Sometimes we interchange certain “religious” words to mean the same thing when in reality they’re completely different: Religion – Faith – Worship – Customs – Beliefs – Tradition – Culture.
A person may do all the customs of a religion out of habit or respect for their family. But that doesn’t mean they have true faith. It’s just part of their culture and tradition. They may not really worship God with their heart or really believe in their mind.
We probably get the first three confused most often – religion, faith and worship.
The word “religion” is only used or implied in five passages of the standard Bible; once in the Old Testament (also the Jewish Torah), and four times in the New Testament. Only three of these passages define “religion” as an activity.
By contrast, “faith” and “worship” are each mentioned hundreds if not thousands of times, often as God’s command to worship Him.
We often say “religion” causes many world problems. That’s because certain people take what they believe into their own hands for their own agenda, and for unintended purposes. Then, other people who aren’t reading the Bible for themselves follow blindly.
This results in the deadly atrocities of madmen, terrorists, narcissists and cults.
So what’s the real definition of “religion”? And why is it different from “faith” and “worship”?
Real religion is defined in James 1:27: Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.
1 Samuel 16:7b says: The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.
The first Commandment is the most important of all Ten Commandments for both Christians and Jewish people:
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD
your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.
And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall
teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up (Moses in Deuteronomy 6:4-7, NKJV).
Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, “Which is the first commandment of all?” Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: “Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment (Jesus in Mark 12:28-30, NKJV).
God reminds us over and over that he doesn’t care for rituals if we don’t love him straight from the heart (Isaiah 1:13, 17, 1 Samuel 15:22, Matthew 7:21, Romans 9:32).
Do we go through the motions of “religion” without thinking about what we’re doing? That’s just ritual. Good works minus true faith are meaningless.
See Part 2 here.
Did you know that you can be sure of going to Heaven?
Ask the Lord to come into your heart, and acknowledge that you have fallen short of His glory – even into sin. Don’t pay attention to what the world says about “organized religion.” Allow yourself to “…be transformed by the renewing of our minds” (Romans 12:2). Empty traditions, denominational differences, grudges and hatred of our fellow man - these keep us from knowing true inner peace and having one-on-one relationships with God.
This is partially excerpted from Sheryl's book, What Every Christian Should Know about the Jewish People: Improving the Church’s Relationship with God’s Original Chosen Nation. See info in column at right, or Amazon link below.
Unless otherwise noted, all verses used herein are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.