4-MAN REACTS TO HIS LOSS
The Beginning of Religion
By Colleen Donahue
"The power of religion lies in its ability to serve as a substitute for the kingdom and thus it hinders man from pursuing the genuine answer to his dilemma."
Dr. Myles Monroe.
The two main things that man lost when Adam and Eve chose to sin (i.e. operate independent from God) was their relationship with God and their kingdom. Almost immediately man began his search to get these two things back. To do this he set up religion which in essence is man's search for God and the ability to control his own life and environment.
"Religion is the result of a deep spiritual vacuum that every person has in the recesses of his soul. It's something that you can't quite describe or identify but it's there. And when left to ourselves all mankind will inevitably develop some form of religious practice. It may be as simple as going out to "commune with nature". But the purpose is always the same -- to satisfy an indescribable spiritual hunger deep inside. The search for meaning and reality that all mankind innately has, implies that something is lost or missing. And this need to search doesn't seem to be a choice but a necessity." Dr. Myles Monroe
Scripture speaks of religion that God "accepts" which means that there must also be religion He doesn't accept. By studying scripture we can get a good picture of what false religion looks like for it has certain characteristics:
1. The Jews had elaborate hand washing rituals that they performed before eating. And one day they noticed that Christ's own disciples didn't perform these rituals before they ate.
What was Christ's response to this when confronted by the Jewish leadership?
2. In the early church it was mainly Jews that were becoming Christians and they carried some of their baggage with them. The Jews had always practiced male circumcision and now some of these new Jewish converts were making this a requirement for Gentiles to become Christians.
The apostles and elders of the church had to meet to resolve this issue of forced ceremony and they came to a firm conclusion.
Acts 15:8-11, 22-31 / Galatians 5:1-4
3. What were the Galatian Christians trying to do by observing certain days, months, seasons or years?
What was Paul's advice to them?
4. It's easy for all of us to get caught up in ceremonialism and religious ritual.
Man likes to "do something" but will these ceremonies work to conquer our sin nature and restore us to God?
5. It's true that for a period of time (i.e. Old Testament days) God had set up a priestly system to deal with the sins of the people. But this was only until the final priest -Jesus- would come. This old system was in effect only until God could establish a better one through his Son.
6. One of the greatest criticisms of religious people is that they say one thing but do another. All these verses say essentially the same thing and so it's obvious that God agrees with this criticism.
Psalm 78:35-36 / Proverbs 26:23 / Ezekiel 33:31-32 / Matthew 7:21 / Titus 1:16
7. The Pharisees watched and spied on Jesus and his disciples on a daily basis -- always hoping to catch them out about something. Here's an example:
How did Jesus respond to their accusation?
8. When Jesus healed a man that had been lame for 38 years on the Sabbath and told him to pick up his mat and walk, the man did as he was told. But the Jewish leaders who were watching objected. Why?
9. Legalism allows for a man to hold onto a form of religion that he thinks is honoring God while persecuting and killing the people whom God loves. This was how the Apostle Paul acted as a Jew.
Acts 22:3-4 / Galatians 1:13-14
But after Jesus got met with Paul on the Damascus Road, what did he call his former enthusiasm for God?
Like so many of us, Paul's misdirected zeal was because he didn't have a true understanding of how God makes us right with himself. It's only through Jesus that we are reconciled to God. All other ways that we devise to "do it ourselves" are unacceptable.
The word sanctimony means hypocritical holiness.
10. The Jews were a people that had plenty of ritual and ceremony. They were doing all the right things and yet were upset with God that he wasn't noticing just how good they were. In this case they were fasting but God wasn't answering them.
Isaiah tells us clearly why.
11. When men act "holier than thou" how does this affect God?
12. False religion is full of sanctimonious people who love to be seen by men. How does Jesus see these people?
Formalism is strict adherence to external forms of religion.
13. All "religion" is full of rituals and as we have mentioned, the Jews had plenty. False religion can be full of people doing their duty to God without having a heart for a true relationship with God.
How does God feel about this?
14. How did Jesus react to the formalism in his time?
How should we react to those who practice religion without heart?
2 Timothy 3:5
You can spot a religious person from a long way off. They mostly leave you scratching your head over the inconsistencies in their character.
15. You'll hear a lot of religious talk but the person doesn't look anything like Jesus.
16. They seem able to spot what's wrong with everyone else but completely miss what's wrong with themselves.
They have harsh judgment for other "sinners" but not for themselves.
They do plenty of preaching to others without practicing it themselves.
In this way they claim to know God but deny Him by their actions.
17. A false religious person can be enormously selfish.
Their speech often gives them away. One minute they will be praising God and the next minute you'll hear them criticizing someone else.
18. Overall those who practice false religion bring reproach upon the cause of truth.
THE ONLY RELIGION THAT GOD ACCEPTS
We must see clearly that God has no interest in religion. Jesus did not come to start a new religion. He came to restore our relationship with God. Relationship is what God wants with us. So as you read these verses you'll see that none of them use the term religion except for the last verse that we'll look up.
19. If religion isn't what God wants then what does he require of us?
20. King Solomon sums it up for us:
21. We have already mentioned that man loves ritual and the feeling that he is doing something with great meaning. But what is God looking for?
1 Samuel 15:22 / Psalm 51:16-17 / Hosea 6:6 / Micah 6:8
22. What are the two things that are most important for all men to do?
23. And now here we have the only verse where the word "religion" is used. What is the only "religion" that God accepts?
Notice how practical this is. If we keep ourselves polluted from the world that means we live unto God. And that life lived for God will always be reaching out to the orphans, the widows and all others less fortunate. It is another way of stating Mark 12:33. We are to love God first and then love our neighbor the way we ourselves would want to be loved.
When man sinned he lost two main things: his relationship with God and his kingdom. This left him with a huge vacuum inside because God's Spirit left man's spirit and we died inside. Satan, the great deceiver usurped our authority on earth and we became subject to him.
The very purpose for which we were born -- to rule the earth in partnership with God was gone. Instead of us being in control of our life and circumstances we have become unsuspecting victims of Satan as he has often used natural circumstances to keep us from God and ruling our kingdom.
Man did not lose a religion. He lost a relationship with his Creator and the purpose for his life -- to rule and develop the earth. Instinctively man started the search to get these back and he did this through religion. Since his number one loss was relationship with God, man's religion focuses on the service and worship of God or gods. And as religion develops it becomes an institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs and practices.
Religion is always "do, do, do". Ritual feeds the emptiness we all have inside and makes us "feel" like we have a relationship with God. But all religion apart from relationship is meaningless to God and man.
God does not want our religion. He wants a relationship with you and I and when he gets that back then he is also able to restore to us the purpose for our lives as rulers of his kingdom.