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I once heard a man who claimed to be a Christian say, “I hate religion!”. What he meant by this was that he hated practices and systems that have a “spiritual” appearance but which are devoid of Christ. These things should be hated because they are false, deceptive, and do great harm. We are to hate every false way:

Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way.

Psalm 119:104

The man who wrote Psalm 119 was a very godly man. He loved God, and therefore he loved God’s word, and as a result of this, he hated every false way. It is the same for all people who truly love God today. This is why godly people who understand the basic issues of Bible translations will hate the false versions that twist God’s words with the intent to deceive and harm. This is why godly people hate false gospels that lead people away from Christ. But to hate all religion is Biblical. There are many false religions but there is one true religion. God has told us what this true religion is:

Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

James 1:27

Man has come up with various definitions of true “religion”, but we may confidently rest upon God’s definition above. This religion is “pure” (clean and without any defilement whatsoever). It is composed of two things:

1. Visiting the afflicted.

2. Keeping oneself from the sinful things of this world.

Another way to look at this is that pure religion is compassion and separation. It is a combination of love “where the rubber meets the road” and genuine holiness. This combination can only be truly present in a believer’s life though God’s power within him because it is completely contrary to human nature. False religion often appeals to the flesh, but true religion does not.

It is important to understand that religion and salvation are not the same. Salvation is a rescuing from sin. Neither false nor true religion saves. False religion comes from the devil and fallen man and results in nothing of eternal value. True religion is part of the outworking of salvation in the life of a believer, but it has no power to save. Saying that religion saves is like putting the cart before the horse. Many, many people are depending upon religion to get them to heaven but they will be sadly and tragically disappointed on the day that they meet God.

Jesus came to save the ungodly:

For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.

Romans 5:6

He did not come to call the righteous:

I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

Luke 5:32

Salvation is for sinners:

This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.

I Timothy 1:15

Please don’t mistake religion for salvation. They are very different. You will not meet God other than in his wrath without salvation. True religion is a fruit of salvation.

For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,

Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts,

we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;

Looking for that blessed hope,

and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;

Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity,

and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.

Titus 2:11-14

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