Friday, February 17, 2012

…..stench of religion without relationship…….

“When you come before me,
whoever gave you the idea of acting like this,
Running here and there, doing this and that—
all this sheer commotion in the place provided for worship?

"Quit your worship charades.
I can't stand your trivial religious games: Monthly conferences, weekly Sabbaths, special meetings— meetings, meetings, meetings—I can't stand one more!
Meetings for this, meetings for that.  I hate them!  You've worn me out!              I'm sick of your religion, religion, religion, while you go right on sinning.
When you put on your next prayer-performance, I’ll be looking the other way.
No matter how long or loud or often you pray, I'll not be listening.

“And do you know why? Because you've been tearing people to pieces, and your hands are bloody.
Go home and wash up.
Clean up your act.
Sweep your lives clean of your evildoings so I don't have to look at them any longer.
Say no to wrong.  Learn to do good. Work for justice.  Help the down-and-out.
Stand up for the homeless.
Go to bat for the defenseless.”  Isa. 1:12-17 MSG Bible

 People do not want to change the way they do things because they have come to worship the form and practice of their religion.  The worship of form and practice makes ministry a substitute for a real relationship with God.

Forms and practices do not demand transparency in our own lives, genuine heartfelt concern for people, or a desire for intimacy with God.  Yet form and practice easily mislead us into thinking, all is well in God-Ville, when in reality our form and practice generates a stench that reaches to the throne of God.

One-hundred and thirty years before writing the admonition given by Jeremiah, God would speak through the prophet Isaiah words that communicated His heart regarding the stench of religion without relationship.  It is a message that is as timely and true in the Laodicean period of Church history as it was it the days of Isaiah and Jeremiah. 

In Isaiah 1:16 God directs His children to clean-up their lives. They were to separate themselves from the carnal, worldliness that preoccupied their lives and consumed their time. They were commanded to "cease" doing evil.

Here is where rules without relationship become a problem.

Why were the lives of the children of Israel consumed with selfish priorities and worldliness?

Why do Christians struggle with and argue about practices that are clearly worldly?

The answer is simple; they have religion without a personal, intimate relationship with God that generates self-deception. Therefore, they viewed God's commandments as intrusions upon their lives and restrictions upon the things they found pleasure in. They thought temporally and they lived temporally.  Their religious practices were simply a means to manipulate God into providing them the things they needed and wanted. They did not approach God in worship with an open transparency, seeking intimacy with Him.

They created their own manmade sources of fulfillment to sustain them spiritually and whatever form this takes, it is idolatry.  These were manmade sources for personal fulfillment and happiness.

This is what God calls "broken cisterns that can hold no water."  In other words, these manmade inventions will never be able to accomplish what they were made to do. They are superficial and self deceiving.

This is what God is referring to in Jeremiah 7:4 and 8 when He says, "you trust in lying words."  He is talking about self-deception. We are lying to ourselves when we have religion without relationship.   

Jesus quotes Isaiah 29:13 in Matthew 15:8 and applies it to the Pharisees.  How accurately this describes religion without relationship:"These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me".

If we are not driven by a concern about the things God is concerned about, our Christianity is nothing more than self deception.

Fruitful ministry will naturally flow from a life through which God overflows. When God finally gets a hold of your heart and you get a hold of His, He will overflow the "fruit of His Spirit" in you!

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