Religious Trap

Joshua 23:11-13

Be very careful, therefore, to love the Lord your God. For if you turn back and cling to the remnant of these nations remaining among you and make marriages with them, so that you associate with them and they with you,  know for certain that the Lord your God will no longer drive out these nations before you, but they shall be a snare and a trap for you, a whip on your sides and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from off this good ground that the Lord your God has given you.

When God brought the Israel people from slavery in Egypt to their promise land, Joshua was their leader. On his last few days on earth, he recorded the above warning (Joshua 23:11-13) to the people. Since God did a mighty work removing many of the nations around them, Joshua reminded the people to be careful and not associate with those people still remaining who do not follow the Lord. In other words, do not be influenced by the religious practices of others.

The situation is no different today as back then. We live in a multi-religious world. There are those who believe no difference exists between the religions. They are generally the people who have no faith except in themselves. Those who have a belief are either fully committed in their way or simply live culturally within the community. And every religion has multiple divisions within themselves. So, stating they are all the same is a distorted observation of a complex situation. 

The religious trap is believing all faiths are the same. That there is no difference and one of them can’t be more correct than the other. They all worship the same God but choose different methods of expression is the false illusion of the trap.

If there is no absolute truth, than one’s person opinion is as good as another. However, if you believe in objective truth, than only one faith is on target and all the others are leading people away from experiencing God’s fullness and purpose.

I remember the start of my own journey in pursuit of God.

As a teenager with a mission to discover what is the purpose of life, I read everything I could get my hands on.

I took classes on world religions. I read about the eastern faiths. I read books by people who discussed their faith and the reason why they practiced their faith. Even though I was raised in a Christian culture, I was open to everything else. I wanted to know the truth and wherever the evidence led me I followed.

In some ways I completed a circle of knowledge. But this time I had evidence, factual history, and experience of putting God to the test and seeing circumstances and situations come together in a pattern weaved over time. My entire worldview was reshaped. Today, the best grasp I have is knowing God as Triune consisting of Father-Son-Spirit.    

Now when I read Scripture with God’s macro plan in mind, I plan and execute strategy built upon my micro plans knowing HE is involved in our lives more than we even realize. As I pursue my work, HE is accomplishing HIS objectives with me. As I yield to HIM and learn to walk HIS ways, HE occasionally lets me see what HE is doing in the lives of those around me. After these many years of applying myself to do things HIS way, slowly the eyes become more attuned to HIS Kingdom and purpose.

The world is a chaotic place. The institutions and practices around us were developed over time to put order into the culture. Generally, though, the systems are most often built upon ungodly principles unless its founder was a Believer. Even then though, unbelievers’ step-in overtime and changed the Judeo-Christian foundation into a secular rock. You can look at many of the Ivy universities in this country as an example. The majority of them started as Christian institutions for the development of pastors and lay leaders. But today, they are all secular.    

When you understand that God’s way allows you to order your way in this world patterned after HIS character, you have a roadmap on how to deal with others and prioritize your life values for the greatest return on your time and investment. Life becomes more than survival or experiencing the next thrill. Life is designed to groom you and me for eternity. When you capture God’s macro vision for you, you find purpose and meaning behind everything you do.

In fact, you realize others may call you religious, but in reality, you are not religious but living life to the fullest with the least amount of heartache, and a Spirit of abundance in everything you do. The trap is failing to choose the faith that maximizes your human potential while serving others to achieve theirs. Pursue God and HE will let you find HIM. This is not religion, but a deep, intimate relationship with the Master Designer of Life.

Rooting For You in Christ!

Dr. Mike

Encourager, Faith-Integrator, Scribbler  

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Religiosity

When one reviews the pages of the Bible focusing on relationships, it seems the people who God had the greatest animosity against are “religious people.” From the Old Testament patriarchs to the New Testament saints, people who seemed to get God’s emotions to tilt are religious people preventing others from having an authentic, meaningful relationship with Him.

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Jesus’ encounter with the Pharisees is a prime example. “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.” [Matt. 23:13 ESV] Jesus explodes with a verbal assault aimed directly at the Pharisees. They had become so self-righteous that they maintained a form of religion, but lack the power and love of God with it. They blinded themselves with a humanistic show of piety but the heart didn’t know God. They acted the part in form, but lacked the internal substance of genuine love. Whereas King David was a man after God’s own heart [Acts 13:22], the Pharisees were men after their idol’s heart.

The apostle Paul wrote in Romans 16:18 “For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.” Throughout Paul’s ministry the struggle was with people who were deceived into believing an idol rather than the true God. For whatever one set’s their heart after that is not our Triune God is pursuing what the Bible defines as an idol; and idols have their followers and supporters.

Religiosity is simply the idol of mystical performance that looks sacred from the outside-in, but lacks the Spirit-filled heart that knows God and walks with God from the inside-out. Religiosity is the friend of humanism. It is designed to make man feel good, look good, and for a moment experience good. But the end result is another deceptive lie.

Jesus spoke about having a deep, meaningful relationship with Him. He didn’t act religious because God’s way involves being adopted into a family, a community, and a government built from the center of God’s heart, It is about everyday life; not a one-hour religious experience. It is expressing the love of God with your family members, work associates, and neighbors. The unity is not found in a bunch of do’s and don’ts [Col. 2:20], but in the Spirit of God within each person.

At the end of the day, one finds having a relationship with Jesus Christ is an adventurous journey through life with all the excitement of a Hollywood blockbuster movie. The difference though is you are not a spectator but a active participant in the plot and storyline. He assigns you a role that you were specifically designed to live and equips you for its fulfillment. It’s about everyday life: eating, sleeping, working, playing, dancing, singing, writing, loving and yes leading and serving others. When one discovers and experiences it, one quickly understands why Jesus became angry with the religious people of His day. You may want to take a hard look at oneself and ask in prayer: what religious games can I stop playing so we may draw closer to the living God?

OUR PRAYER

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Our Holy Father – Holy Lord – Holy Spirit: thank you for your honest feedback and merciful grace that strips us from our prideful acts of religious superiority. Thank you for making your home in us and patiently opening our eyes to see and ears to hear your wonderful life. Thank you for sharing your creation and your purpose and your plans with us.

Help us always to be authentic, honest, and generous to the people we meet. Help us to desist and you to exhibit your great power and love in us and through us. Let us not become a stumbling block for anyone but help us to lead and serve others in love with you. If they don’t know you, help us to gently and persuasively point them to you. Let your Spirit glow in the lives of your church.

Let everything we say, think, and do be done so in the love of Christ for the glory of Christ by the power of Christ.

Yours In Christ,

Dr. Mike

Consultant, Coach, Encourager
Author of Great Business Emulates A Good God

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