Religion vs. Relationship

Thursday, December 1, 2016, 7:44 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Give Ear to Jesus.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Acts 17:16-31 (Select vv. ESV).

Provoked in Spirit (v. 16)

Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols.

Do we get provoked (upset, grieved) in our spirits when we see all the idolatry within the church and within our nation(s)? Or, in our own homes? Do we even notice it? Or, would we even recognize what it is if it was staring us straight in the face? Also, if we do recognize it as idolatry, and we do notice it, does it bother us at all, or do we ignore it or go along with it?

What is idolatry? It is the worship or service of an image (an idol). Well then, what is an idol? It is a person or thing that is greatly loved, revered, or admired. It is a false god. So, what is a god? Besides the obvious, a god can be someone or something of extreme value to us; something or someone worshiped. So, what is worship? When we worship someone or something, we give them (or it) our passion, fervor, adulation, respect, time, attention, affection, praise, commitment, devotion, enthusiasm, and honor. So, to what or to whom do we truly (in reality) give all these things?

Let me suggest here some possible idols we worship, especially here in America. One is our bellies. Americans eat far too often and way above what we really need, on average. Sometimes we eat just out of habit. And, we tend to be very wasteful, too. This one hits home with me, not that I eat a lot, but that I eat more often and more than what I really NEED. And, honestly we NEED very little. And, the Lord is speaking to me today that I need to begin to eat less than I have been. So, I’m listening.

And, going along with that, Americans, on average, appear also to worship their time. They think their time is to be theirs, and that no one else should interfere, not even God. Many American Christians seem to compartmentalize their relationships with God/Jesus from their daily lives, and appear to not consider God in their daily plans. They often, too, seem to always be in a hurry, and they grow impatient easily. They want everything fast. Some of them participate in road rage, or they get angry if they have to stand in line a few extra minutes, or if their food in a restaurant takes too long. And, this gives a bad testimony to the Christian faith and practice.

Other idols worshiped are careers (jobs), entertainment, music/musicians, fiction/drama/actors, sports/athletes, automobiles, musical instruments, electronics, smart phones, tablets/I Pads, computers, TV/TV personalities, books/authors, politicians, preachers, evangelists, homes, possessions, self, physical prowess, talent, intelligence, education, health, leisure time, and retirement, etc. Basically, anything which takes the place of God, or which gets higher priority than God/Jesus in our lives, or which goes against his will for our lives, has the potential to be an idol. An idol can also be anything which we crave more than we hunger after God, or which gets more of our time, passion, devotion, attention and commitment than does God. So, if we want to know what our idols are, this is where we need to look.

Very Religious (vv. 22-23a)

So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’

Some people can appear very religious but have no relationship with God whatsoever. They may go through all the motions of worship of God, but their hearts are far from him. It is all ritual and tradition, but no true commitment or reverence (respect, honor). And, it breaks my heart, because so many of them don’t see it or they won’t see it. They think if they go to a building called a church on a Sunday morning, and they sing the songs and listen to the sermon (or sleep through the sermon), that they have done their religious duty for the week. They think, too, if they prayed a prayer at some point in their life to “receive Jesus into their hearts” that it satisfies their commitment to Christ, and that their lives are their own to be lived how they want. But, then they might talk about getting to go to heaven one day. And, I think to myself, “Why would you want to spend eternity with God if you don’t give him the time of day when you are on the earth?”

Made by Man (vv. 23b-25)

What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.

God does not live in buildings built by human hands. This means that what you might call a church, in a building, under a particular denomination, is not the house of the Lord. When you enter the sanctuary (or worship center), you are not entering into the presence of Almighty God. What you might call a church is not the true church at all, if you are referring to a building, a denomination, an organization or a corporation under the federal government. And, if you are serving in some capacity in this “church,” it does not mean you are serving the Lord, or if you are giving to this “church,” it does not mean you are giving to the Lord. And, singing songs in a meeting called a “Worship service,” does not necessarily equate true worship of God. These types of “churches” are man-made, and God does not need them.

The true church of Jesus Christ is a living organism made up of humans who have put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of their lives – who have been crucified with Christ in death to sin, and have been resurrected with Christ to newness of life (new birth), “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (See: Eph. 4:20-24; Ro. 6:1-23). We, the people of God, are his church, no matter where we meet or on what day in the week. Our service to God is not determined by us or by a denomination, either. Before the creation of the world God decided who we would be, and he has an assignment just for us to fulfill, and he is the one who gifts and equips us for that service. Our service to and our worship of him is in giving our entire being over to him, holy and pleasing to him, no longer conformed to the ways of this sinful world, but transformed in heart and mind of the Spirit of God (Ro. 12:1-2). This is what he desires!

All People Repent (vv. 29-31)

Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

God is calling out to us, thus, to repent of our idolatry, our false worship of him, our religious performances, and our man-made worship. He doesn’t want any of it! And, repentance does indeed mean to turn away from sin, and to turn to God to walk in his ways and in his truth (See: Rev. 2-3). Although it literally means to have a change of mind, it is most always used in scripture in the context of turning away from sin (wickedness), and of the forsaking of our idols, and of turning to God to follow him in all his ways.

God’s grace to us is not a free license to live how we want and still go to heaven when we die, either. His grace, which brings salvation, teaches us to say “NO” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for Christ’s return (Tit. 2:11-14).

Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Pet. 2:24). Jesus died that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us (2 Co. 5:15). The righteous requirement of the law will be fully met in us who walk not according to the flesh, but who conduct our lives according to the Spirit. For, if we live according to the flesh, we will die (in our sins), but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live (with Christ for eternity) (Ro. 8:1-14). If we say we have fellowship with God, but we walk in darkness (sin, wickedness), we are liars, and the truth is not in us (1 Jn. 1:6). So, repent of your sin today!

Give Ear to Jesus / An Original Work
Based off Isaiah 55 / February 16, 2016

Call on your Savior.
Seek the Lord while He is near.
Let the wicked forsake his way;
Turn to the Lord.
God will have mercy.
He’ll forgive you of your sin.
He will freely pardon you
And give peace within.
Turn from your sin, follow Jesus,
Be cleansed from sin.

Give ear to Jesus.
Come to Him. Your soul will live.
Listen to Him speaking to you:
“Eat what is good.”
If you are thirsty,
Come to Jesus, drink from Him.
Drink His Spirit given to you.
Be born again.
Listen to Him. Do what He says.
Rejoice in Him.

God’s Word, eternal,
Will achieve what He desires.
He is willing none should perish,
Saved by His blood.
Share now the gospel.
Jesus died so we’d go free.
Walk in vict’ry,
Free from your sin, eternally.
Die to sin, and live to Jesus.
In Him believe.

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