THE VALUE OF RELIGION
"Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said:
‘Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious.’"
A lot of people equate being religious with being saved. It is assumed that religious people know God. Actually, neither of these assumptions is necessarily true. In fact, more often than not, there aren’t true. Some of the most religious people in the world are as lost as they could be. To the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees of His day Jesus said: “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?” To the chief priests and the elders He proclaimed: “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.”
Obviously, something about their religious behavior was inadequate. Some vital saving component was missing. And the same was true of the men of Athens. There was a temple on every corner in their city. Religious relics and statuary were everywhere. One thing was clear; these people were very religious. They were also very lost.
People aren’t saved by the temples, the rites, or any of the other trappings of religion. A man can’t build enough temples or attend enough ceremonies or perform a complex enough ritual to make himself acceptable to God. The prophet Micah addressed this idea with his question: “With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” (Mic. 6:6-7).
The men of Athens were missing the one thing that makes an actual relationship with the living God possible. They needed to hear the Gospel of Christ. They needed faith in Jesus. They needed to learn the requirement of God: “Then they asked him, "What must we do to do the works God requires?" Jesus answered, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent” (Jn. 6:28-29). Not build beautiful buildings. Not create idols to worship. Not devise elaborate rites and ceremonies to enact. Just believe and trust in Jesus! The truth is, there is no real value in religion but there is infinite value in faith. And, friends, when true faith is present, true worship and godly works follow.
--- Pastor Keith Andrews