Read your gut and tell me if this is true:
You’re appalled at how organized religion – in the past, as well as in current times – has been a political / social club: exclusive and condemning.
You’re amazed that people who call themselves ‘Christian’ can seem non-caring, maybe distant or aloof – when they find out you’re not a Christian.
You believe that you are a good person – maybe you don’t think that you’re ‘stellar’, but you’re not bad. You believe in good social causes and don’t want to associate yourself with religion.
What is True Religion About: A Healthy Relationship with Yahweh!
There is a human form of religion, and then there is Yahweh’s form of religion: the way it was intended since Jesus came.
Let’s just bring up the elephant in the room: everyone has ‘religion’ of some sort.
Just because a person rides a mountain bike or wears a tie, or professes to not eat meat or whatever, doesn’t mean that they have a corner on being “religious.”
Any sector of people who professes belief or disbelief; any group that practices any sort of ritual qualifies them as “religious”.
In that sense, all people are religious in some way. For example those who don’t believe in a Creator God spend a ton of energy and brain power (faith) espousing how everything came from nothing.
Music fans worship their stage idols as well as sports fans elevating their favorite players.
And people worshiping their electronics. The propensity for humans to latch on to something greater or more fun is everywhere.
The question is not whether you are religious, but rather whether your religion is on the same plane as God’s definition.
I’m talking about a very specific God: Yahweh, the God of the Jews. The God of the bible. You may believe in a different god. That’s ok. Just understand that I’m not talking about some universal form of God.
I encourage you to explore this very specific god, Yahweh, and don’t attribute his message to any other.
Does Your Religion Honor the God of the Jews?
Does your religion honor the God of the Jews, or does it offend him? James 1:27:
27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
Looking after orphans and widows in their distress is pretty clear, and there are other acts of mercy that are also very clear. What is a mouthful is the second half where it says, “…and to keep oneself polluted by the world.”
“To keep oneself polluted by the world” isn’t as clear, and that deserves a separate article.
For now, what IS clear with that statement is that true religion includes recognizing that the world can pollute the mind.
Take the look at the examples from the first couple of paragraphs in this article.
That is to say that even the best intentioned people can take their eye off the prize fairly easily in this world of many distractions. The human need for power and greed have also taken away from people eyeing the prize.
There is much that distracts both you and me, and we are distracted in our own ways and in our own set of weaknesses.
Let’s Be Clear
What is also very clear about the description of pure religion in James 1:27 is that religion is a combination of action with a thought life. Visiting orphans and widows, as well as feeding the poor, requires intentional action.
“Keeping oneself from being polluted by the world” requires some serious thought, faith and debate so that we don’t allow things and alternate beliefs to get in the way of our objective of true religion.
The one thing that we can certainly count on is that it’s very obvious that all of us are distracted at some level. It’s very easy to see that none of us are perfect in this regard.
Paul reminded us that none of us are righteous and all fall short of the glory of God. This is why we need a Savior.
Not that we need to be perfect or ever will attain it. It’s that we need to TRY and approach perfection because God loved us first and promised us to be reconciled with him through Jesus.
He showed us how powerful, how effective our efforts can be if we would show a little faith in him.
We also continually prove to ourselves that whenever humans are involved, we will fail in understanding what true religion is if we try and do it apart from this definition.
The Balancing Act
Jesus provided us the ultimate balancing act (article here) in how we regard Yahweh, ourselves and others. This simple formula gives us perpetual food for thought and is a power source like no other.
The act of balancing our belief of true religion begins with Matthew 22:36 – 39:
36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’c]”>[c] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’d]”>[d]
We can draw our strength and understand our basic relationship boundaries by this one passage above. God, the Creator and Father, is our Provider: our supplier of life and breath and deserves our worship.
We draw strength from the Trinity, (article here) the Godhead as we give our hearts in worship. It’s not that we receive extra love because we worship, it’s that we learn to recognize that which he’s already given because we worship and connect with him!
It’s then easy to see how to shore up and strengthen ourselves so that we are prepared to help out our neighbors – especially orphans and widows in their distress.
Jesus Came to Expose Human Religion
Jesus was confronted by the religious elite of the time – more than once. There was a day when were again trying to trap him in Matthew 15:
Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, 2 “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!”
I’m sure that Jesus was patient, but I can just see him rolling his eyes.
The whole story is that Jesus told them that it’s not about what a person puts into their mouth that can offend God, but rather what comes out of the mouth, because that explains what is in a person’s heart.
Read the first 20 verses of this chapter (external link) to get the full context.
The point is, don’t let your need to binge on ‘whatever’ take the place of Yahweh’s definition of true religion.
For those of you reading that don’t want to associate yourself with a religion that includes Yahweh because of the bad name that others have given it, consider that the invitation is from Yahweh, personally. 🙂
Consider that what true religion is about concerns the very basic things that God wants: your heart and your time caring for people. You will care more deeply about yourself and people by understanding the balancing act (article here).
- Understand that organized religion has nothing to do with the true religion that is acceptable to God. Even when church organizations are trying to do good, understand that churches are filled with broken people — No Perfect People allowed is a really good church! You will not be alone if you visit one.
- Be patient with people who are in church. You won’t find a perfect church on the planet.
I don’t blame you for staying away from organized religion. Just know that it’s a really good place to learn how to communicate with God. Go to one, and consider serving others there.
Choose to give your heart to the sovereign God of the Universe.
Believe that Jesus sacrificed himself for you.
Accept the free gift of the Holy Spirit to help guide you through this life and to many victories so that you might enjoy living life to the full (article here).
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Religion says: ‘do’. Jesus says: ‘DONE’.
Join the Conversation
Share your thoughts about true religion. Has it brought questions or has it seemed painful to even talk about? Do you have any questions about what it means?
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A working guitarist, guitar designer, songwriter, worship leader and online entrepreneur who is passionate for telling others about the story of God.
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