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Home The Light Articles from 2006 What Is Religion?

What Is Religion?

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by George Bentch
Many people think religion is something we receive as the gift of God's grace. They say, "I got religion." They describe it as a feeling rising within them, by which they know their sins are forgiven. They feel in their heart that they have been accepted as a child of God. This idea of heartfelt religion was presented by John Wesley. He said, "I felt my heart strangely warmed." This feeling convinced him he was saved.
Sometimes we hear these words about someone who has died, "He re­pented and got religion on his death bed." This may be a comfort to the survivors, but I fear it is a terrible disap­pointment to the deceased. Both repen­tance and religion are things we do while active. When the hand of time is forming the period at the end of our life's story, it is too late for them. Someone has said, "Religion is like an umbrella. When you need it the most, it's too late to go get it." Our deeds for which we must ac­count are done before we lie down to die. Religion is composed of beliefs and actions that are not necessarily pleasing to God.
The first chapter of James, verse 27 states that, "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world." This scripture shows plainly that religion is something to be done. It is a combination of helping the unfortunate and resisting the pollutions of the world. John warned (1 John 2:15), "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of die Father is not in him." Jesus was very plain saying, "No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one and love the other: or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon (Matt 6:24).
We live in a world where we are surrounded by sinful people. Paul wrote (1 Cor. 5:9-10), "I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters: for then must ye needs go out of the world." The problem he was addressing here was that this congregation was allowing sin in their midst. He goes on in verse eleven to say, "But now I have written unto you not to keep company if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covet­ous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat." These people were condoning the actions of a man who was not just spotted by the world. He was wallowing in the mire! In verse two he wrote, "And ye are puffed up (proud) and have not rather mourned, that he which hath done this deed might be taken away from among you." Those people repented in response to Paul's letter. They accepted his rebuke for their error. It would be wonderful if people today had such respect for the truth. There are places where preachers are not welcome who will speak out against indecent clothing, women cutting their hair, or worldliness in the church. These and other so called "controversial sub­jects" need to be addressed. It makes one wonder if the verse about being unspotted from the world is missing from some folks' Bibles.
Avoiding certain subjects or selective preaching leads to selective obedience. This is also selective disobedience. The idea that we can obey one scripture and not obey another is offensive to our Lord. We do not have that option. "All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for re­proof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness." Paul wrote, "If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiri­tual, let him acknowledge that the things I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord" (ICor. 14:37).He also wrote in Gal. 1:10, "For do I now persuade men or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ." God has always punished those who disobeyed him. Remember he is still the God who commanded a man to be stoned for picking up sticks on the Sabbath (Num. 15:32-36). As far as I know that man kept all the rest of the law. He only se­lected one commandment to disobey. Selective obedience will not stand the test when we face the judge of all the earth. Neither will selective preaching. God told Ezekiel (33:8-10), "When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man thou shalt surely die; if thou do not speak to warn the wicked man from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Nevertheless if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it, if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity: but thou hast delivered thy soul." You can only control you, but you can warn others of their transgressions. If we avoid certain subjects, who will deliver our souls? Paul said, "I take you to re­cord this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the council of God" (Acts 20:26-27). Total submission and complete obedience are what God requires of man. This is true, soul saving religion. —105 W Jefferson, Richland, MO 65556


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