|Volume 23 Number 11 November 2021
Religiosity and Real Faith
I recently looked at a map of the world that was coded regarding which places were more religious and which were less religious. The map was not coded by types of religion, such as Christianity, Buddhism, Islam or the like, but just religious expression in general. Interestingly enough, Latin America, South America and Africa were coded as being from average to most religious, depending on the state or region. Also of interest is that North America, most of Europe and Australia were coded less to least religious.
What the map reinforced to me is that most people have some measure of religious expression or what could be termed religiosity. Sociological studies suggest there are at least three components to religious behavior: knowing (cognition in the mind), feeling (affect to the spirit) and doing (behavior of the body). What most measures of religiosity find is that there is at least some distinction between religious doctrine, religious practice and spirituality (from an article about religiosity on Wikipedia). Religiosity, then, is not so connected to the belief in God per se or what Scripture teaches about Him and Christian living but how one has been taught or what one feels or the benefit one believes is gained from doing certain things. Being religious doesn’t always mean being genuinely spiritual or believing the truth of the Gospel or living as God commands.
When we think about being part of the Lord’s church, we should always be willing to ask ourselves why we do what we do. The Pharisees of Jesus’ day were committed to their traditions, performing them religiously, yet that did not make them acceptable to God. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Matthew 23:27-28 NKJV). In a more general way, Jesus asked, “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46).
I suppose the point of it all is, when does one stop going through the motions and actually believe and practice his or her faith from the heart? There is a difference in the two. Different people can engage in the same activity but for totally different reasons. It is not something others can automatically perceive about us but what we come to know by looking inside ourselves, by honestly appraising ourselves. Scripture repeatedly reminds us God is a discerner of the heart – of our motives. “All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, But the Lord weighs the spirits” (Proverbs 16:2). Scripture can help us discern such, but we must be honest with ourselves to allow it to make a difference in us. “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
David said, “Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). David wasn’t saying God will always give us what we want in life, but that if our delight is in God, in living for Him and pleasing Him, then that is where our heart’s desire will be as well. He will place His desires within us. It is similar to Jesus reminding us to always ask, seek and knock to have God’s genuine blessings in our lives (Matthew 7:7-8). Truly there is something wrong if we claim to love God, if we go through the acts of religion, but our desire is still as worldly as the world around us (James 4:3).
May we from the heart grow to have a greater desire for God, and from a pure heart seek Him and His will for our lives. That is not religiosity, but real faith and a real relationship with God through His Son. That is where peace, joy and love can be found and sustained in our lives.
Gary C. Hampton
Most people have the sense that things are changing so fast they cannot keep up. Those who are slow to adjust find themselves frustrated. There is a sense of loss, often expressed through a longing for the “good old days.” God’s children, however, are comforted in the knowledge that some things do not change.
Christ never changes. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). His rule is unchanging. “But to the Son He says: ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom’” (Hebrews 1:8). He is our unchanging High Priest, serving as our unchanging Mediator (Hebrews 5:6; 7:25).
The church never changes (Hebrews 12:28). It is the everlasting kingdom (2 Peter 1:10-11). Jesus promised to build His church and said even hades could not defeat it (Matthew 16:18). A part of the revelation given to John includes, “Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!’” (Revelation 11:15).
Men may continually make new laws substituting new ways and ideas for what we considered the “tried and true.” God’s Word, though, never changes (Isaiah 40:8). Our Lord said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away” (Matthew 24:35). That unchanging Word will be the standard in the day of judgment. “He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him – the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day” (John 12:48).
God is the constant in our lives. He is the unchanging God who has given us an unchanging Savior, who built an unchanging church. There is no need to worry about being tested based on revised or newly established law, because His Word is unchanging. May we stay anchored in those unchangeable things and remain confident in the knowledge that they will lead to our salvation.