Summary: We lose God when we emphasize a ritual or object over and above our relationship with God. Don't expect God's blessings without repentance.

During a service at an old synagogue, when a particular prayer was said, half the congregants stood up and half remained sitting. The half that was seated started yelling at those standing to sit down, and the ones standing yelled at the ones sitting to stand up.

The new rabbi didn't know what to do. His congregation suggested that he consult the oldest member of the synagogue. The rabbi hoped the 98-year-old elderly man would be able to tell him what the actual tradition was, so he went to the nursing home to look for him.

“Is this the tradition to stand during this prayer?”

The old man answered, “No, that’s not the tradition.”

“So the tradition is to sit down for the prayer?”

The old man answered, “No, that’s not the tradition.”

The rabbi was confused. “But the people argue all the time, yelling at each other about whether they should sit or stand.”

And the old man interrupted, “THAT is the tradition!”

Over time, people can get so lost in the ritual and the form that they forget about the real reason why they are doing what they are doing.

• They focus on the ritual and forget about their relationship with God.

• They come before God engrossed by the form but without the substance. The looks are there but their hearts are far from God.

Is God missing in your life? Do you have the look of a Christian, but without a close relationship with Him?

• We have to get this right. We get our relationship with Jesus right, and the rest will fall into the right places. Get this wrong, and nothing will be right.

• At the heart of it all, Christianity is about a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Don’t lose God in religion.

Israel has to fight the Philistines in battle. Let’s see what happens - 1 Sam 4:1-11.

They lost 4000 men in the battle. They came back asking, “Why did the Lord bring defeat upon us today before the Philistines?” (4:3a)

• The question was right but it wasn’t addressed to God. They were venting their frustrations, but without the intention to really seek God.

• How do we know? In the very next line, we find them answering their own question. “Let us bring the ark of the Lord’s covenant from Shiloh, so that IT may go with us and save us from the hand of our enemies.” (4:3b)

• That will solve the problem, just bring along the Ark of God and we will win the war, since the Ark is symbolic of God’s presence.

Some translation uses “HE may go with us” but most uses “IT may go with us”, which is correct. In the light of what is happening, Israel trusted IT – the ARK!

• It’s the ARK that will change their fate! It’s the ARK that will bring them victory.

• Israel treated the ARK as a “good luck charm” that will bring them success.

The Ark is a chest made of acacia wood and covered with gold (Exo 25, 37), and placed within it are two tablets of the Ten Commandments, the pot of manna and Aaron’s rod (Heb 9:4-5).

• The lid or ‘mercy-seat’, was a gold plate surrounded by two cherubs with outspread wings, where the Lord takes His presence when He meets with Moses.

• It is the symbol of God’s presence leading the people into Canaan. God leads and the people follow.

Now Israel wants the Ark so that they can win the war.

• It wasn’t a desire to seek God or to understand His will. They just wanted it to fulfil their goal and achieve their purpose.

• Does this sound familiar? Many do NOT seek God truly for God’s sake.

• They don’t seek God to do God’s will; they seek God to do their will.

• They seek God to gratify their needs. So God is only as good as He is of use.

We lose God when we emphasize a ritual/object over and above our RELATIONSHIP with God.

• When we focus only the forms, what we get is a religion. It is superstition at best and idolatry at worst. We have lost God!

• It’s like hanging a cross at our front door and believing that everything will be fine in the house. “Bring out the cross and Dracula will run.”

It’s like this incident in Acts 19:13-16 “Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, "In the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out." 14Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. 15[One day] the evil spirit answered them, "Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?" 16Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all…”

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Jeremy Scoggins

commented on Nov 8, 2015

One of the most powerful, and needed messages that I have had the honor of reading. Dear sir, you are spot on with every scripture, illustration and summation. The church of God has become shrouded in symbolism and tradition, and has forgotten from whence our help comes; our help cometh from the Lord! "Don't loose God in religion" Amen!

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