True Religion Is To..

27th March

“Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.”

Isaiah 1:17 

Yesterday we learnt that religion should not focus on external practices as a show of pride but should reflect the inward change by the work of salvation in our hearts. Religious works are sets of rules that say you must to do this or that to become holy or get closer to God, but according to Isaiah’s prophetic word from God, this simply is not the case. The only way we can become right before God is through confessing our sins and being made clean (verse 16). It is from that standpoint that outward expressions are true and noble.

So what do these pure and true outward expressions look like? Isaiah’s words in verse 17 help us to understand what true religion looks like. Simply put when God works in our heart for His glory, His glory pours out of our heart. In turn the things that burden Him, become our burden. The hurt and injustice He sees in this world becomes our hurt. The love and compassion He has for the marginalised of society (widows and orphans), is the same love and compassion we receive also. The difference is now we don’t look to help the poor, oppressed, orphaned and widowed to make ourselves look good but rather to bring glory to our Father in Heaven. This becomes selfless acts of true religion rather than works to make us look good and try to grab both man and Gods attention.

This message is so strong that even James echoes this in his letter to the early churches. “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you!” (James 1:27). This follows on from James’ strong words that we simply can’t just listen to God’s words (selfish) we must act upon it (selfless). So what are you waiting for… Go get right with God, then do good, feed the hungry, help the homeless, orphans and widows.

True Religion Is To..

26th March

“Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.”

Isaiah 1:17 

Religion is often used as a word to explain people’s faith and their understanding of a greater power/being than themselves. Religion is also used in a derogatory way when explaining habits and lifestyles that reflect what one believes by the way they act (often external practices yet inwardly empty). However true religion is not bad at all.

In today’s reading we find Israel is in persecution. They have been unfaithful to their first love and as consequence find themselves in ruin and under the rule of a heathen nation. Outwardly they were a very religious people yet inwardly there hearts were completely empty. Living like this may be ok for time, but it eventually has its consequences, separation from God. God knows our hearts and actually He takes no please in our external acts if our inward hearts are not in line with His will. In fact it is our heart relationship with God that should be reflected by our outward actions.

God spoke through Isaiah to tell the people of Israel that He was not interested in their outward acts of religion because He knew that their hearts were far away from Him. “I am sick of your burnt offerings of rams and the fat of the fattened cattle” (verse 11), “Though you offer many prayers, I will not listen” (verse 15). These words may seem harsh from the Lord, but the truth is that their hearts were so opposite from their actions, that it was almost like they were mocking God when they brought sacrifices and offered prayers to Him. God doesn’t want us to live living two lives. He wants our hearts and actions to be reflective of our genuine and true relationship with Him. So what is does this true religion look like?