Phony and genuine religion

We often hear the maxim, “Christianity isn’t a religion; it’s a relationship.”  But technically, Christianity is a religion, and it’s more than a relationship, as God has set forth in Christianity certain truths and principles that make up the religion.  The real issue regarding religion is that there is phony religion and genuine religion.  Here’s an example:

Jesus said to His disciples, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love greetings in the marketplaces and the best seats in the synagogues an the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows’ houses and for pretense make long prayers.  They will receive the greater condemnation” (Luke 20:45-47).

And then we have a chapter break.  Chapter breaks are helpful so that we can quickly reference verses, but they can also be detrimental, like in this case.  Our minds can’t help but think that Luke has moved on to a different subject, but that would be unwise to think that in this case.  Take a look at what happens next in chapter 21:

Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and He saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins.  And He said, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them.  For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on” (Luke 21:1-4).

What we see, here, is an important contrast.  At the end of chapter 20, we see scribes practicing false religion.  They liked the perks of religion–the best seats in the synagogues, the places of honor at feasts.  They would make long prayers just to show off.  And they had great condemnation coming their way.

Then, we meet a poor widow, a second-class citizen, an impoverished woman, and she is practicing genuine religion.  She wasn’t in it for the fame or the glory.  She was, apparently, in it for God.  She gave all she had to live on, because it was her act of worship.

Today, not much has changed.  There are countless multitudes who practice a false religion–religion for all the wrong reasons.  Their reasons might be similar to the scribes in Luke 20 (fame, glory, etc.), or they might be different (salvation by works, worship of a false God, etc.).  And yet they do not practice genuine religion.

Only one group of people practice genuine religion–those who follow the Jesus of the Bible.  How do we know this?  The Bible teaches that all men and women without exception are born spiritually dead.  They are unable to practice genuine religion own their own.  As a result, everyone is naturally heading toward great condemnation.  But God, in His great love and mercy, gave His only Son Jesus to die on the cross for sinners like you and me, and everyone who believes in Him is given eternal life.  And those who have eternal life now have the ability, by His grace, to practice genuine religion.  They and only they are able, by the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells in them.

Perhaps you’re reading this and you’re realizing that you’ve been practicing a false religion apart from Christ.  Trust in Jesus for your salvation, and you will be saved.  And live the rest of your eternal life practicing genuine religion.

Today’s readings:
Psalm 30
Genesis 27:41-28:9
2 Chronicles 4
Luke 20:45-21:38

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