“Religious vs. Relationship: A Fuller View?”

If I may, I would like to suggest that most, if not all, believers in Jesus acknowledge we have a relationship and not a religion. We would define religion as a feeble, human attempt through rituals and sacrifices to obtain a relationship with the Almighty; whereas, in a relationship with the Risen Lord Jesus Christ, we have this relationship with the Almighty (YHWH, blessed be His Name) by grace through faith in Jesus, and not by any merit of our own.

But what also seems to follow with many who boast of this relationship is a license not to “do” something religiously because it might smack of religion. Have you found this to be so, too? If we do something religiously, like read the Bible every morning or prayer daily, it might become ritualistic, “so I’d best do it intermittently to avoid such.” Have you heard of this?

As I ponder what the Apostle Paul meant in our main text RE the Athenians in v. 22, “You are very religious,” it became evident to me that this was something of value, something commendable—and a good place to start a conversation. 

But if I have nothing religious in my life, if I have no godly habits that lead to a deeper relationship with Jesus, how can I even relate to those who truly are religious in their religion

True, any godly discipline can become ritualist and an end it itself: vain religion. Indeed, I have found I need to refresh myself in my daily prayer times or my daily Bible readings or weekly fellowships by asking myself, “Why am I doing this? Is this an end it itself or am I drawing closer to Jesus through these endeavors?”

What place do you see religious practices have for sincere followers of the Risen Lord? Do they deepen our relationship with Him? Your thoughts….

Main Text: — Acts 17:22-23 (NIV84)— 22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.”

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.— Philippians 4:8–9 (NIV84)

[Jesus] went to Nazareth, where He had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day He went into the synagogue, as was His custom. …— Luke 4:16 (NIV84)

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.”

Heavenly Father, refresh my soul with a gush of Grace and the Wind of Your Holy Spirit. Enliven my regular religious activities with Your Holy Spirit as the Lord Jesus Christ’s Life is manifested in both the seen and the unseen activities of my daily walk with You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen!

Pastor Mike

“So You Want to be Religious”

Date: 10-14-14

Text: — James 1:26-27 — 26 If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. [NIV84]

The Big Idea: ‘Religious’ words are mere ‘mutterings’ if not followed up with actions.

My Thoughts: 

It is interesting that, in fact, James uses a very rare word for ‘religion’ in these verses. It appears to mean “mutter forms of prayer.” I believe he chose this word (through the Holy Spirit) to reflect on those who talk about how faithful and religious they are. Their ‘religious’ words are mere ‘mutterings’ if not followed up with actions. … And the actions? That’s what verse 27 addresses…

And it is this very subject that our devotion in Heartwork address: serving the orphans and widows among us.  Lifestyle worshipers, there are widows and orphans all around us. Many, though living in traditional ‘families,’ have been disconnected or disenfranchised, as well, but by no direct fault of the parents—except that they have been swept up in the hurriedness and busyness of this polluted world. Do you think he was referring to this when he says, “Keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (v. 27)? Or could James also include other forms of soul pollution for the religious? Your thoughts?

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families, He leads forth the prisoners with singing;  — Psalm 68:5-6a (NIV84)

I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. — John 14:18 (NIV84)

Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God. — 1 Timothy 5:3-4 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, Your heart’s desire is to reconnect Your orphaned and widowed creation with Yourself. I ask the Great Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ, to empower me to tend to the needs of those You have brought into my sphere of influence, even in my own household. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike