Summary: A sermon on religion from the New Testament, especially James 1:26-27.
Sermon for 10/8/2006
Pure Religion vs. Bad Religion
Emphasis on James 1:26-27
Pure religion vs. Bad religion. In the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks, in which thousands died through religiously motivated violence, this question arises. What is it that distinguishes pure, healthy religion from sick or bad religion? Is it true that all those who take religion seriously are sick or bad, like a few in our society have said? In 1970 Wayne Oates attempted to describe “sick religion.” He said it is, “self-contained, and lacks any measure of humility and teachableness.”
A. One of the definitions of Religion according to the dictionary is an integrated system of ceremonial observances for expressing belief in and reverence for a supernatural power recognized as the creator and governor of the universe.
B. Many believe that our religion is what saves us. We come to this building every Sunday and we have ceremonial observances. We have songs, prayers, reading of Scriptures, taking the Lord’s Supper or communion, taking up an offering, and preaching. Then sometimes we have baptisms because everyone who is religious has to be baptized at least once. Those who are really saved probably come and do it not just once, but two or three times in a week. Only the religious people are going to heaven.
C. Is that what the Bible says? It’s a trick question.
D. In the Bible reading plan, we had to go through the books of Leviticus, and Deuteronomy. Let’s me tell you that is nothing but religion. Everything had to be done in a particular manner, a particular order, and on certain days and for certain sins different particular things had to be done. Ceremonial observances!
E. (Heb 10:11) Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.
F. There are other faiths in the world that encourage people to be religious. The Muslims are people that have to pray at least 3 times a day and we see what the zealous Muslims do! Let’s not excuse Christianity. In the Crusades, Christians killed Muslims!
G. Paul says of himself in (Gal 1:13 NIV) For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it.(Gal 1:14 NIV) I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. Saul, later Paul, was an extremely religious man and he killed Christians and thought he was doing the right thing for his religion.
H. It is amazing to me to hear the prophets condemn the people’s religion of that day. The Jews religion came down from God. God is the one who gave them ceremonial observances and God is the one in the prophets who condemns those same religious observances. (Amos 5:21 NIV) "I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies. (Amos 5:22 NIV) Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. (Amos 5:23 NIV) Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps.
I. Well, those people were observing the wrong religion. We observe the right religion and so we are going to heaven. Let me tell you that in those days they had the right religion as well. What went wrong?
J. Our faith is not based upon religion, ceremonial observances. Our faith is based upon a person, Jesus Christ. I would rather have Jesus than religion. Why? We can have religion without Christ and suffer the pains of hell. Many people observe religious ceremonies but these are not the basis of our salvation. If our ceremonies do not lead us to Jesus Christ, then they are worthless and even worse, sin. Pure religion is an outgrowth of true faith in Jesus Christ.
K. Religion is all about what we do, the Christian faith is all about what Jesus Christ did for us. (Titus 3:5 NIV) he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,
L. The last part of the verse talks about baptism. Even baptism can be a mockery if it doesn’t lead to Jesus Christ. It is all about what Jesus Christ did for me, not what I have done for religions sake.
M. The fact is that there are many who believe that they are saved because they go to church on Sunday morning. “I have performed my religious duty and because of that I am saved.” No, we are only saved because of what Jesus Christ did on the cross and through his resurrection. Because we love Jesus for this, we have ceremonies that lift up Jesus Christ. We are not saved because we are religious; we are saved in spite of our weak religion. We cannot reach God; God is the one who reached us through Christ.