“Though Ephraim built many altars for sin offerings, these have become altars for sinning. I wrote for them the many things of my law, but they regarded them as something alien. They offer sacrifices given to me and they eat the meat, but the Lord is not pleased with them.” (Hosea 8:11-13a)
A couple of nights ago I told my kids the quote by Billy Sunday which states, “Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to a garage makes you an automobile.” While going to church is good, they now understand that simply doing religious activities has no bearing on their salvation.
In Hosea 8, God mentions many of the sins that Israel is guilty of, noting that they will reap the whirlwind of judgment and destruction. In this case, judgment would come by way of the Assyrians.
In verses 11-13, we find that the people were conducting religious practices- building and worshipping at altars, bringing offerings, reading the laws, offering sacrifices, eating the meal-offerings, etc., but the Lord was not pleased with them. Though they were religious, their loyalties were directed towards idols, and their hearts were far from the Lord.
Modern-day examples of religious activities would be going to church, giving offering money, reading the Bible, and even taking part in communion. Again, while these may look good on the surface, they mean nothing apart from a saving relationship with Jesus.
You can go to church and not actually worship, you can give money without having a joyous or sacrificial heart, you can read the Bible and not abide in its teachings, and you can take part in communion without truly accepting the sacrifice of Jesus’ broken body and shed blood on the cross. None of these activities on their own make you Christian.
One of the greatest lies that Satan has deceived mankind with, is that religion and good works can save you. If that were true, we would bring righteousness unto ourselves, which is not possible. This is why Jesus says He did not come to call the righteous (meaning self-righteous, those who believe they can save themselves through their works), but sinners to repentance (Luke 5:32).
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Eph. 2:8-9)
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (Matt. 7:21-23)
The only way we can be reconciled to God, is through Jesus. No amount of religious activity and good deeds will save us- we must be cleansed of sin and born again by the Holy Spirit (John 3:5-7). And when we are, our hearts will be turned towards Christ, and our works will likewise be an overflow of our worship to Him.
Folks, it’s good to do good, but doing good isn’t enough. Religion can’t save us, only Christ can.
[From January 29, 2019]