Summary: We all want to live life to the fullest, yet we seem to be held back. What cages us in? What locks us down? What fences us in? It is a fight to get out, but victory is possible!
Ultimate Cage Fighting
Pt. 4 – The Cage of Religion
Round 1, we battled the Cage of Fear. Round 2, we squared off against the Cage of Death. In Round 3, we slugged it out with the Cage of Addiction. Today, we take on what may be an even tougher opponent . . . the Cage of Religion.
I say tougher because at an initial glace religion seems to be great, good, and even necessary for us to live a godly life. The idea of religion appears like an innocent and even noble cause.
Perhaps the best place to begin our examination of the Cage of Religion is at the beginning. Genesis 1 and 2 is the account of creation and man’s unveiled and unrestricted interaction with God. Walks in the garden. Daily sightseeing tours of God’s handy work. Dialogue and relationship with no barriers. Then Genesis 3 comes along and chronicles the fall of man and the breakdown of that uninhibited relationship. Sin enters the picture and division is now the law of the land.
Religion means to “to bind fast” or “to bind again”. Finally in Chapter 4 of Genesis we see the birth of Religion. Cain and Able in an attempt to bind fast or bind again to God again carry out a religious ceremony of sacrifice to God. They had been given no instructions or commands. They take it on themselves to struggle be tied again, or to be tied quickly, to God. I think it is very important to see that RELIGION WAS BORN OUT OF SEPARATION. God never wanted religion for His people. He only wanted relationship. And I want to submit to you that is still His primarily desire . . . relationship!
Mankind learned well from our forefathers. We are very re
ligious! There are about 21 major world religions today and if you break it down into subdivisions, one study claims over 4200 religions can be found on earth today.
There is a God-sized hole in our souls that we are constantly trying to fill with religious activity. Religion is our attempt to get to God!
There is nothing wrong with trying to get to God except that our strength, power, adherence to a set of rules, devotion to a certain creed, following dress codes, or any other man made path never gets to God. In many cases those things become a substitute for God! So religion can provide order, camaraderie, evaluation, systems, but not God! God is only found in relationship and that relationship can only be found by going through the one door that has been opened to us to get to God! That door is Christ Jesus. That is why in John 14, Jesus said “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” No religious system. No religious code can get you to God. In fact, what religious systems do is cage you in!
Did you know that you can be very religious and have no relationship with God? Paul recognized this and experienced this when he traveled to Mars Hill in Acts. In Acts 17:22 he says about these religious folks, “I observe that you are very religious in every respect.” Yet at the same time Paul also points out in verse 23 that they have an idol built that they worship with the inscription that says “to the unknown god”. They don’t even know who they are worshipping. Paul understood that regardless of how religious you are you are dead unless you know the one you are worshipping. Religion is self-sterilizing. Religion minus relationship cannot sustain life. Religion without relationship only produces death. Paul discovered that there was no life on Mars.
If you are not careful you can become satisfied with religion and allow that to become a substitute for or even a barrier to God.
I find it interesting that while Jesus was walking among us that He had a very contentious relationship with religious folks. That is probably putting it mildly. Jesus strapped on gloves everyday and went to war with the most religious folks on the planet. He spent his whole life messing with religious folks. He picked fights with them. He wasn’t very patient with them. He called them names like vipers, white washed tombs, fools, and hypocrites (by the way those have been in the church since Jesus’ day so it is nothing new). Jesus dismissed them or got rid of them at various times when he was healing folks. Some he dismissed by his words and once they were dismissed with a whip! These were religious folks! They had found 612 rules in the Bible and from them; they had extracted 2,000 other rules about the rules. You know you are religious when you need rules for the rules! These were called fences. Jesus would have viewed them as cages!