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Saturday, August 3, 2019

8/3/19       God Hates Religion

                                                      True Religion

Whoa!  Whoa! How can God hate Christianity which He created through Jesus, the Christ?

I didn’t say God hates true Christianity.  I said God hates religion.  When we come before Him with a good and true heart.  Father honors and respects that.

Consider, before Jesus stirred up the hornet’s nest, the church was the Jewish church, the synagogue.  Remember, the early disciples focused on bringing the gospel to God’s people, the Jews.  It wasn’t until Barnabas brought Saul to Antioch and sometime during the year they spent there, the term “Christian was birthed” (Acts 11:25-26).

Apparently, followers of Jesus had been referred to as the “Nazarenes”.  This is was indicated when Tertulus addressed the governor Felix concerning Paul, whom he claimed, was a part of a sect called the Nazarenes (Acts 24:1-5).

Felix, in response to Tertulus implies that this same sect may also have been referred to as the “Way” (Acts 24:22).

Bear in mind that Jesus brought “salvation” to the Jews (first), but He did not refuse the Gentiles, as demonstrated with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:1-42) and the Centurion (Luke 7:1-10).  After Jesus’ ascension, Peter, John, James, Matthew and rest also went to the Jews.  Then, after his conversion, Paul was charged to bring the gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 9:13-16).  Yet, even though, he went to the Jews first (Acts 18:6).

No matter what we call the early church, even though they started as a part of, they became separate from “main stream church”.  The main stream church was the synagogue, that is, except for the Gentiles who were worshipping idols.  They were not welcome bringing their ‘Jesus heresy’ into the church.

God hates religion?  Let’s take a look at two definitions:

Religion           service & worship of God o or supernatural, commitment, devotion or observance of a ‘religious’ faith,   Personal or institutionalized system belief system, attitudes, beliefs or practices,  conformity to principle or system of beliefs held to with ardor  or faith.
Faith                allegiance, trust, loyalty (to God), complete confidence, belief – especially where there is no proof

Notice the basic difference.  Religion is following a system whereas faith is trust and having allegiance.  Yes, there is an element of faith in religion, but the focus is on its principles.

Matt. 23:1-33             (verses ‘Ledfordized for easier reading)
Jesus spoke to the crowds and His disciples
Saying: The scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses seat.
Therefore, whatever they tell you to say or do, you say and do but don’t follow their actions for they don’t do those things themselves.
They put heavy burdens upon you which are burdensome to be borne upon your shoulders yet they won’t lift one finger to lift the same burden.
Everything they do is a show for men.  They carry large belt packets and broaden the borders of their garments
They love sitting in the upper rooms at feasts and sitting in the seats in the synagogues set aside for the most important people.
They love being greeted in the markets and being called ‘Rabbi’.
But don’t you be called Rabbi for we have one master, Christ.  We are all brothers
Call no human your Father for we have one Father which is in heaven.
Neither call anyone master for we have one master and that is Christ.
He who thinks He is great, let him be our servant.
Let no one exalt himself but rather become lowly and in humbling himself, he shall be exalted.
But woe to you scribes and Pharisees.  You hypocrites!  You close heaven’s doors to men.  You don’t even enter in yourselves and prohibit others from entering.
Woe to you scribes and Pharisees.  You hypocrites!  You take widow’s houses and pretend to make long prayer, therefore, you shall receive the greater damnation.
Woe to you scribes and Pharisees.  You hypocrites!  You scour the land and the sea to make another a Jewish convert and once he becomes one, you make him double the child of hell than yourselves.
Woe to you who are blind guides and say ‘it means nothing if you swear by the temple, but you sin if you swear by the gold in the temple.’
Fools and blind!  Which is greater, the gold or the temple which sanctifies the gold?
You say it is nothing to swear by the altar but if you swear by the gift upon the altar, you are guilty.
Fools, blind, which is greater, the gift or the altar which sanctifies the gift? 
Therefore anyone who swears by the altar swears by the altar and all things upon it.
And anyone who swears by the temple, he swears by Him who dwells therein (God – in case you don’t know whose house the temple is).
He who swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and He who sits upon it.
Woe to you scribes and Pharisees.  You hypocrites!  You pay a tithe on your money and possessions but you neglect weightier matters like the law, judgment, mercy and faith.  Yes, you should have given your tithes, but also should have done these other things as well.
You are blind guides who strain at a gnat but swallow a camel.
Woe to you scribes and Pharisees.  You hypocrites!  You wash the outside of the cup and plate but inside is still full of extortions and even that to excess (abundantly).
You blind Pharisee, cleanse the inside of the cup and platter first, for then the outside will also be clean. 
Woe to you scribes and Pharisees.  You hypocrites!  You are like the graves which are bleached white on the outside and look beautiful but on the inside all they have are the bones of dead men and uncleanness.
Likewise, outwardly you look good to men but inside you are filled with hypocrisy and sin.
Woe to you scribes and Pharisees.  You hypocrites!  You build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the sepulchers of the righteous.
And you say had we lived in the times of our forefathers, we would not have joined them in taking the blood of the prophets.
Yet you are a witness to yourselves that you are the children of those who killed the prophets.
You are filled with the same measure of your fathers.
You serpents!  You vipers!  How can you escape the damnation of hell?
There are only a few verses left to the chapter, but why God hates religion is already said.  Here we just left out the ‘results’ of practicing “religion” and not faith.  I think this passage speaks very plainly about how the church leaders conducted themselves.
God gave the “Law” to the Jews through Moses.  Yet, over time we see that the Jews no longer
truly worshipped “I AM” (Yaweh), but they endeavored to appear to fervently follow the Law.  But the ‘Law’ became their true focus of what they worshipped and was expressed through how good they tried to look before the people.

