The Word of God speaks again!
Early in the morning, as I was on my knees praying for the Presidential Election in my country, I read Matthew 3 as part of my personal daily Bible Study programme.
The two lessons that the Holy Spirit taught me through His Word are that:
- Repentance Precedes Religion; and
- Religion Is Still Relevant.
The Pharisees and Sadducees - the clergy - of John's day (John the Baptist, cousin of Jesus) were believers in his message of water baptism. That is why they came to him in the first place! Would you be baptised by anybody if you did not first subscribe to his or her message?
WHY the clergy believed in John is a topic for another day, but for now, let us look at John's conversation with them.
Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judea, and all the region round about Jordan, and were baptised of him in Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, "O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance." (Matthew 3:5-8)
The clergy is already "spiritual" by any human standard. Indeed, they are the very ones who perform rites and rituals for others to participate in their faith.
Their going for baptism is like we going to church activities today. (Religion) However, John knew by the Spirit that they were trying to "be good" in order to receive salvation. He basically set the record straight by telling them that BEFORE you get involved with Religion, you must first possess REPENTANCE.
According to Princeton:
re·pent·anceTherefore, REPENTANCE PRECEDES RELIGION. Your cell group participation, church attendance and ushering etc. means NOTHING and does NOTHING to help you "escape from the wrath to come"... UNLESS you first have a RELATIONSHIP with God. This is the result of repentance. Yes, a Relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
- The action of repenting; sincere regret or remorse
- - each person who turns to God in genuine repentance and faith will be saved
How can you know if you have repented? There are "fruits"! Just like there is the "fruit" of a Spirit-filled life. (fruit of the Spirit cf. Galatians 5:22)
Until you have fruits that REFLECT (meet) your repentance, Religion is meaningless.
Then comes the next question, Is Religion irrelevant? Can we be followers of Jesus without going to church, through water baptism, serving in our cellgroups, attending to prayer house and so on?
The answer lies in what Jesus told John the Baptist just before John tried to stop our Lord from His "Religion" (baptism - a religious act):
And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness. (Matthew 3:15)
YES! Religion is relevant. The truth is simply this - that Jesus Christ as Lord and God with us - did NOT have to go through water baptism, YET HE WENT THROUGH WITH IT.
Why? Simply because it was the right thing to do!
It is right to go to church regularly!
It is right to be water baptised!
It is right to attend cellgroup meetings!
It is right to pray consistently at prayer house!
It is right to fast!
It is RELEVANT to do the right thing. Thus, it is NOT correct to say that if you are an active churchgoer, you are "over-spiritual". It is alright to have Religion. However, you must remember at all times that "Repentance precedes Religion". Only then will your religion be true and acceptable to God.