Fewer and fewer people practice religion. Or, for that matter, want to be religious in any way. But many of them are okay with Jesus, and even don’t mind following him as a moralistic, therapeutic spiritual guru.
The thing is, well, Jesus likes and practices religion. And Jesus likes the Bible, which likes religion. So give the Bible a few minutes to explain why religion is important.
All of this comes from chapter one in the Bible book of a religious man named James, who himself takes shots at people “who consider themselves religious” yet “deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless” (James 1:26).
That’s not to say that religion is bad. Rather, the wrong kind of religion is bad. God’s religion, the religion of the Bible preached by Jesus and practiced by James, is good. Here are 3 reasons why.
First, James lays something out clearly: the main culprit that gets in between people and God is pride. We think we know more than God. We think we don’t need God. Not true. “He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created” (James 1:18).
God made people. People don’t make God. God planned you, created you, and chose you to be his child. You are the firstfruits of all he created. Firstfruits are the first crops gathered for a harvest. God is saying, “You’re my first and favorite!”
Nothing is more special to God than you. Nothing will ever take his attention and care away from you for even a split second. He loves loving you and giving you blessings. And he knows sometimes you don’t understand, you lose patience with him, and disagree with his timing and purpose. He forgives you and still loves you.
Secondly, replacing pride with humility is an appropriate reaction to God’s saving work. “Humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you” (James 1:21). God saves you by sowing the seed of his Word, his message of forgiving grace, in your heart. We’re all just a bunch of dirt until God makes us a beautiful garden.
You are God’s masterpiece and he did all the work!
Finally, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17). God doesn’t stand forgetfully at the fridge wondering why he opened it, and he doesn’t forget about you. Even when you forget about him.
God is madly in love with you, sins and all. He sent his Son Jesus to die so that your sins would be punished only at that time and never again. And he doesn’t change his mind.
You won’t find a religion better than that. Including no religion at all.
PRAYER: Dear Jesus, you won’t let me follow you and at the same time turn my back on religion. Okay, I get it. Teach me more. Show me where to start. Lead me to a gospel-centered church committed to the Bible. Help me to be humble. I guess I’m asking for some religion. Amen.
FURTHER MEDITATION: Take some time today or this weekend, and meet God in James chapter 1. Read it, then read it again. Ask God to …
- help you realize some blessings you experience at your church, based on this chapter,
- challenge you to become even more committed at your church with a specific action you can take next week.