What is Religion ?
Religion typically involves the belief in a god, doesn’t it? Mono-theism is the belief in ONE god, such as the God of the bible. Poly-theism, is the belief in MANY gods. And Human-theism (or Humanism for short) is the belief that man is his OWN god.
Speaking of Human-ism, here’s a definition of religion, from a purely humanistic point of view .. “a pursuit or interest to which someone ascribes supreme importance”. Whatever is most important to you, would be your religion. For the philanthropist, his/her religion could be an attempt to relieve all pain and suffering from the world. That would be a very noble pursuit of interest, or a very noble “religion”.
But on the other hand, there have been other people, whose main pursuit was to eliminate everyone who has a different opinion than theirs. Wasn’t that Hitler’s “supreme pursuit”? That’s Humanism at it’s highest level.
But here’s a few more definitions of religion, that I want us to focus on..
“The belief in, and the worship of, a superhuman controlling power, especially a god, or gods”.
“Belief in, or worship of, or obedience to, a supernatural power or powers, considered to be divine, or to have control of human destiny”.
“Reverence or worship of the gods”. “Worship as expressed in ritual acts”.
“Fear and reverence of gods, which consists in ceremonies, and disciplines”.
There’s a lot of different religions that could be defined like that, including the Christian religion. Although I wouldn’t call any of our worship “ritual acts”. That kind of sounds pagan, doesn’t it?
In James 1, verse 27; we’re told that “This is pure and undefiled religion, in the presence of God; To visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep one’s self, unspotted, (or unstained) from the world”.
Now that doesn’t say anything about ceremonies or rituals at all. But it does speak of disciplines. Specifically, discipline in obeying the words of God. Discipline in keeping ourselves away from sin, so as to remain “unspotted from the world”. And also discipline in “visiting” those in need.
To “visit” quite literally means.. “to look upon, to inspect, to examine with the eyes”. But in this verse, the meaning goes beyond that. Are you familiar with the term, “Hebraistically”? Hebraistic, or Hebraistically, means having to do with the Hebrew nation and culture. James, who wrote this verse, was a Hebrew. He was the half-brother of Jesus. They had the same mother.
And so to a Hebrew like James, and therefore “Hebraistically” this word “visit” means.. “to look upon in order to help or to benefit”. “To look after, to care for, to provide for”. “To furnish the things which are necessary”.
That’s what religion is to God; To furnish the things necessary, for orphans and widows, and really for anyone in need. Why do you think orphans and widows are specified in this verse? Isn’t it because orphans and widows are typically two classes of people, who have lost the ones who would ordinarily be taking care of them, and providing for their needs?
Don’t you think that parable of the good Samaritan is a good example of “pure religion”? I think it is. Let’s listen to it again; Luke 10, verses 30 thru 37; I’ll read the KJ version;
“And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.”
“But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him; Take care of him, and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.”
Of course Jesus told this parable in response to the question.. “Who is my neighbor?” And so after telling the parable, Jesus asked; “Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?” And the man replied by saying; “..He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him; Go, and do thou likewise.”
Well, we might ask the question; Which one of these three men, was practicing pure and undefiled religion? And the answer would be the same; “The one who showed mercy.” The one who “visited” the man that was in need.
Doesn’t Jesus describe pure religion, in Mathew 22, verses 37 thru 39, when He was asked what was the greatest commandment? And His answer was; “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”
That’s pure and undefiled religion, in the presence of God the Father! Loving god, and loving your neighbor as thyself, and, keeping oneself unspotted from the world.
Remember one of those definitions of religion?
“Religion is the fear and reverence of God, which consists in ritual acts and ceremonies, and in discipline”. The ritual acts and ceremonies CAN refer to our worship assembly, but it can refer to more. And our discipline, refers to how we conduct our self, everywhere, everyday!
Don’t we “discipline” ourselves to do “certain” things, almost every day? And to not do certain other things?
Isn’t that what “keeping yourself unspotted from the world” would be? Disciplining yourself to do certain things, and to NOT do other things. What happens if you go out every day, and never do what you know is “good, and right” to do? You SIN, that’s what happens!
James 4:17 says, “Therefore, to him who knows what is good to do, and does not do it, to him it is sin.”
So then we better make it a “ritual” “To keep yourself unspotted from the world”. The world is a dirty place isn’t it? It’s full of “the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life”. 1 John 2:16.
That’s why we’re NOT supposed to “love the world, nor the things in the world.” V-15.
And that’s why we’re supposed to “NOT be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Romans 12:2.
And that’s why we’re supposed to “present our bodies, a living sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service to God.” V-1. To present our bodies a living sacrifice, is to present our “disciplined actions”, that are performed through our bodies. In other words, we DO, what we know to be “right” to do. Isn’t that exactly what James wrote? “To him who KNOWS to do good..”
“Pure religion, and undefiled before God”.. Is the discipline,to DO, what we know to be good; worshipping God, and providing for the needs of others. And the discipline to NOT do what God has told us not to do, what we know, would be sinful. That’s pure religion!
What do you think is the oldest religion?
