Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Losing Our Religion

That's me in the corner, That's me in the spotlight Losing my religion.
~R.E.M. Lyrics, 1991

Probably one of the top 5 sermons I ever heard in my life was one in which the Pastor made this statement:  “Religion is Man’s attempt to reconcile himself to God, Jesus is God’s answer to reconcile Man to Him.”  As you can imagine, I’m not a big fan of “religion”.  Usually when describing someone who has gone off the deep end, we sarcastically say “He got religion”.

Religion, in and of itself, can sometimes be the source of some of our world’s worst problems.  The Salem witch-hunters had “religion”.  The 9/11 terrorists had “religion”.  The Pharisees and Sadducees in Jesus’ time had “religion”.  Perhaps the harshest words Jesus ever spoke on Earth were directed at “religious” people:

“You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?”
~Matthew 23:33

To understand the full fury of Jesus’ wrath against the religious leaders of that day—take the time to read the entire Chapter of Matthew 23.  He lets loose with a scathing diatribe against their audacious hypocrisies ending with seven “Woe unto you” statements.  Make no mistake…when Jesus Christ says “Woe unto you” not once, not twice but SEVEN times…you better sit up and take notice.  It will not go well for you. 
Here’s the only kind of “religion” that God finds fully acceptable:   

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.
~James 1:27

All other religious justification is simply for YOUR sake, not for HIS sake.  Some of it, He actually finds repugnant, bordering on blasphemy.  It is your pitiful attempt to sanctify or atone for yourself.  Truthfully, it is an affront to God to suggest that you can add anything to His Ultimate Sacrifice on the Cross.  We must remember, we are beggars—we bring NOTHING to the table---NOTHING.

Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you.
~Romans 12:3 (The Message Bible)

Perhaps this scripture in Isaiah says it best.  The Israelites were touting their piousness in front of God—proudly talking about all the “religious stuff” that they were doing.  God was not pleased:

What I’m interested in seeing you do is:  sharing your food with the hungry, inviting the homeless poor into your homes, putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad, being available to your own families.
~Isaiah 58:7 (The Message Bible) 

So, in some small way, there is a seed of legitimacy in America’s obsessive desire to rid our public square of any traces of religion.  The Human secularists believe that if we could just have a society completely devoid of any references to God, the Bible and “religion” we would enter into this Nirvana state of ultimate bliss outlined by John Lennon’s song “Imagine”. 

However, as any good police detective will tell you—If you want to get away with murder, mix as much Truth as possible in with your story to cover over the “Big Lie”.  Here’s the “Big Lie”:  God = man-made religion.   

Unless we really grasp the vast difference between the two, we will never truly understand our American Heritage.  We will continue to have mindless conversations about whether the Founding Fathers were Deists or Christians or Secular Humanists.  We will continue to accuse the early settlers of killing off the American Indians and of being genocidal racists.  We will continue to equate the ugliness of fallible mankind with the Perfection and Beauty of God.    

Removing God from the fabric of our American society is like removing the Chemistry Table of Elements from all matter.  It’s just not possible.  When you do this—everything has no framework, no substance and will disintegrate into nothingness.  What will be left is a Big Black Hole.  It’s a horrific fantasy that, unlike John Lennon, I do not wish to “Imagine”.       

For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.
~Romans 11:36

I beg you be persuaded that no one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny, and every species of religious persecution.
 ~George Washington



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