Some people write about the dangers of “religion,” and religious people tend to complain about this, because religion is a good thing. Alternatively, some people talk about true and false religion. What is a proper perspective on religion?
The difference can be a subtle one. If it were simply a matter of doctrinal beliefs, then it would be a simple thing to tell the difference between the right and wrong kind of religion. But it isn’t. You can tick all the right doctrinal boxes and your religion can still be one that leads to death. How can this happen?
It all comes down to your motivation: your reason for wanting to serve God.
In the early days of Christianity there was a sorcerer named Simon whose motivation was to be recognised by the people as a great man. When Simon saw the power of God manifested through the apostles of Jesus, he recognised an authentic power far greater than his own trickery.
So, he offered the apostles Peter and John money so that he might receive the Holy Spirit.
Peter answered: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! (Acts 8:20)
This simple story illustrates two truths that show us the difference between false and true religion.
True religion simply receives God’s favour through Jesus Christ.
False religion serves God to get. True religion serves God out of selfless love.
The blessing that you might want in your life might be financial or healing or other kinds of blessings. There is nothing wrong in wanting to receive God’s blessing. But if you do religion in order to receive a blessing, then you’re serving God for the wrong reason. This is false religion.
False religion always seeks to buy God’s favour. True religion simply receives God’s favour through Jesus Christ.
There are many ways in which people try to buy God’s favour. Some people try to buy God’s favour by giving money to their church or favourite ministry. Others try to buy God’s favour by making their flesh suffer through fasting and other self-imposed difficulties. Some people try to buy God’s favour even by much prayer and Bible-reading, as much as these are good things in themselves.
It isn’t always what we do that matters so much, but the reason why we do it. That’s why the Bible tells us that God doesn’t look at outward appearances, but instead he looks at our hearts (1 Sam 16:7). The apostle Paul tells us that the law of God is good, but when we use it to try to obtain or remain in God’s favour, it brings about our death (Romans 7:13).
The only reason for serving God that is acceptable to him is a love that is born out of gratitude for what He has done for us. You can’t buy that kind of love. It is freely given by the Father to all of his children, and those who accept it will reflect it back to him, and to all creation.
Article supplied with thanks to Dr Eliezer Gonzalez.
About the Author: Dr Eli Gonzalez is the Senior Pastor of Good News Unlimited and the presenter of the Unlimited radio spots, and The Big Question. Sign up to his free online course called Becoming a Follower of Jesus to learn about Jesus and His message.