As believers, we can become absorbed in the routines and rites of particular dominations to the point of focusing more on adhering to a religion rather than forming a relationship with God. Here’s how to keep your perspective.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
– Matthew 6:33
The first commandment is to have no gods before the one true God. To put God first and worship no other(s).
Not only is it the first commandment, but it should be the first rule of life. Everything we do and think, as a believer, should be with God first in mind. We should think about pleasing God and behaving righteously.
Unfortunately, our own religion can sometimes cause us to stumble in that objective.
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.”
– Matthew 6:1
There are many reasons people go to church, and not all of them are solely based on a desire to be close to God. Some people enjoy the social aspect or the entertainment.
Some people go for status, that is, to appear righteous to the community. Similarly, some people attend church out of guilt, not wanting to appear as not being a dedicated believer or to avoid being thought of as a heathen. All the while, their heart isn’t really in it 100 percent.
And amid this religiosity, true worship of God gets lost among the rules and rituals of a particular religious denomination. The emphasis focuses on these routines, many of which have no biblical requirement, instead of on the word of God and His Holy Spirit.
Jesus was very vocal in rebuking this focus on religion and righteousness over a true love and worship of God.
“You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'”
– Matthew 15:7-9
Dr. Tony Evans recently spoke on the subject in an article entitled “religion or relationship.”
“One of the greatest dangers in our churches today is for religion to replace an intimate relationship with the Savior,” Evans wrote. “By religion, I mean the external adherence to exercises, codes, or practices in the name of God yet apart from God.”
Evans explains: “If you go to church because it is the religious, or spiritual, thing to do rather than because you are motivated to spend time worshipping God, learning about Him, and experiencing Him, then that is religion.”
“External observances—the rules of religion—can actually get in the way of a relationship,” Evans added. “When you are motivated by relationship, surrender comes naturally.”
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”
– 1 Peter 5:6-7
Before we can put God first, we must humble ourselves. We must stop trying to do things our way. We must focus on doing what is pleasing to God first and foremost. This focus should drive all of our actions and/or behaviors.
In the book of Revelation, Jesus spoke to the seven churches and warned about false teachings, false apostles and dead works. Jesus said:
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.”
– Revelation 2:7
The one who has an ear is one who is filled with the Holy Spirit in order to discern truth. The one with their heart toward God will hear. Those who love God first and have communion with him shall eat of the tree of eternal life. They will inherit the restored heaven and earth that God has promised. (Revelation 21:1)