I had some questions asked of me after I wrote, "Jesus' teaching on self - righteousness" (I wrote that blog entry last week after our church service) .... The questions were basically.... WHY then do we participate in "religion" and "rituals" and moral conduct although they disgust Jesus. Well... THOSE THINGS aren't what disgust Jesus, what disgusted Jesus was these people's hearts (see that blog for more info). What disgusts Jesus is people who try to get their worth from these things. What disgusts Jesus is people who truly believe THEY themselves are righteous because of their religion or morality. To answer these questions, I literally could write a book..... but I don't have to!! Because God (AS ALWAYS) gave the answer to me to share with you!! From GotQuestions.org -- here was the question of the week! A WONDERFUL answer to these questions about religion, morality, etc....
Question: "What is true religion?"
Answer: Religion can be defined as “belief in God or gods to be worshipped, usually expressed in conduct and ritual” or “any specific system of belief, worship, etc., often involving a code of ethics.” Well over 90% of the world’s population adheres to some form of religion. The problem is that there are so many different religions. What is the right religion? What is true religion?
The two most common ingredients in religions are rules and rituals. Some religions are essentially nothing more than a list of rules, do’s and don’t's, that a person must observe in order to be considered a faithful adherent of that religion, and thereby, right with the God of that religion. Two examples of rules-based religions are Islam and Judaism. Islam has its five pillars that must be observed. Judaism has hundreds of commands and traditions that are to be observed. Both religions, to a certain degree, claim that by obeying the rules of the religion, a person will be considered right with God.
Other religions focus more on observing rituals instead of obeying a list of rules. By offering this sacrifice, performing this task, participating in this service, consuming this meal, etc., a person is made right with God. The most prominent example of a ritual-based religion is Roman Catholicism. Roman Catholicism holds that by being water baptized as an infant, by partaking in the Mass, by confessing sin to a priest, by offering prayers to saints in Heaven, by being anointed by a priest before death, etc., etc., God will accept such a person into Heaven after death. Buddhism and Hinduism are also primarily ritual-based religions, but can also to a lesser degree be considered rules-based.
True religion is neither rules-based nor ritual-based. True religion is a relationship with God. Two things that all religions hold are that humanity is somehow separated from God and needs to be reconciled to Him. False religion seeks to solve this problem by observing rules and rituals. True religion solves the problem by recognizing that only God could rectify the separation, and that He has done so. True religion recognizes the following:
We have all sinned and are therefore separated from God (Romans 3:23).
If not rectified, the just penalty for sin is death and eternal separation from God after death (Romans 6:23).
God came to us in the Person of Jesus Christ and died in our place, taking the punishment that we deserve, and rose from the dead to demonstrate that His death was a sufficient sacrifice (Romans 5:8; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; 2 Corinthians 5:21).
If we receive Jesus as the Savior, trusting His death as the full payment for our sins, we are forgiven, saved, redeemed, reconciled, and justified with God (John 3:16; Romans 10:9-10; Ephesians 2:8-9).
True religion does have rules and rituals, but there is a crucial difference. In true religion, the rules and rituals are observed out of gratitude for the salvation God has provided – NOT in an effort to obtain that salvation. True religion, which is Biblical Christianity, has rules to obey (do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not lie, etc.) and rituals to observe (water baptism by immersion and the Lord’s Supper / Communion). Observance of these rules and rituals is not what makes a person right with God. Rather, these rules and rituals are the RESULT of the relationship with God, by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone as the Savior. False religion is doing things (rules and rituals) in order to try to earn God’s favor. True religion is receiving Jesus Christ as Savior and thereby having a right relationship with God – and then doing things (rules and rituals) out of love for God and desire to grow closer to Him.
It all boils down to our heart. God sees what's inside, our intentions, WHY we do the things we do....and that is where the judgement should be, between our own heart and Him. Our decisions, our walk with God, how we live our life is a very personal thing that nobody really understands or can judge except us.
In our relatinships... we should be more focused on showing Jesus love and mercy than showing how to follow the rules & rituals! That is the central lesson here right. That HE is the answer to all problems, He should be the focus - not any rules or rituals! And what He is....is love, mercy, compassion, servitude, forgiveness. When we have people around us struggling or just off the path....we should do our best to pray for them, pray for Jesus to shine through them and work in them, we should set a good example, but most importantly in our relationships we should always offer mercy forgiveness compassion and love instead of condemnation, guilty or forceful teaching. This is something I will always be working on since I have been guilty of this in the past. Not that I condemn people although I'm sure I've done that too. But I can just be tough on them. Sometimes I felt that not being tough would lower the standards for people or myself and I can't stand mediocrity....but I realize that when I'm thinking like that, I'm thinking about these rules & rituals - not the relationship. I have learned that I need to listen to the Spirit more in my relationships.
Even when I know how a person can change things and I see where they have gone wrong --- that doesn't mean it's my job to tell! Just because I know a Truth doesn't mean I have to blast people away with it. Sometimes God doesn't want me to say anything and instead just love on this person and lift them up, praise the good things in them. Sometimes people aren't open to us, sometimes they aren't ready for what we have to say and that is why it's so important to listen to the Spirit in our relationships. He will tell us when it's time for tough love or not. He will tell us when to speak. We need to be okay with that and realize that God is in control.
My grandma was the best example of this for me. So many times she had the answers - she could have told me exactly what I needed to do and how to do it....but she let me learn on my own instead, she always uplifted me and never condemned. Though she never saw a lot of the fruits of her labor - I have NO doubt she is seeing them in heaven! I am going to do whatever I can for God to use me, so increase her fruits exponentially! She did give me some tough love - but it was exactly when I needed it. She was a lady totally in tune with the Spirit and a wonderful example for me.....ohh I so want to have so many of the qualities she possesses! I believe that God will give them to me as well!!