Why It Is Wise to Examine Your Religion
WE HAVE good reason to think seriously about our standing with God. Why? Because the evidence proves that God will soon destroy the wicked and establish his righteous new system. So we need to ask: “Am I worshiping God in the way that he approves?”
It is not any man, but God, who is the judge of what pleases him. And to get God’s viewpoint, we need to go to the Bible. There he plainly tells us the course to follow if we want to gain eternal life. (Prov. 3:1, 2) If we take to heart what he says and apply it in our lives, it will result in marvelous blessings for us, both now and in the ages to come.
DOES GOD APPROVE OF ALL RELIGION?
When we examine what the Bible says on this matter, what do we find? Does it teach that the hundreds of millions of persons who practice religion in so many different ways are all pleasing to God? Does it show that all religion is good?
To enable us to know how he views the matter, God had this plain statement recorded in his Word: “Broad and spacious is the road leading off into destruction, and many are the ones going in through it; whereas narrow is the gate and cramped the road leading off into life, and few are the ones finding it.” (Matt. 7:13, 14) How clearly those words answer our questions! They show that many people are not worshiping God in a way that pleases him. Only a few are on the road leading to life.
PRACTICES DISAPPROVED BY GOD
Probably you find yourself readily agreeing with the fact that much religion is not approved by God. No doubt there are many things done in the name of religion that you do not approve. For example, if you look around in the churches and observe persons who live immoral lives but who make a pretense at being righteous, you know that something is wrong. (2 Tim. 3:4, 5) And when you read in the newspaper that some clergymen are publicly approving of sex relations between unmarried persons and that they are saying that homosexuality is all right under certain conditions, you are well aware that this is not what God says.
You may remember that God destroyed the ancient cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. And why? Because they practiced such things! The Bible says: “So too Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities about them, after they in the same manner as the foregoing ones had committed fornication excessively and gone out after flesh for unnatural use, are placed before us as a warning example by undergoing the judicial punishment of everlasting fire.” (Jude 7) So you know that God is not going to approve of a religion that tells people it is all right to act like that.
IMPORTANCE OF RIGHT DOCTRINE
However, you have no doubt heard people say: “It doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you lead a clean moral life and deal kindly with your neighbors.” But is that all there is to worshiping God in an acceptable way? These things are necessary, but God requires more. Doctrines are also involved. The Bible informs us that “the true worshipers will worship the Father with spirit and truth.”—John 4:23.
If our worship is to be acceptable to God, it must be firmly rooted in God’s Word of truth. Jesus reproved those persons who claimed to serve God but who relied heavily on the traditions of men in preference to God’s Word. He applied to them God’s own words from Isaiah 29:13, saying: “It is in vain that they keep worshiping me, because they teach commands of men as doctrines.” (Matt. 15:9) Since we do not want our worship to be in vain, it is important for each one of us to examine his religion.
We need to examine, not only what we personally believe, but also what is taught by any religious organization with which we may be associated. Are its teachings in full harmony with God’s Word, or are they based on the traditions of men? If we are lovers of the truth, there is nothing to fear from such an examination. It should be the sincere desire of every one of us to learn what God’s will is for us, and then to do it.—John 8:32.
The mere fact that church members may have the Bible or that it is occasionally read to them from the pulpit does not of itself prove that all the things they are taught are in the Bible. It is good to have the Bible; each and every person should. But we must also know what it says and believe it. If a religion really accepts the Bible as God’s Word, it is not going to use certain parts of it and reject other parts. “All Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight.” (2 Tim. 3:16) Since this is so, the religion that is approved by God must agree in all its details with the Bible.
SINCERITY ALONE NOT ENOUGH
The man who wants to please God must be sincere. But sincerity alone does not make one’s religion approved in God’s eyes. The apostle Paul was moved by God’s spirit to write concerning certain ones in his day: “I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God; but not according to accurate knowledge; for, because of not knowing the righteousness of God but seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God.”—Rom. 10:2, 3.
As a result, their sincerity was misdirected. Their problem was that they were looking in the wrong direction for instruction. They held onto the Jewish religious system, which had rejected God’s Son and so was itself rejected by God.—Acts 2:36, 40; Prov. 14:12.
What, then, of the religions that take the name of Christ and profess to accept him as their Lord? Does their preaching in his name guarantee that they meet with God’s approval? In view of the scriptures already considered, perhaps you have concluded that it does not. If so, then on this matter you agree with Jesus Christ, the one whom God has appointed as heavenly judge; because he warns us, saying: “Not everyone saying to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of the heavens, but the one doing the will of my Father who is in the heavens will. Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name . . . ?’ And yet then I will confess to them: I never knew you! Get away from me, you workers of lawlessness.”—Matt. 7:21-23.
DOING GOD’S WILL NECESSARY
Knowledge of the Bible and of God’s will is essential for God’s approval. But, as Jesus said, it is the doing of that will that counts. One must have works that are consistent with what one has learned. “Faith without works is dead,” the Bible says. (Jas. 2:26) To please God, then, one’s religion must be in full harmony with the Bible and be applied in every activity of life.—Luke 6:46-49.
Jesus said that you could recognize whether a man practices the true religion by his “fruits,” that is, the things he does. (Matt. 7:20) In the same way, we can recognize a religion by the kind of people it produces. True religion ought to produce better persons—better husbands and fathers, better wives and mothers. It should produce persons who are honest, who stand out among others because they do what is right. Is that not what you would expect of a religion that truly draws one close to God? God looks for these things too, and they determine whether a religion is approved of God or not.
Certainly you do not want to be classed with those who are refused entry into the kingdom of God because of failure to do God’s will. It will be to your benefit, then, to get well acquainted with the Bible. Follow the course of those ancient Beroeans whom God’s Word approves because they “received the word with the greatest eagerness of mind, carefully examining the Scriptures daily as to whether these things were so.”—Acts 17:11.
TESTS TO ENDURE
As you examine God’s Word, you will learn that your love for God will be put to the test. This test may come from close friends or relatives, perhaps members of your own household, who will not approve of your examining the Scriptures. As Jesus explained: “Indeed, a man’s enemies will be persons of his own household.” (Matt. 10:36, 37; 1 Pet. 4:4) These persons may oppose you in all sincerity, because they do not know the marvelous truths found in the Bible. So, rather than forsaking the worship that you have learned is correct, perhaps you can help these misguided opposers to understand the wonderful Bible truths.
On occasion the opposition may come from persons who have no love for God. If this should occur, remember, having God’s approval is far more important than having the approval of men. It is God, not man, who will give you eternal life if you love Him above everyone and everything else.—Matt. 22:37-39.
Always look to God for his help and guidance. Keep on praying, as did the psalmist: “O Jehovah, hear my prayer . . . Teach me to do your will, for you are my God.” (Ps. 143:1, 10) If you sincerely want to know and practice the religion that he approves, he will answer your prayer. And he will bring you into association with those who really do “worship the Father with spirit and truth.”—John 4:23; Matt. 7:7, 8.