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True Religion

At a recent Saturday evening worship my wife and I love to be  a part of, the pastor [when offering his closing prayer] asked God to alert us when religion starts to creep into our lives-- so we can be on guard for it and remove it when it rears its ugly head.

Chuck Smith, one of the Bible teachers I respect a great deal and have utilized often in my studies of Scripture, talks about the birth of religion in the book of Genesis. It occurred right after the fall in the Garden of Eden. Remember when Adam and Eve discovered they were naked? They were ashamed and covered themselves.

Religion has always been about covering ourselves before God:
Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.

They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Then the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” He said, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.” -Genesis 3:7-10 (NASB)

Jesus didn't come to start a new religion. He came to fulfill the one that folks had that was not working. We could never measure up by ourselves or spill enough innocent animal blood to atone for our wrongdoing before God. Only Jesus can fix that problem for us.

So what is religion-- or better yet, what should it be?  I think James describes it supremely well:
Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. -James 1:27 (NASB)

One of the many things I like very much about the Salvation Army is that they practice religion in their hearts and thoughts and actions, not by pompous religious rituals that don't feed a starving brother or put clothes on their back.

So I guess I will ask the reader the same question I had to ask myself once: do you have a religion or a relationship with Jesus? One of them works very well; the other does not. May God move in your heart as you ponder the answer to that question.

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