It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, But the glory of kings is to search out a matter. Proverbs 25:2
Let’s Play JEOPARDY!
Please read the following definition taken from Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary aloud and determine the word that is being defined. All responses must be phrased in the form of a question. : )
“In its most comprehensive sense, it includes a belief in the being and perfections of God, in the revelation of His will to man, in man’s obligation to obey His commands, in a state of reward and punishment, and in man’s accountableness to God; and also true godliness or piety of life, with the practice of all moral duties. It therefore comprehends theology, as a system of doctrines or principles, as well as practical piety; for the practice of moral duties without a belief in a divine lawgiver, and without reference to His will or commands, is _______.”
If you said, “What is religion?” you are correct.
But it’s Not About Religion…It’s a Relationship!
Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know. Through the years so many of us have been wounded and scarred by those operating outside the realm of religious circles and because of those experiences, whether real or imagined, we have redefined the word [religion] and summarily disposed of it. Friends, I consider that a wretched shame and once again, I’d like to address the matter.
Let’s unwrap Webster’s definition and see if the word has any redemptive value. First he says that religion in its most comprehensive (complete) sense consists of a belief (faith) in the being and perfections of God. Stop right there. Webster is fundamentally saying that religion is that which we believe to be true about God. So far, I am not offended by the ‘R’ word.
Webster continues that religion is God’s revelation (disclosure of His promises, purposes, procedures, etc) to us and that His followers are obliged (required and committed) to obey His commands. Okay, I can see that we’re now entering troubled waters; nobody wants to or enjoys being told what to do. At this occasion I would tender that there are many people who reject divine compliance because they cling to a degree of immorality and therefore have dismissed the ‘R’ word based on the admission of this tenet. Here’s the reality: if we, without restraint and enthusiastically, consider ourselves to be followers of Christ Jesus, we are in fact devoted to obedience. This does not mean we are declaring perfection towards the attribute, but rather submission to the ideal. If you agree so far, you are religious!
Not to Worry
Furthermore embraced within religion there is (according to Webster’s definition), a state of reward and punishment, man’s accountableness to God; true godliness or piety of life, with the practice of all moral duties. Again, if we are committed to our relationship with Jesus; if we are sincere, then these components of our faith do not trouble us. In His straightforwardness our Father has made devotion a black and white, either/or proposition, not because He desires to impose heavy restrictions upon us, but rather because we’re likened to dumb sheep who require the simplest of instructions. Personally, this dumb sheep finds the ‘One way’ doctrine extremely comforting.
So in this vein of simplicity (and concerning the receipt of reward and punishment), which do you prefer? As it pertains to accountability, would you rather answer to man or God (who will judge most righteously)? In the observance of moral duty, which is preferable to you: holiness or hollow-ness? My friends, it is as Webster says, “that the practice of moral duties without a belief in a divine lawgiver, and without reference to his will or commands, is not religion.” Do you agree?
RELIGION (from the Latin) religio, (which means) to bind anew
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17
Religion: I know…it’s just a word. Folks, I am not hung up on semantics. If it were just about words I would have tossed this one aside a long time ago, but it’s more than that. The rationale behind abandoning this or any word varies I suppose, but I submit to you that behind many of these reasons lie unresolved (or perhaps unrealized) sorrows of the heart. In those situations I fear it is easier to change a name then resolve a problem and that I believe is the bigger issue. So I ask, “Is it really the word, or is it something else?”
A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks…The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it…Would not God search this out? For He knows the secrets of the heart. Luke 6:45, Jeremiah 17:9, Psalms 44:21