The most common answer that I’ve found to that question, is Hinduism. Many people believe Hinduism is about 5,000 years old, and so they place it as older than Judaism which can be traced back about 4,000 years, if you go back to Abraham. But Abraham didn’t live under the Law of Moses, which is Judaism, however he was indeed the “Father” of the Hebrew nation called Israel.
Abraham, who’s original name was Abram, is spoken of in Genesis 14:13, as “Abram the Hebrew”.
God had made the promise to Abram, back in Genesis 12:2, “I will make you a great nation, and bless you, and make your name great. And so you shall be a blessing.”
And God said in V-3, “And in YOU, all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
So you might say that the religion of Judaism, “evolved” from Abraham’s religion. Of course, it didn’t “evolve” because of man, it “evolved” because God “evolved it”. He gave a new law to Moses, for all of Abraham’s offspring to follow. And so, this new law, was Israel’s religion, wasn’t it? People today call it Judaism. But wasn’t it really simply the religion of God? God gave “Religion” to Israel, therefore, Israel’s religion, was the religion of God.
What about Abraham? What was Abram’s religion? It really didn’t have a name did it? However, GOD, and everything that God said, was Abram’s religion. What about Noah, who was born almost a thousand years before Abram? Noah’s religion was the same as Abram’s religion. Their religion was GOD. What about Adam and Eve, who were the first people to ever exist, and their sons Abel and Seth? (you notice I didn’t include Cain there) The “name” of those people’s religion, was GOD. Actually, the name of all of these people’s religion was, “Obedience to God”. That was their religion, “Obedience to God”. And they “lived it” in their everyday lives. But their religion wasn’t just a “name”, it was their “life”.
Aside from specific rituals directed specifically toward God.. and by that I mean, aside from the sacrifices that they all offered to God, what did their religion consist of? Don’t you think that part of their religion was to keep themselves unspotted by the world. That’s the reason God gave them laws to live by. So that they could obey those laws, and remain unspotted by the world.
As a matter of fact, God specifically stated, that was the reason He gave the Law of Moses, was to keep the people “unspotted”.
Paul wrote in Galatians 3:19, “Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions.” The people were sinning, so God gave them a law, so that when they obeyed it, they wouldn’t sin. Doesn’t that make perfect sense?
God gives us a law, so that WE can know right from wrong, and so that we can DO what’s right, so that we can KEEP ourselves unspotted by the world.
Don’t you think God did the same thing for Adam and Eve, and for Noah and his wife, and for Shem and Ham and Japheth and their wives, and for Abraham and Sarah, and for Isaac and Rebecca, and for Jacob and Rachel, and Leah. Didn’t He give them “rules” to follow, so they could remain unspotted?
Remember Enoch? We know that God gave Enoch laws, because “Enoch walked with God”, according to those laws. Genesis 5:22. You can’t “Walk with God” unless God tells you HOW to walk with Him.
All those people lived in exactly the same kind of world we do. A world full of BAD things, full of SIN! And we’re supposed to keep ourselves “unspotted from it”. And so were they.
So then, besides the specific sacrifices they made to God, and besides keeping themselves unspotted by the world, what else do you think their religion consisted of? I’m sure it must have been to love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and to love thy neighbor as thyself.
God has many attributes, and one of them is, that He is consistent. God has always been consistent. We’re told in Malachi 3:6, “For I am the Lord, I do not change!”
And the bible says the same about Christ; “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and to the ages.” Hebrews 13:8.
We might typically say that we are of the “Christian religion”. But really, we’re simply of the religion of GOD. Just like Adam was, and Noah, and Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and king David, and Jesus, and the apostles, and everyone who has ever followed God’s word. We’re all of the one religion of God. One body of believers, and “obeyers”.
Is that a word.. “obeyer”? I don’t know, but that’s what you’ve got to be, if you’re gonna be a part of God’s religion. You’ve got to be one of the people who obeys His laws. That’s what religion IS! It’s not just a concept in your mind. It’s a way of living your life.
The oldest religion in the world, is the religion of the only God that there is.. The God of heaven and earth.
And in order to be saved, through God’s religion..
You’ve got to “hear” the religion of God, which is His laws, and “believe” those laws, and “obey” those laws. Romans 10:17, John 8:24, Hebrews 5:9
You’ve got to “repent” of your sins and “confess” your faith in Jesus’ name, to save you. Luke 13:3, Acts 17:30, Romans 10:10
You’ve got to be “buried in baptism” for the forgiveness of your sins. Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16, 1 Peter 3:21. That’s His law, that’s His religion.
And you’ve got to remain “faithful unto death”, so that you can receive a “crown” of eternal life. Rev 2:10, Mathew 24:13
And you’ve got to “Be a neighbor” and you’ve got to “visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and keep yourself unspotted by the world”. Luke 10:36, James 1:27
And if you will do those things; God will add you to His body of “believers”, and “obeyers”, and then one day, He’ll give you an eternal home in heaven.
May God bless you in the study of His word, and in the obedience to His religion. It’s the oldest religion in heaven and on earth.