A blog about everything about teaching the Bible. "And still I will show you a more excellent way..." (1 Corinthians 12:31).

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Bible Definition of Religion

I’ve written before about the supposed conflict between spirituality and religion. There are some well-meaning people today who talk as if the two are mutually exclusive, and always in a way to label “religion” as something bad or negative to be avoided. They say, “I’m spiritual, not religious,” as if that were a badge of honor. If you’ve been one of them, please consider what I have to say. By following the anti-religious establishment of our present day, a lot of people will think you’re wise, tolerant, and “with it” in general, but remember the words of Jesus, “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets” (Luke 6:26).

I’m very glad to say I’m religious and very deeply so. I’m also a very spiritual person. The two are inseparable. I hold to God’s definition of religion in the Bible. Consider Acts 17:22-23, “Then Paul… said, ‘Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you….” To Paul, being “very religious” was a compliment. He used it as an opportunity not to proclaim a non-religious spirituality, but to correct the mistaken religion of the Athenians. The Lord’s half-brother wrote, “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (James 1:26-27). The Bible clearly calls works “spiritual” people are interested in doing religion. Maybe religion isn’t so bad after all!

The problem isn’t religion; it’s bad religion. The opposite of good religion as Scripture defines it is impure and defiled. Any person who claims to be religious but shoots off at the mouth, doesn’t care for the needy, and lives an immoral life is a hypocrite! The truly religious don’t deserve to be maligned along with hypocrites, and the word “religion” doesn’t deserve the flack it’s gotten these last few years. Keep right on being both spiritual and religious. The two are one. But make sure your religion is what the Bible says it should be!

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