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Does God Hate Religion?

In a recent discussion with a good friend, we talked about how God hates religion. For him, this was too strong of a statement because, historically, religion has played a strong, positive role in much of society. I agree with him that many religious people have done extraordinary things in improving the conditions of our world.


However, my argument against religion, which I have posted on this before, is about the substitute of tradition, doctrine, practice, and belief that develops into a spirit of religion rather than a relationship with the living God. Let me explain.


My premise: “Religion is defined by a set of beliefs and standards that can and does become the main emphasis of knowing God.”


So, what’s at stake?


The loss of knowing God. We learn the attributes and the function of God, but we never go beyond being neighbors with Him. Neighbors are those who live in proximity of us, but they are never considered family. We know about God, and we live in a religious world of proximity to God, but we really don’t know Him. We substitute the doctrines, traditions, and practices of worship in place of pursuing a relationship with God. Our expressions are important for God, but remember God wants sincere and obedient hearts, not just a form of worship to Him.


Jeremiah 6:20 There’s no use offering me sweet frankincense from Sheba. Keep your fragrant calamus imported from distant lands! I will not accept your burnt offerings Your sacrifices have no pleasing aroma for me.


God has repeatedly said, “I do not want to be patronized by your attempts to please Me.”


Amos 5 21I hate all your show and pretense—the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies. 22I will not accept your burnt offerings and grain offerings. I won’t even notice all your choice peace offerings. 23Away with your noisy hymns of praise! I will not listen to the music of your harp.


We can have a form of godliness, but we deny the power of God.

2 Timothy 3:5 They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!


So, the Apostle Paul registered with the idea that religion can have a negative side to it, and it can become more about what we like than what God requires.


My last example of God’s attitude toward a religious spirit is Matthew 23. Here, Jesus spends a great deal of time talking about how the religious leaders of His day were so hypocritical … they did things for publicity, to be seen by others, and to control the direction of their religion. They practiced a good game of appearing to know God, but only went through the motions of being religious.


Hypocrisy is a big deal for religion. When you are laying out standards and teaching what you consider truth, you had better live up to those standards, or you will be quickly dismissed. Jesus saw through the religious leaders of His day.


Matthew 23 2The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.


We have seen such hypocritical behavior in our own day with religious leaders. They were talented men and women whose gift of teaching and influencing others made them icons for the rest of the church. Yet, they yielded to the temptation of fame, wealth, and popularity, which caused them to morally fail.


Religion has an element of purpose, but it denies the power of God to change the heart. The practice of attending church does not bring you automatically into a relationship with God. Pursuing God places God at the top of all your priorities.


Deuteronomy 6 5And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. 6And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today.


God must be able to change your heart in order to affect the outcome of developing a relationship with Him. No heart change … no relationship. Being born again as Jesus explains in the Gospel of John is about having a heart change. Religion can be a great substitute for the real thing. Religion usually displays itself through an intolerant attitude for people who do not believe as they do. At the same time, religion can compromise the standards of God’s word to the point of developing abhorrent beliefs.


The only way to protect yourself against a religious spirit is to be continuedly in pursuit of God’s Word, and to be in fellowship with people who are doing the same.  We are told in 1 John to test the spirits to see if they are from God. Testing doctrine, practices, and general beliefs is essential in keeping away from developing a religious spirit at the expense of knowing God.


Does God hate religion? Only when religion becomes a deterrent to putting Him first before all things. Religion can become idol worship through leaders, denominations, doctrinal beliefs, and idol worship in place of a relationship with God is to be avoided at all costs.


Challenging the Culture with Truth … Larry Kutzler



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