What Good Is Religion?

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Saturday, February 28, 2015 0 comments

by Nathan Buck

Let’s be honest, religion is not just a spiritual thing. Religion can be any habit or regular ritual that we accidentally or intentionally commit ourselves to. Perhaps one of your religious habits is to get your morning coffee, or folding your socks a certain way, or certain eating or body care habits. There are so many places in our lives where we are religious, and probably don’t even consciously think about it. So, is it good to be religious?

By and large most of our habits are helpful. They keep us focused, give us a sense of rhythm to our day, help us manage our time or our health, etc. Likewise there are many religious habits regarding our faith that can be helpful as well. Whether it is attending a weekly worship service, a Bible study, prayer, fasting, communion/the Lord’s Supper, etc. These too can give us a sense of focus or rhythm in tuning in to God’s presence, and discipline in staying pure and in line with God’s teachings. But we run into danger with our “religion” when we use religious actions to make ourselves feel right with God, even as we do things that break God’s heart.

Read Romans 2:17-29. You will find that Paul was explaining to the Jews in Rome, as well as the Gentiles (non-Jewish people), that there is a limit to what our religion can do for us. The Jews had come to the point where they believed their physical religious actions and their repetitive religious habits were an antidote or a counterbalance for any bad things they might do. Kind of like how some people think a diet soda makes up for a whole bunch of sugary or fatty foods. Only the Jews were not being humorous or flippant; they really believed that their religion made up for their sin or their rebellion.

Paul ultimately boils this whole section down to one simple thing – the Spirit of the law is more important that keeping the letter of religious requirements. In other words, having a heart and a life defined by actively seeking to do what is right in God’s eyes in every circumstance is more important than “going through the motions” of doing religious rituals. Or put more plainly, you can call yourself a Christian, go to church every Sunday, give money, manage your health, serve food to the poor and homeless, and any other good religious deed – you can do all of that and still be destined for separation from God for eternity, a.k.a. hell.

Paul says in verses 28-29, “For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision just what is done outwardly in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart and by the Spirit, not by the letter (of the law), and his praise is not from men, but from God.” In other words, God looks past the outward actions and sees what is going on in our heart. God sees if we are truly trusting Him and following Him and seeking approval from Him. If we are not, then we are not walking with God, and we are not followers of Christ. We may look like we are part of the Christian religion, but if our heart is not following God through Jesus Christ, then we are just wearing a mask.

So, it’s time for a heart check. Take a look at your daily life. How much time is spent truly stopping and listening for God’s direction, God’s love and care for you, and God’s perspective on your decisions that day? How many of your religious actions are just “going through the motions”?

I challenge you to take everything that you find that is just an empty habit and intentionally break it. Intentionally change direction and break out of the routine. But don’t just break the routine and give up. Break the routine and in the time you would normally be doing that action (getting coffee, exercising, morning devotions, Bible study, playing video games, going to weekly church services, etc.) put yourself in a position to intentionally listen to God.

Maybe that means attending a worship service at a different time, or a different location. Maybe that means actually praying in a way that you ask God questions and then listen in silence for a while (working on that whole “quiet your thoughts” thing). Maybe it means just giving up a daily habit or fasting a daily meal for a few days in order to spend that time praying, listening, or reading God’s Word.

As you review each day and see your empty habits, you will know which one you need to break in order to start softening your heart and tuning in to God. I pray you have the courage and the strength to do so. I promise, if your religion changes from an outward show to an inward passionate calling to follow God, He will change your life, you will see your purpose and direction more clearly, and you will gain contentment in any circumstances.