SPOKEN PRAYER: Out loud, pray for God to speak to you through your reading. Praise God for giving us His word. Ask the Spirit to help you read with faith, and to live out what you hear from God through the passage.
Religion or Relationship?
by Dave Mann
Why is it that most of the prophets’ harshest words are focused toward the people of God? Yes, there are calls to the nations to come know the true way of God. Yes, John the Baptist had words for Roman soldiers. Yes, the apostle Paul reached out to those who worshiped other gods. But the stern calls to repent are largely directed to those who are already in the community of faith. That’s you and me!
Once we repent the first time, get baptized, and get active in all the programs of the church, then we are at risk of becoming deceived by our seemingly righteous religious actions. This was true in the Old Testament (see Jeremiah’s words). It was true in Jesus’ day (see the cleansing of the temple). It is still true today.
Religion is a blessing. But religion is also dangerous.
In true Christian religion, we are brought into a community of faith. There is regular gathering of the fellowship of believers. We hear the Word of God read and preached. We worship and sing to the one true God. We coordinate together to serve others.
But it is no substitute for true on-going repentance. Jeremiah decries a false religion which is devoid of a heartfelt sorrow when we break God’s heart. The prophet recognized that false religion can provide deceitful words whose purpose is simply to make the people feel self-satisfied with no practice of repentance.
How do you distinguish between religion and relationship? Ask yourself: “Am I more concerned with breaking God’s laws or breaking God’s heart?” Am I more concerned with making myself feel good and look good or do I want to become closer to God?
Our repentance is never a one-and-done deal. Repentance and forgiveness is a lifestyle which leads closer and closer to the heart of God.
Lord Jesus, thank you for the call of your Holy Spirit to lead me into life of repentance. Bring me to my knees again and again. Thank you for new forgiveness and new joy as you draw closer. In Jesus’ name. Amen