Have you ever wondered what is the difference between "vain" religion and "true" religion? It is the love of God. One has it, the other does not. The works that faith produces would be impossible without the love of God. Jesus said "have faith in God" in Mark 11:22 (better translated "the faith which God gives"). He would not have told us to have it if it was unattainable. Understand that it is through the word of God that we are made aware of the promises that we have as God's children. However, let us focus not on the promises so much, but knowing the one through whom we have been given the "exceeding great and precious" promises. We receive these promises by faith. In order for us to get past "head" knowledge of these promises in our lives and walk in the fullness of them, there's Jude 3:
Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.
"Earnestly contend"...how do we do that? How do we obtain and maintain the faith in God that Jesus referred to in Mark 11:22? Jude 20 says this:
But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost,
Then verses 21 and 22:
keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And of some have compassion, making a difference:
We are instructed to abide in the love of God and to show his compassion.
Friends, vain religion and the religious spirit that fuels it is completely devoid of the love of God. It is cold and selfish. Vain religion's reward is to be seen of men and goes hand in hand with the man or woman who shows partiality or is a "respecter of persons". Pride is at the center of it. There is no person more full of himself and starving for attention than a person operating with a religious spirit. Then there are those quick to heap praise on such an individual, hoping to attain that same level of "respect" some day.This is the same spirit in operation both in the church and in the world system - looking to receive accolades from men. The flip side to this is the "fear of man"-not wanting to "ruffle any feathers" and hoping to stay in the good graces of one's peers and those in a position of influence.
Thank God that His word tells us that he is not a respecter of persons - rather, He regards it as sin (James 2:9). "Religion" has given true religion a bad name. James 1:27 gives the proper definition of what our Father sees as pure religion:
Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.
The deeds that pure religion produces have a pure motive.That is the love of God...nothing else. Not to bring glory to the person performing the deeds because the doer understands that all glory belongs to his Master. He is not building his own kingdom, he is expanding the Kingdom of God. He is just a bondslave doing his Lord's bidding...gladly. The mature believer has progressed beyond the "hearing" stage. He or she has put the Word to work, knowing that in the doing of the Word, the reward is received not on the earth, but in Heaven. Eternal life is our Heavenly reward. Jesus told His disciples to "Rejoice, because your names are written in Heaven" (Luke 10:20b) not so much because of the works that they did.
The Father's Will is that we do all for His glory. Show our faith by our works - not "vain" works designed to draw attention to ourselves, but that His Will be done in earth as in Heaven. The Pharisee in Jesus' parable in Luke 18:9-14 is an example of vain religion. He never understood that it wasn't about him. The publican, in his sinful state, understood. There is no better way to get God's attention than with a humble, repentant heart.
This Kingdom's work is of God; not of man. Ultimately, to God belongs the Kingdom, the power and the glory - forever...Amen!