May 14 – Religiousness

Read: 1Samuel 15:1-16:23, John 8:1-20, Psalm 110:1-7, Proverbs 15:8-10

“What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams. Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft, and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols. So because you have rejected the command of the Lord, he has rejected you as king.” (1 Samuel 15:22-23)

Relate: I think it is quite possible that 1 Samuel 15:23 was the verse my dad quoted to me more than any other when I was a teenager. The thing is, I loved God. I was passionate for him, active in witnessing to my friends, and involved in some sort of church/youth function at least 5 days a week. When my grades weren’t good enough I was grounded from going to church. Yes, my dad was a pastor but this was the only thing that worked. At school and in the community, I was a saint. At home, I was a devil. When I was out in public I said and did all the right things. In my own, Pentecostal “relationship not religion” way, I was very religious. But when I got home, it was like a switch was turned off and the darkness came in.

I think I was a lot like Saul. He wanted to be seen as religious and godly. When Samuel confronted him about his sin, first Saul said, “I didn’t do anything wrong.” When the lie was proven he then said, “Please don’t leave. Worship with me because everybody is watching.” Yes, he was acknowledging his sin, but he wasn’t repenting. He was merely trying to keep up appearances of being religious.

React: There’s that well-meaning but misguided viral youtube video, “Why I hate religion but love Jesus.” Religion has received a bad rap over the past few decades, but even those of us who try our hardest to distance ourselves from being “religious” still tend to be very religious. We may not light candles, burn incense, or some such but we have our own way of being religious. This isn’t a bad thing. We are rebelling against a liturgy and tradition that are very rich in depth and meaning if we are willing to dig into it. There is a beauty to a Latin Mass, to a Greek Orthodox service, or to a high church service that in my self-righteousness I have called idolatry. There is also a beauty to a country church with folding chairs where the worship includes a guitar, a few tambourines, and a lot of dancing. How we offer up our sacrifices isn’t what is important. What is important is whether or not our religiousness is born in obedience, carried out with humility, and flowing out of love. Does my Sunday sacrifice find its fruit in Tuesday’s obedience? Or am I just a religious pastor on Sunday and a rebellious warlock the rest of the week?


Dear God,
Help me to live in obedience. While not ignoring or downplaying my religious sacrifices, let my lifestyle be to You my greatest offering. I want to give to You a heart that is fully surrendered, not just a reputation that claims to be Yours. I want to give You a love that is deep and rich and active, not just a life that is active only when others are looking. Let my obedience be more important than my reputation.


27 thoughts on “May 14 – Religiousness

  1. This is so awesome! My pastor was just speaking on this last Sunday, I believe it to be confirmation from God. Obedience is most definitely better than sacrifice. Thank you for being obedient to calling that God has placed over your life. Be Blessed!

  2. I was thinking as I was reading this that it is surely evident that God made man in His own image. Isn’t what we want most from our children is obedience? Yesterday was Mother’s Day — a day I despise. I used to tell my kids when they were growing up that if they really loved me, don’t get me a gift, don’t make me a card, just make your bed, clean your room, and don’t fight for a whole day. I don’t believe they ever succeeded. How frustrating it is to be a parent — and how frustrated our Heavenly Father must get with all of us at times.

  3. Good point re keeping appearances. We’d rather look good than be good. The hard thing about being good is that it sets you down … down … at the foot of the cross. Humility. We don’t wear that virtue very well. There’s the appearances thing.
    It’s not gonna change in my life, your life, until we don’t care about appearances. When I don’t matter, but Jesus does. ‘Cause when he matters most, I find that–in his eyes–I matter very, very much. So … setting aside all concerns about my image before the world frees me to look to Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of my faith.
    I’ve got a long ways to go but who’s keeping score?

  4. Great post, thank you so much. It is so important to remember that worship is primarily a matter of the heart, a response to what God has done in Jesus. It is not about the externals, helpful though they may be.

  5. Blessings,
    I couldn’t agree more, obedience is much more important than sacrifices and gives us the ability to be the same man God has made us into at all times which exudes His character because God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Thanks for sharing this post, true encouragement, yet, insightful. Many blessings to you and yours.

  6. Awesome post. Years ago I found God again when my life was at an all time low. We need more religion in the world for it has become an evil place to live in. All of us need to go back to our roots and practice religion in the way God meant us to. Obedience to God has been lost and when we find it again we can start Loving and caring for each other as God meant us to be.

  7. Yes- true faith is a matter of the secret heart. Everything else is a matter of taste.
    We’re all going to the same destination- but you have a choice of which train you want to ride.

  8. Wow, I can relate to this post, and sometimes struggle with obedience. Obedience is always better than sacrifice and I have learned that obeying God graces you with more favor. You really reap the benefits for obeying God. Thanks for sharing.

  9. BJ,
    My husband is paralyzed from the chest down and an on-going health issue has kept us from attending church for about the last 6 months. On Sundays, I break out a hymnal I have here and engage in my own little service. One of the things (and there have been so many) that God has revealed to me regarding my own worship is that I was much more concerned with being greatly moved than I was with greatly moving Him. I have always preferred more contemporary praise music and just kind of sang along with hymns. But as I’ve gone through the hymnal by myself these many Sundays, the beauty of the theology and the TRUTH expressed has absolutely changed me. I have repented of my attitude and have asked God to open more and more the meaning of worshiping in “spirit and truth.” Oh, Lord let me move your heart! Thanks for sharing.
    Glimpsed Glory

  10. I think there is a bit of “spectacle” in every service every week at every church. A clear understanding of why we do and an honest motivation for doing supersedes the what we do.

  11. The chosen punishment for getting bad grades was funny to me 🙂 For some reason. Maybe because it was unexpected/absurd, or maybe because it was expected/deemed the just punishment after some thinking? It had a sort of cynical ‘William Gibson’ tinge about it.

  12. Ah, but there IS a big difference between religiousness, “being religious” and being spiritual, which is what Christ Jesus came to demonstrate and expound on. As you stated, there is beauty in some of the different traditions of man and there can be a place and time for those traditions, but when you get down to it, are we “walking in the spirit” or “worshipping the Father, IN Spirit and in Truth?” Being spiritual is as you hinted at, based in love, first, love of God our Father and Christ Jesus, and second, love of our neighbor as Jesus stated in Matthew 22:37-40. A person can go to a “religious ceremony” and be spiritual, but many go as obligation (which is different than obedience) and are NOT spiritual. There hearts are not in line with their actions, which denotes the difference between obligation and that of obedience, of which is when the heart and actions are in line with the Spirit.
    But, I came by to thank you for stopping by my new blog and since I believe there is no coincidence when attempting to walk in the Spirit, I know the Holy Spirit brought you by so that I would find this awesome blog!! You never know where the Lord will lead you for inspiration and encouragement and I for one am constantly looking for more “gleanings” from the Word of God!
    I look forward to making time and coming back and browsing through the many, many categories you have. I praise God that so many Christians have put their talents to use so that others may partake in the treasures the Holy Spirit has gifted the Body (Church) with! Until later, God bless you richly as you continue to serve (minister) with a heart of love AND obedience!!

  13. Thank you BJ, if obedience is linked to not just what we do, but also what we think, and I think it is, there is a gulf in me, that through His grace I am asking Him to close. Oh, to have the mind of Christ. Blessings my friend.

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