Religious Pillars – God Looks at the Heart
Can you gain favor with God by fulfilling outward deeds—like following religious pillars? Imagine a secret atheist who observes religious requirements to please his parents. They might be satisfied, but not the all-knowing God. He demands sincerity. A businessman, though outwardly religious, cleverly cheats his clients. He never gets caught, and people praise him for his religiosity. That might pass in society, but not before God. He demands purity. Finally, another man believes in God and carefully observes all the laws, rules, and requirements. His religion constrains him to treat people fairly, which he does. But deep down, the man is proud in heart and feels contempt for others. People praise him, but not God. He demands humility.
With a bit of effort, people can keep religious requirements. But to truly honor God requires far more. Some claim the following five points, principles, or pillars are central to true religion: 1) belief, 2) worship, 3) charitable giving, 4) fasting and 5) pilgrimage. The Bible strongly affirms these five points, but to them it adds some interesting and provocative twists.
Religious Pillars – Five Examples
Here are five examples of religious pillars:
Belief - Religions generally have a creed—an abbreviated set of accepted beliefs. The teachings of the Bible center on Jesus Christ, about whom it says a great deal. One short, poetic form states things this way: “He appeared in the flesh, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory” (1 Timothy 3:16). Another place says this: “No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also” (1 John 2:23).
Worship - Prayer five, ten, or even twenty times a day is not enough for God. He wants our entire lives. As He told Abraham: “Walk before me faithfully and be blameless” (Genesis 17:1). The New Testament tells us to “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). Our hearts and lives, therefore, should be filled with worship every minute of every day. God doesn’t need our worship. It is we who need to worship Him. Without it, even if we claim to follow the truth, we will inevitably turn to the false gods of wealth, power, fame, or pleasure.
Charitable giving - Jesus said some shocking things, and this is one of them: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple…those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples” (Luke 14:26, 27, 33). At the very least, Jesus means that nothing comes before God; everything we possess is subject to His rule. Giving to those in need is a natural result, a mere part of an entire life owned by our Lord and Master.
Fasting - Jesus called his followers to fast (Matthew 9:14-15). Sadly, many of them today do little of it and could take an example from other religions. But beyond mere periodic fasting from food or drink, Jesus demands an entire life of fasting from ego and self. He said this about Himself: “I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me” (John 6:38). For that reason, He told his disciples something similar:
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:25-28).
Pilgrimage – “A teacher of the law came up to Jesus and said, ‘Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.’ Jesus replied, ‘Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head’” (Matthew 8:19-20). Jesus taught that our entire life on earth is one of pilgrimage. The only true holy place is heaven, the throne room of God. Mature believers admit that they are
“…foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them” (Hebrews 11:13-16).
Compliments of Scott Munger, PhD, Biblica, All rights reserved in the original.
What is your response?
Yes, today I am deciding to follow Jesus
Yes, I am already a follower of Jesus
I still have questions