“Are you a religious person?”
Have you ever been asked that question? Recently, my son shared an incident where he was asked that question. I love his answer: “Probably not as much as I should be.” The conversation opened an opportunity for him to share the Gospel.
Daniel Webster defines “religious as relating to or manifesting faithful devotion to an acknowledged ultimate reality.” Synonyms include spiritual, sacred, devout, pious, holy, dutiful, thorough, conscientious, faithful, reliable, and loyal. In some sense of the word, one can be religious concerning just about anything: brushing your teeth, attending ball games, watching a favorite TV show. However, when that question is posed, it usually means that someone has seen something in your life that sets you apart spiritually. In my son’s case, it was his character, his clean living, and his kindness.
One of the most unusual stories in the Bible begins in Judges 17. If you are only a casual Bible reader, I doubt that you would ever read it. In this story, a man by the name of Micah takes silver from his mother and has it made into an idol. Matthew Henry correctly states “that the money was her god before they made it into an idol.” He makes a shrine and consecrates one of his sons to be his priest. This is Israel—God’s chosen people! Crazy!! Right in the middle of the story is this verse:
In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes (Judges 17:6).
Next, enter stage right: a Levite from Bethlehem. He is looking for a place to stay and, long story short, stays with Micah—that is until a tribe of Danites, who are looking for a place to live, arrives. Several of their spies stay with Micah, recognize the young Levite, and, after wiping out an unsuspecting village, come back, steal the idols and other ‘religious’ items, and persuade the Levite to be their priest. Is it better for you to be a priest to the household of one man, or that you be a priest to a tribe and a family in Israel” (Judges 18:19)? Micah complains but what can he do?
Bazaar! Why did God include this account in His Word? Certainly, it reveals the sad state of affairs when the land has no ruler. Chapter 18 begins by stating that In those days there was no king in Israel. And just so we understand the severity of the situation, God records an even more tragic in the following chapters of Judges.
When men set up their own religion based on their desires and designs, leaving out the one true God and His Word, it is always disastrous! It may appeal to the flesh. It might produce high morals. But it can never provide a way free from sin. When we leave out the blood of Jesus, all that is left is a sinful man trying to make himself feel better about himself. He will always come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).
James 1:27 uses the term ‘pure and undefiled religion.’ James then goes on to give these qualifiers: 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.
Matthew Henry explains:
When men take more pains to seem religious than really to be so, it is a sign their religion is in vain. The man who has a slandering tongue, cannot have a truly humble, gracious heart. False religions may be known by their impurity and uncharitableness. True religion teaches us to do everything as in the presence of God. Our true religion is equal to the measure in which these things have a place in our hearts and conduct. And let us remember, that nothing avails in Christ Jesus, but faith that works by love, purifies the heart, subdues carnal lusts, and obeys God’s commands.blueletterbible.org
Without the true actions of a heart surrendered to Christ, religion is not only ridiculous, but it is also dangerous, pointless, and so very sad.
Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus (Acts 4:13).