“Meetings for this, meetings for that. I hate them! You’ve worn me out! I’m sick of your religion, religion, religion, while you go right on sinning. When you put on your next prayer-performance, I’ll be looking the other way. No matter how long or loud or often you pray, I’ll not be listening. And do you know why? Because you’ve been tearing people to pieces, and your hands are bloody.” (Isa 1:14-15, MSG)
This may be of a shock to you, but our Heavenly father truly hates religion.
What? How can this be? Isn’t God all about religion?
Not really. Religion is what we can do to be approved by God. That’s not how our Father works. He is about relationship, not religion. He is the One who did everything to be with us so that we can have a purpose in life, so that we can be accepted by our Father, not for what we have done, but because of what He has done for us.
Religion makes our “hands” “bloody”, for not portraying the truth about our Heavenly Father. Why would He care about our meaningless meetings and our religious performance? He wants us to be genuine in our abundant love, not only towards Him, but also towards everyone we encounter. Anything else is superfluous: “My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God.” (1John 4:7, MSG)
Interestingly enough, those who are “religious” like to stress their doctrines about sin. They are specialists in that area. Don’t take me wrong, sin separates us from our loving Father. Through Him, however, and thanks to Him, we will become victorious over sin. Instead of focusing on the problem, we should focus on the solution: our Heavenly Father Himself whose son willingly died on a cross so we could experience victory on all fronts!
I am saddened when people email me about joining a church that claims to be experts on sin, but they don’t believe in the power of the Holy Spirit who God sent us after the resurrection of Jesus Himself: “And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.” (Mark 16:17-18, NIV2).
They believe that healings and driving out demons were only for first century believers. We are beyond that now.
But wait a minute. Since when is God not God? Miracles happened in the Old Testament as well as in the New Testament. Why would He stop now?
Sadly, some churches focus on rapture theology. They cannot wait for Jesus to return and bring them to heaven. In the meantime, they bring people into their church where they don’t even believe in the power of the Holy Spirit, which Jesus had promised to us: “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever – the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” (John 14:16-17, NIV2)
How can they be from God if they “cannot accept the promise given to all of us”? How can they attend church, if they don’t “know him”? They are no better than the Pharisees in the first century, who also didn’t believe in the healings of Jesus, proclaiming that He was sent from the devil Himself: “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this fellow (Jesus) drives out demons.” (Matt 12:24, NIV2)
Did God approve of these Pharisees? Would He approve of a church in our day that doesn’t even believe in His power and love?
“I’ve had it with you! You’re hopeless, you religion scholars, you Pharisees! Frauds! Your lives are roadblocks to God’s kingdom. You refuse to enter, and won’t let anyone else in either.” (Matt 23:13, MSG)
“You’re hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You go halfway around the world to make a convert, but once you get him you make him into a replica of yourselves, double-damned.” (Matt 23:15, MSG)
“You’re hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You’re like manicured grave plots, grass clipped and the flowers bright, but six feet down it’s all rotting bones and worm-eaten flesh. People look at you and think you’re saints, but beneath the skin you’re total frauds.” (Matt 23:27-28, MSG)
Truly, God hates religion that leads nowhere. God is after relationship, genuine love that encourages everyone in the church to be proactive, to reach the lost with love, to heal the ones who have no hope, to free those who are in bondage.
We are encouraged to do as Jesus did: “Anyone who claims to be intimate with God ought to live the same kind of life Jesus lived.” (1John 2:6, MSG), and His mandate was: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19, NIV2)
We should be harvesters, bringing others to the realization that our Father loves us so deeply that not only does He want to save us, but He also wants us to be healthy and have a worthwhile purpose in life. After all, Jesus’ focus in prayer was that: “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matt 6:10, NIV2). How can we be doing His will when we don’t even follow His mandate?
What good is a religion without power? How can the world believe solely in bla-blas? Even politicians do that, but where does it lead us? A church that has no power will leave us wanting, just as the promises from politicians.
The world is “on fire” right now, and we have a mandate to rescue the lost. Think about it: What should we do when a house is on fire? Should we sit around and conclude: “There is nothing to be done. This is the end”?
Maybe we can learn a thing or two from cats. One night a Connecticut cat woke up startled. She sniffed fire in her home. She could have easily escaped from this fire, but she remembered her owners. She ran into the room of her owners, jump on dad’s bed and used her paws to wake him up. Imagine being woken up that way! Thanks to their cat, the whole family was saved from this raging furnace.
Why would anyone prefer to be a couch-potato when the fire has already started all over the world? This is why we are urged by Jesus Himself: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” (Mark 16:15, NIV2), and that gospel message includes Jesus’ mandate to go in the power of His name and His Spirit and bring people to Him with signs and wonders.
What will we do about this fire?
(To access the entire “The Helpless Heroes and the Vindictive Prideful” devotional series, please click here.)