The Blindness of Religion

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The Blindness of Religion

A Man with a Withered Hand

Mark 3:1-6
Mar 3:1 And he entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand.
Mar 3:2 And they watched him, whether he would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse him.
Mar 3:3 And he saith unto the man which had the withered hand, Stand forth.
Mar 3:4 And he saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace.
Mar 3:5 And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other.
Mar 3:6 And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him.

A Simple Question

Jesus, on the Sabbath entered the synagogue and met a man with a deformed hand. Knowing their heart, He asked just one question, “Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil, to save or to kill?” It was a simple question but one that would not be answered. He didn’t ask the unlearned, or the wicked, but the experts, the educated, the righteous, those who spent a lifetime studying the scriptures. He asked those who were most sincere about their religion, those who prided themselves on their favor with God. It was a question they would not answer.

Blindness

Their belief in the rightness of their religious practices blinded them to the wickedness of their own heart. They believed the Sabbath made them holy so they attended Synagogue and faithfully kept the Sabbath, but with hatred in their heart. Isn't it amazing how hatred can masquerade as religious zeal and how easily ones religious beliefs can blind them to their own sin. They were observing the Sabbath, and, at the same time, making plans to put an innocent man to death. How can one, who says he loves God, not see the wrongness of killing an innocent man? Obviously, neither the Sabbath, nor any other religious practice, have the power to make a man holy, holiness being an inward work of the Holy Spirit.

They could not answer because they did not understand the nature of true religion. They were experts in the outward expression of religion but unlearned in living by the Spirit of God. They were blind to the condition of their soul, blind to God's righteousness, blind to truth, and all because they  did not understand that true religion is God living His holy life in and through His people. 

The Nature of True Religion

JOH 4:24 GOD IS A SPIRIT: AND THEY THAT WORSHIP HIM MUST WORSHIP HIM IN SPIRIT AND IN TRUTH.
JAS 1:27 PURE RELIGION AND UNDEFILED BEFORE GOD AND THE FATHER IS THIS, TO VISIT THE FATHERLESS AND WIDOWS IN THEIR AFFLICTION, AND TO KEEP HIMSELF UNSPOTTED FROM THE WORLD.

Both John 4:24 and James 1:27 speak of true religion. John says true worship has its origin in that inward, immaterial part of us while James says true religion is found in acts of benevolence and godly living. Together these two verses communicate the heart of true religion:

  1. true religion begins with the Spirit of God
  2. God puts His Spirit in His people
  3. His Spirit in His people lead them in a lifestyle of good works and godly living

True religion begins with God, and ends with God living in His people who do His works by His Spirit. This is the pattern of true religion and the proof that God is in you. If we, the believing, lose our ability to see Christ, then like the Pharisees, are caught up in the blindness of religion, trusting in our sincerity, and the rightness of our way, thinking we are serving God, yet all the while blind to the darkness within our soul. True religion is knowing who Christ is and being conformed to Him, and then allowing Christ to live His life in and through us. True religion is reflecting the nature of Christ in all that we say or do, true religion is you showing the world who God is.

COL 3:17 AND WHATEVER YOU DO, IN WORD OR DEED, DO EVERYTHING IN THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS, GIVING THANKS TO GOD THE FATHER THROUGH HIM.

THE SPIRIT OF GOD INHABITS HIS PEOPLE AND THEY BECOME THE DWELLING PLACE OF GOD. THOSE OF FAITH ARE TO LIVE THEIR LIVES “IN THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS” MEANING THEY ARE TO REPRESENT HIM (HIS HOLY NATURE) IN WHATEVER THEY DO OR SAY; WHATEVER WE DO OR SAY IS TO BE IN THE POWER AND SPIRIT OF HIS NAME (WHO HE IS).

Jesus our Example of True Religion

Jesus lived a life of true religion by perfectly representing the Nature of God. Jesus didn't show us the Nature of God by keeping the Sabbath but by restoring this poor mans crippled hand, on the Sabbath; He demonstrated God's way of keeping the Sabbath. If God the Father assumed a physical body and lived on Earth as a man then He would live exactly as Jesus lived, in fact, the Scriptures say that Jesus was God in a human body. True religion is "showing forth the praises of Him who has called us out of Darkness into His marvelous Light", 1Pet 2:9.

Sincerity

Religious people are usually sincere in their religious practices but their sincerity can be fleshly and become a stumbling block. Fleshly sincerity will twist ones thinking, and like the Pharisee, allow him to condemn Christ, plan his murder, and believe his actions are pleasing to God. Fleshly sincerity is Darkness but the Nature of Christ is Light. 

Fleshly sincerity will allow one to compliment themselves on their faithfulness in church attendance but overlook an unforgiving heart? How many are sincerely faithful to prayer but pray in the bitterness of past offenses? How many faithfully contribute but with eyes of lust, believing their giving pleases God?

According to Col. 3:17 true religion is not found in the "doing and saying" of religion, but the "doing and saying" in the Name of Jesus which means whatever we "do and say" we "do and say" from within who He is, we "do and say" from the Spirit of Christ who is in us. 

COL 3:17 AND WHATEVER YOU DO, IN WORD OR DEED, DO EVERYTHING IN THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS, GIVING THANKS TO GOD THE FATHER THROUGH HIM.

As God’s people, we never want the kind of religion that allows us to pray, fast, give, or work, with a diseased soul, trusting in our praying, fasting, giving or working to please God. We want the righteousness that comes from Christ living in our heart and then living His righteous life through us.  

If you see that you’ve grown accustomed to a relationship with God that includes attitudes and practices that do not reflect Christ, if you have lost the strength to confront your own heart, then the remedy is to confess your sins and turn to Christ. God is merciful, He will forgive, He will strengthen, and He will restore. The Lord promises that if we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. This promise says that repentance is the way to wholeness. God will heal and restore us on the inside for He will cleanse from all unrighteousness. He is faithful to do what He says He will do. He will heal that part of us from which sin proceeds and when God fixes our heart then we can live by the Spirit of God and serve God in true religion. We can trust Him! This is very good news.

God bless you,

Jim

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