Now, not all scribes, Pharisee and Rabbi, were corrupt and to remind you, they all knew the law and observed it outwardly.  But as we see in our passage, their inner man was not on the same page. 

Some examples of some of those on the right track were Nicodemus (John 3:1-9, John 7:50-51) John 19:39) and a counselor, Joseph of Arimathea (Luke 23:50-52).  Now the Pharisee were supposed to be experts in the law which brings us to Saul (Paul), a Pharisee of Pharisee (Phil. 3:1-6) who did convert and followed Jesus (Acts 9:1-20).  He became the crux of the gospel for us Gentiles.

Now, note the definition for religion.  Religion follows rules and regulations and yes, we need structure, but consider the world’s religions.  All have guides for the ‘believer’ to follow in order to attain eternity.  And many of those followers believe those rules emphatically.  But when we remove the “prophet” from the picture, the people can still attain eternity through the rules and regulations.  Their prophet only pointed them in the right direction (in accordance to their beliefs).
Here is where Christianity differs from all the other world religions.  Jesus is our “Prophet” but if we take Jesus out of the equation, all we’re left with is a good standard for living -  not eternal security.  Jesus says that we must come to the Father through Him.  There is no other way (John 14:16).  Works don’t get Christians into heaven, but our works are a product because we are heaven bound (Rom. 3:20-31, James 2:14-26).

In our passage, Jesus explains the problem with ‘just doing’ the works with no substance in belief.  Oh, yeah.  The scribes and Pharisee believed what they were doing but they did those things for the wrong reasons: personal satisfaction and personal gain.  God (the Creator) had no part in their hearts. 

The danger with religion is that we may become so wrapped up showing others that we’re OK by doing the right things and that by doing them, we’re really good people.  ‘True religion’ must include an element of faith yet that faith must be pointed in the right direction.  Make no mistake, other religions truly believe (for the most part) that they are right, but their religion is based on their works, not faith in a living God.

In many religions, man just morphs (through his own efforts) into a better being eventually becoming an eternal being of pure energy (I guess).  But he practices being good.  Interesting how man has made ‘gods’ out of those who never claimed to be (do a little research on religions).  Jesus did claim to be equal with God (John 5:18).

With Christianity, without Jesus we have no eternity.  We have a nice guide for living life today, but no hope for tomorrow.  Are we the crazy ones?  Most of the world considers Jesus nothing more than a great prophet or teacher, if they consider Him at all. 

Look at the options.  Some people think that this life is it.  There is nothing after this life.  Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow there is nothing for us.  Many believe that being “good”, following a set of rules, gets us into eternity.  Some believe that if I come back into this world enough times I will eventually become good enough to become eternal.  But if there is a true, living God, these concepts result in a very tragic end, hellfire and brimstone (Rev. 20:11-15). 

Too many people think that as long as they live a good life and don’t violate the Ten Commandments, Father won’t deny them heaven.  But God holds us accountable even for the desires of our hearts (Matt. 5:28).  Paul provides us a list of type of people who will not enter into the kingdom of heaven.  And remember, Paul wrote his letters to the church!  Those who thought they were heaven bound!  Many of these people haven’t done anything that is horribly bad (outwardly), but to a man (or woman), they will not have kept God’s love (1 Corinth. 6:9-11).  If we err, we must repent and turn back into living for God to assure our eternity (Rom. 3:22-23, 1 John 2:1).

Father desires us to love Him with all our heart (Matt. 22:37-38) for He knows we can’t live for Him and the devil at the same time (Matt. 6:24).  He knows that those things that we think on and desire the most is where our heart is (Matt. 6:21).  He desires us to be one with Him, that is, He should be our best and dearest friend (John 17:20-21).

God hates religion!  When loving Him is not a part of the equation.  We worship Him in love by learning exactly what His love is and living in it.  Following religion without true love is just following a bunch of rules and guidelines which, in deed, may make us ‘good’ people in the sight of man yet our hearts may be as black as the night. 

The scribes and Pharisee did the right things but their hearts were not with the Creator of all things.  Jesus berated them for not staying true to God. 

Look at the church today.  Are we truly staying true to God?  Some yes, some definitely not.  As with the church Jesus “came down upon”, our lips and deeds may say “I’m OK”, but our hearts are far from Him.  We are not perfect but we should be continually moving into a closer relationship with the Father through Jesus, our Lord.

Living in God’s love brings us the assurance of eternity.  The apostle John tells the church that he wrote his letters that they might know that in believing on the name of Jesus brings eternal life and thereby they may now they have eternal life because they live for and in Jesus (1 John, 5:11-13).  And we might add that along with John’s work, the entire bible (Genesis to Revelation) is a testimony to Jesus.

Our security in eternity is exemplified by the fact that God’s love abounds in our hearts or, at least, we are moving in the right direction.  Yes, we are a work in progress.  But let’s permit the love of God grow in our hearts.

Yes, when religion does not contain the primary element of loving Him – THEN God hates religion!


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