Religion can be very destructive to your relationship with the Lord. Do you understand what I mean by that? It is very easy for a Christian to begin feeling he can please God and merit His favor by religious works. It is right to pray, but the moment you feel you can earn God’s favor by your prayer life you have made your prayers futile. You should keep the commandments of God, but you nullify them when you think you are gaining points with God. Religious works are only productive when your left hand doesn’t know what your right hand is doing (Matthew 6:3).
Jesus confronted the religiosity of the scribes and Pharisees in the 23rd chapter of Matthew. Eight times Jesus said, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” He had compassion on the multitudes but only contempt for the religious Pharisees. The self-centeredness of man will destroy a relationship with the Lord quicker than anything else. Let’s look at one of the woes.
Matthew 23:23 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.
The religious nature of man always puts the emphasis on works and in doing so they neglect the more important matters of justice, mercy and faith. What you do has some significance, but what you become in Christ is far more important. Yet, the majority of church organizations and denominations are involved in works.
What is the most important thing for you to do after you become a Christian? Most Christians would probably say that witnessing and inviting people to their church was the most important thing. However, the most important thing is for you to begin the process of being born of God. I know what most Christians would say to that – “We were born of God when we received Jesus Christ as our personal Savior.” Here is what the Scripture says about that. As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name. John 1:12. Becoming a Christian doesn’t mean that you are now born of God. It means that you now have the right to become children of God, the right to begin the process of being born of God. And if you neglect the weightier matters of justice, mercy and faith it won’t happen. You will just become another religious Pharisee.
Israel thought they could attain righteousness and favor with God by keeping the law, but instead they stumbled at the stumbling Stone. Jesus Christ is a stumbling Stone to the religious. Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling Stone. Romans 9:31-32.
No one can attain righteousness through works. You cannot do enough good works, pray enough prayers, read enough scriptures or worship enough to attain righteousness. You cannot change your nature. Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Then may you also do good who are accustomed to do evil. Jeremiah 13:23. You cannot change your nature any more than an Ethiopian can change the color of his skin or any more than a leopard can change his spots. Nothing good can come out of man. There is none righteous, no, not one…There is none who does good, no, not one. Romans 3:10, 12. That remains true even after you become a Christian. If your prayers are not the prayers of the Holy Spirit through you, they are ineffective. If your works are not the works of the Lord through you, they are ineffective. If when you read the Scriptures you are not partaking of the life of Christ, you will not change. If when you worship it is not the Lord worshiping through you, you worship in vain (Hebrews 2:12). If God has mercy on you, it will not be because of something you did; it will simply be because He chose to have mercy on you. I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion. So then it is not of him who wills nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. Romans 9:15-16.
The weightier matters of justice, mercy, faith, love, etc., are most important because they are the evidences of Christ coming forth in you. They are the evidences that you are being born of God. But remember that these weightier matters are not of us; they are of Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. II Corinthians 4:7.
Copyright © 2006 by Henry DuBose