Summary: Religious exercise can become a snare if in our efforts we fail to seek the Lord. Religion for the sake of religion is a dreadful snare.

“Like a pregnant woman

who writhes and cries out in her pangs

when she is near to giving birth,

so were we because of you, O LORD;

we were pregnant, we writhed,

but we have given birth to wind.

We have accomplished no deliverance in the earth,

and the inhabitants of the world have not fallen.

Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise.

You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy!

For your dew is a dew of light,

and the earth will give birth to the dead.” [1]

Give me that old time religion!

Give me that old time religion!

Give me that old time religion!

It’s good enough for me! [2]

Canadians could easily be singing this old hymn without thinking of what they are requesting. You see, we are incurably religious. I realise that many Canadians would claim they are agnostic, and possibly even say they are atheists. Despite such claims, the vast majority of Canadians will nevertheless argue that they are “spiritual,” despite not belonging to a religious organisation nor participating in religious rites. Actually, most Canadians do have a religion, of sorts. For most of us Canadians, our religion is little more than crass superstition, but it is religion nevertheless. Perhaps our religion consists of wearing a favourite jersey on hockey night so our favourite team will win, but for us it is a religious ritual that demands that we wear that jersey—our team depends on what we do! Or perhaps our religion consists of some long-standing ritual performed at Christmas or perhaps also at Easter. We aren’t really all that excited about how the churches try to horn in on our celebrations, but we continue the traditions we inherited from our parents—the family expects this.

Down deep, we believe there is a God, and we may even be convinced that we live where we do because we are deserving of this life. We are Canadian, and we deserve the blessings because… well, because we deserve it! We expect that the pastor will be available when our child is ready to be married; and when grandpa dies we expect a preacher to tell us what a great guy he was. Or we may hire a funeral director to utter a few pious platitudes when a loved one has died, making us believe that despite a life void of God’s presence the one who died is now in Heaven. I mean, after all, religion on our own terms is our right as Canadians. Well, we appear to think that to be the case.

Allow me to challenge you by asking you to seriously consider a few questions. Does your religion assure you of answered prayers? Do you actually pray? Or do you merely fling words into the ether, hoping that somehow what you are saying will make a difference? Political leaders often encourage us to offer “thoughts and prayers.” Do your thoughts accomplish anything other than making you feel good about yourself? Does your religion give you lasting peace in the midst of turmoil? Does your religion have any realistic hope of securing your eternal destiny? Or is it all a charade? You and I need to take a hard look at our religion so that we can assure ourselves that we are holding to something that leads us to the throne of God. We must assure ourselves that we are practising a religion that enjoys the blessing of the Eternal God because we seek Him.

We can be counted among those who practise a form of popular religion, or we can ardently pursue the Risen Saviour. If we practise the popular religion, no one will be disturbed by us, because we will not be offensive to anyone. However, if we are fully committed to Christ as Master over our life, we will shortly discover that even the most innocuous acts are offensive to many among whom we live. Jesus warned of this when He said, “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets” [LUKE 6:26].

Elsewhere, Jesus warned against thinking that people will automatically love you because you are His disciple. Jesus warned, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” [MATTHEW 10:34-39].

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