My sister had dinner with some old friends from high school last night. It had been years since she had seen some of them and it provided a time to reminisce and catch up on each other’s lives.
One of the women told my sister she has no use for organized religion. She said she goes to God on her terms. That makes me sad.
The problem with organized religion, according to Isaiah, is the rules. “The Lord says; These people come near to me with their mouths and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men” (29:13)
Churches can get caught up in rules. Women must never wear slacks. Their heads must always be covered. You have to be baptized as an infant. You have to be baptized as an adult. You must be sprinkled. You must be dunked. You must take Communion every Sunday. You must not eat meat on Fridays. You must repeat a prayer ten times. You must not use electricity or drive a car. You must worship on Saturday. You must worship on Sunday. You must not go to movies. You must not drink alcohol. You must not dance.
I could go on. I’m not saying rules are unnecessary. However, God is much more interested in our hearts in his spiritual kingdom.
I think organized religion is a good thing. It is intended to provide a community of believers with teaching and encouragement. It should offer a place where believers go to prepare to share Jesus with their neighbors and friends. It should be a place where God is exalted and worshiped, where Jesus is proclaimed as God in the flesh, and where the Holy Spirit is free to work in the hearts of those who attend. It should not be a place where godless people feel comfortable.
I love attending my church where our denominational identity is in its name. You can know where we stand before you enter our doors. So I think organized religion is a good thing. But let’s not allow the rules to overshadow the real reason we gather. Let’s not make our churches a place where following rules is more important than our hearts’ condition.
Because our hearts’ condition is what God is most interested in. When we meet Jesus face to face he isn’t going to ask us how often we had Communion. He’s going to ask us if we know him as our Savior and Lord.
I’m praying for my sister’s friend. The Bible is clear that you can’t go to God on any terms but his. There is no other name under heaven by which we can be saved. And that is Jesus.
I’m praying for you, too. I pray that each of us will attach ourselves to a Bible-believing body of Christians who worship God in spirit and truth. I pray that our churches will provide the teaching and encouragement we need to share our faith with lost souls. May we enjoy the best of what organized religion has to offer and use it to further God’s kingdom.