“You leave the commandment of God and hold fast the tradition of men.” Mark 7:8 RSV
Throughout history, religion has dominated people’s lives. From the Aztecs, Greeks, Romans, Jews, Christians, and even the most remote of tribes, people have worshiped something or someone.
Every person has a conscience that reveals to them that God is real and so is our sinful state. Romans 1:20 says “Ever since the creation of the world His invisible nature, namely, His eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse;” (RSV). Everyone knows…so, the conscience leads people to religion. They seek atonement to sooth their conscience. They seek value, or purpose. It leads to rules, regulations, and traditions. From there we see hierarchies, criticism, cliques, pride and meaningless actions without heart behind them.
None of this was what God ever intended. Our Creator wanted relationship and He gave us this earth to tend to, to care for and to rule in His stead. We were intended to love Him, worship Him, and walk with Him, talk to Him, to live our lives for Him. We were never supposed to know sin and the pain and destruction that it leaves in its wake. We were never supposed to worship ourselves, others, statues or anything else on this earth.
Yet, that is exactly what has happened. Even God’s people turn His covenant into religion and become enslaved by it. The Hebrews did it, the early Christians did it, and we, too, have done it. We pride ourselves now on not being religious, but that is exactly what the church is. It’s now the religion of ME–what I like, what I want, what makes me happy and comfortable.
Man has turned the truth of God into a lie and worshipped the creation more than the Creator (Romans 1:25). Even those who claim to be non-religious worship something—likely, that something is, at the root, themself. Pride is the underpinning of sin and religion.
Paul and the other apostles fought it and there have been men and women throughout history that have fought as well. There are those fighting it again today. They are in the minority and their greatest critics are the religious. The scripture says that they will be persecuted and even killed by the religious–those who believe they are doing it for God (2 Timothy 3:12, Matthew 10:17-22, Mark 13:9-13, Luke 21:12-19).
Paul, the apostles, and Jesus Christ Himself, taught that He bought our freedom from the slavery of sin AND religion, yet, even His people still cannot get away from either one. We are blinded by the traditions of men. It’s not the old church traditions that enslave us now, but new ones. Religion has had a makeover but underneath the new lingo, the new look, the new name, it is still religion. It is man made at its core and the truth of Jesus is still lost.
The scripture warned that this would happen making a way for a one world religion in the end times, so it cannot be avoided, but there are those of us that do not want religion, but have been deceived into thinking that this new Christianity isn’t religion because it doesn’t look the same as the religion of old. We have been slowly deceived into believing that because the church looks different, we are escaping religion.
God knew this and He warned us over and over to keep our lamps full of oil, to be watching for Satan prowling through false prophets, false teachers, false teachings, and the deception of our own prideful sin that perverts the truth of His Word (Matthew 25:1-13, 1 Peter 5:8, 2 Peter 2, Colossians 2:20, 1 Timothy 13, Jude 1:5).
We must stop and see that the face of religion has varied throughout time and still does, but, regardless of the face, it is all still traditions of men….Traditions of men that have perverted the truth of the gospel. Hence, Paul’s lifelong battle…
It’s not religious talk, following rules, proclaiming only parts of the scripture that we like or understand that comprise the life God intended we live.
There is so much more God has for us, but as the writer of Hebrews says, we still need milk. We are not mature enough for the meat of this wonderful new covenant that God has made with us (Hebrews 5:12-14). Sadly, our growth has been stunted by religion.
Why can’t we see that it is prayerful study and absolute reverence of His Word that will strengthen our faith and help us truly understand and walk in this life that we choose?
Why can’t we see that we MUST step aside and allow Christ to rule our lives? Why can’t we see that we must tame our flesh and put it under the power of the Holy Spirit?
Why can’t we see that this IS OUR LIFE? Not something we do, but who we are.
Our religion has brought us to reading every Christian book that floods the market, while struggling to even maintain a daily Bible reading habit. It has brought us to surround ourselves with comforting scriptures, but without the application to our lives. It has brought us to having a form of godliness, but denying it’s power (2 Timothy 3:5).
Our religion has made us just as sick, just as tired, and just as depressed as the rest of the world. We have presented an eternal hope, but haven’t given them or ourselves the hope that Jesus offered to us here and now. The church isn’t presenting the victory that Jesus talked about that spurs us on to living a life visibly different than the unbeliever. How many unbelievers look at us and want what we have? If all we have is an escape from hell, that is not enough to draw them to Christ. They must see the power of the Holy Spirit changing our life here and now as it did for our Christ and for the men and women that walked with Him. Many marveled at the changes they saw in Peter, Paul and others. They should be marveling at us today. They should see something so better than what they have that they are compelled to choose it.
But religion cannot do this and so the church–looking so vibrant on the outside is dying on the inside. It is not really faring any better than the world. It has changed from old traditions and ideas to new traditions and ideas. But with the same problems religion always brings.
We must let go of our religion of ME–what we want, what we have been taught, what we believe. We must humble ourselves before Him, put Jesus first, honor and study God’s Word as if our very life depends on it (It does!) and stand up against religion and choose to turn our world upside down for the absolute, unchanging truth of God’s Word.
“But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked fellows of the rabble, they gathered a crowd, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the people. And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brethren before the city authorities, crying, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also,” Acts 17:5-6 RSV