Religion: Humanity's attempts to connect with and please a god of some sort. Usually, it has to do with appeasing some God, making a sacrifice, and "getting on their good side." The problem with this mentality is that it does not fit in with the Biblical world view. We cannot please God by mere actions and sacrifice. That was King Saul's problem; He desired to look impressive to God and His subjects. When required by God to destroy a nation that did what was abominable in God's eyes, to wipe out every trace, taking no spoil, Saul kept all the good stuff for himself, (he said to make a sacrifice, but even should that be true, the Sacrifice was about Him, and not God), and even kept Agag, their king (and his Family, as we find out in Esther, see Haman the AGAGite). What God does require is this:
22And Samuel said,
“Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. 23For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has also rejected you from being king.” (1 Samuel 15). God not only rejected the Sacrifice, but rejected Saul as king of Israel! Why? Saul was bringing God a Sacrifice! That's not fair, one might say. God does not need our offerings and Sacrifices (Even the tithes were for the Priests and Levites to continue the work of the Lord in the temple). God owns it all, He created it all. What He does require is our Obedience. Jesus reaffirms this several times, when He says "If you love me, You'll keep my commandments (John 14 and elsewhere)." God wants us to love Him, and in loving Him, love what He values. We need to do what He desires. And what does He desires? " He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? " (Micah 6:8) 41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:21-46) God Values and loves His people! We are not saved by the works we do, but it is a mark of those who follow Jesus that they love who He loves! At the Last Supper, He gave His disciples a new commandment, one in which all the world would know the mark of His followers: by how they love one another. Our love is shown in our actions...and how we care for God's children, wayward and not, matters! What would your life look like if you loved people without regard to your own preferences or safety? How would you reflect the sacrificial love of Christ if you denied yourself, picked up your cross and followed after Messiah day by day?
James 1:19-27 English Standard Version (ESV)
Hearing and Doing the Word
19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless. 27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
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