Acts 17:22). He then showed them their religious error and pointed them unto true religion. The term can refer to a variety of beliefs, and each has its own practices. The Apostle Paul, referring to his past, said he lived according to the “strictest sect of our religion” (Acts 26:5; cf. Acts 25:19). There is nothing inherently wrong or distasteful with the term “religion.” That doesn’t mean that all religions are equal. It’s not polite to say so, but it is, and must be the case. Unless God is confused, or unless he is purposely causing confusion, the source of all religion can not be God.
The present age is full of self-made religion. Self-made religion serves the function of making people feel spiritual and good. It also permits them to [instead of God] determine the boundaries or parameters by which they live. The Apostle Paul makes mention of certain practices that have “the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion,… but are of no value against fleshly indulgence” (Col 2:23). The consequences of self-made religion are all about us. It is why America can be religious as it sinks ever deeper into a moral abyss. In self-made religion, man becomes the focus, rather than God. When man starts making religion to appease the conscience, without consulting the will of God, the result is devastating.
Church growth “experts” counsel church leaders to orchestrate a worship that is aesthetically and emotionally appealing. More times than not, these efforts are nothing more than misguided attempts to keep unspiritual men filling the pews. Can’t talk about sin, can’t judge, can’t be negative, but do talk about love; this is the common mantra. Paul’s words ring true, this religion is, “of no value against fleshly indulgences.”
It is pure and undefiled religion that changes lives. Some who are reading this may wish to believe that the present day criticism is really only against the false religion that man has created and that I am drawing undue attention to this matter. It is true that some religions deserve the scrutiny, but the anti-religious crowd is also speaking out against all religion that teaches the biblical model on marriage, on sanctity of life issues, and personal responsibility and sexual immorality issues. Like it or not, Jesus’ church is the target of the criticism when it stands up for truth.
Religion that originates from God is without contradictions, but it is also “pure and undefiled.” When you practice true religion it shows in your life (James 1:26). The religion that is “pure and undefiled” is involved in good deeds and practices self-control; namely, keeping oneself unstained from the world. Religion that doesn’t change your life is worthless (James 1:26). The self-made religion that is so prominent in modern America may make people feel good, but it doesn’t make them holy. Religion is given a bad name by the hypocrites who preach such religion.
True religion recognizes the absolute authority of the Creator. He alone can decide how to communicate his will unto mankind. His message has come to us through His son, Jesus Christ. He completely reveals the will and character of God through his life, words, and resurrection. His religion is about salvation and it demands faith and obedience. When Jesus talks, men listen and obey (John 14:15; 15:14). Spiritual men take nothing for granted in their approach to God. They assume no liberties that are not specified in the New Testament; that would be presumptuous. The religion of the New Testament is the perfect blueprint to follow. Stray from the blueprint, and a brand new religion is in the making.
Show me a man who is Born Again by the grace of God through faith, and I will show you a religious man. It can’t be any other way. And if a man isn’t religious, then he doesn’t know a thing about God. – Dan Mayfield