During the War of 1812, Francis Scott Key wrote the words for “The Star-Spangled Banner.” In the fourth stanza, he included the phrase, “And this be our motto: ‘In God is our Trust.”
For many years that was the unofficial motto of the USA. On June 30, 1956, President Eisenhower made “In God We Trust” the official national motto. It is printed on all our currency. Anybody looking at our cash would think we are a religious country.
And we are. Recent studies show that a majority of Americans believe in God and say religion is very important in their lives. Chances are, if you are reading this religious column you would agree.
But there are dangers to being religious. In the Bible, God gives serious warnings to religious people. God wants you to make sure your religion is real. How do you know?
First, you need to examine your life. In Romans 2:21-22, God warned very religious people—the Jews. They had the truth in their Scriptures, but there was a problem. Their lives didn’t back it
up. God said, “Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal? Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege?”
It doesn’t matter how religious you are if you disobey God’s commands. Being religious won’t fix that. The first step to real religion is to admit that you have broken God’s law. Don’t pretend that you are OK just because you attend church, have a Bible, or have been baptized.
Second, if you want to make sure your religion is real, you need to examine your heart.
Did you hear about the visitor that showed up one Sunday in a more formal, liturgical church?
He got excited about something the minister said, and declared, “Amen, praise the Lord!”
Someone tapped him on the shoulder and whispered, “We don’t praise the Lord in here.” Another member nearby said, “Yes we do, on page 15 of the Lectionary.”
It is easy for any religious person to go through the motions without ever thinking about the truth. Many churches today don’t really have much truth.
They might have a lot of ceremony and ritual. But many of them deny the inerrancy of the Bible, the virgin birth of Jesus Christ, and the reality of biblical miracles.
If any religion had outward ceremonies, it was the Jewish religion. In Romans 2:29, God said
this to them, “But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.”
Religious hypocrisy and formalism are offensive to God. In your heart, repent of these sins, and trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ. Only then will your religion be real before God.
Pastor Stephen Howard is from Morrow Bible Church.