Summary: Just because someone attaches the word "worship" to a religious service, doesn’t mean that the term fits. This was often the case with Israel’s religous rituals. Sadly, it is often true of many church services in our day.

The Traits Of Token Religion

Text: Phil.1: 3-11

Intro: Today I want to focus on the thought mentioned in the second half of Philippians 1: 10. Paul tells the Philippians that he was praying that their love for Christ might continue to grow, resulting in knowledge, discernment, and sincerity. The Greek word translated “sincere,” literally means “without wax.”(1) It makes reference to the practice of some unscrupulous sculptors of Paul’s day, who would fill in their mistakes with wax. The idea Paul is conveying is that the Philippian saints should mature in their love for Christ to the point that there would be no cover-ups or falseness in their Christian life.

I believe that if the apostle Paul were to stand before us today, he would voice this same concern. If ever there was a day that Christians needed to be renewed in their love and sincerity toward Christ, it is our day.

There is a terrible tragedy taking place in most churches these days: I call it “Token Religion.” “What is token religion?” you might ask. Simply stated, token religion is a form of religious activity that goes through the motions of worship toward God, but is in reality insincere, contrived, and devoid of real love and commitment. Token religion isn’t really worship at all; and sadly, it is being perpetrated Sunday after Sunday in many of our nation’s churches.

In this message, I want to point out some indicators of token religion. In doing so, it is my hope that we will evaluate our relationship with the Lord to see if we are truly worshiping God from a sincere heart, or simply playing church.

Theme: What are the traits of token religion?


A. Israel Practiced Verbal Assertions Without Committed Affection.

Ps.78: 36 “Nevertheless they did flatter him with their mouth, and they lied unto him with their tongues.

37 For their heart was not right with him, neither were they stedfast in his covenant.”

Isa.29: 13 “Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:”

NOTE: [1] In Psalm 78, Asaph recounts the ups and downs of Israel’s relationship with God. For a while they would serve God faithfully and sincerely from their hearts. After a time however, their relationship with God became nothing more than high-sounding words and religious flattery (insincere praise). They seemed to think that God couldn’t see beyond the confessions of their tongues to behold the corruption of their hearts.

[2] In Isaiah 29: 13, God indicts Israel with the charge of false worship. God accused Israel by saying that their lives did not back up what was on their lips (“…with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me…”). The word “fear,” found at the end of this verse, refers basically to Israel’s supposed worship or reverence of God. The Lord accused Israel of performing religious rituals merely because that was what they’d been taught, not because of any real love or commitment to God. They were mindlessly going through the motions.

This then is worship in its largest sense: petition as well as praise, preaching as well as prayer, hearing as well as speaking, actions as well as words, obeying as well as offering, loving people as well as loving God. However, the primary acts of worship are those which focus on God directly—and we must not imagine that work for God in the world is a substitute for direct fellowship with him in praise and prayer and devotion.(2)

B. Israel Practiced Verbal Assertions Without Confirming Actions.

Ps.78: 36 “Nevertheless they did flatter him with their mouth, and they lied unto him with their tongues.

37 For their heart was not right with him, neither were they stedfast in his covenant.”

Ezek.33: 31b “…for with their mouth they show much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness.”

NOTE: The point of verse 37 is simply that though the Israelites professed their love for God, their practice of life proved otherwise, due to their obvious disobedience.

1. God’s children are to be committed.

1 Cor.10: 31 “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”

2. Token religion comes from a heart that is corrupt.

Jer.17: 9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”

Mark 7: 21 “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,

22 Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness:

23 All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.”

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