Religion Without Tears
We all understand the reason for the sacrifice of Jesus: to pay the penalty for our sins. That sacrifice also requires something from us: to live as a sacrifice to God (2 Corinthians 5:15).
However, many people do not want to “stop living for themselves.” Many people have deceived themselves into believing that what pleases them is what pleases God. They want, in effect, a religion without self-sacrifice, a religion with no tears.
The idea of “attending the church of your choice” is not new. It is very old selfishness, very old paganism, and a form of very old idolatry. About 3,000 years ago, a man in the Old Testament tried to do that very thing—to establish a religion based on what man liked. Let’s look at that event, what he did, and how God responded.
Changes Jeroboam Made
Under King Rehoboam, Solomon’s son, Jeroboam returned from Egypt and became the chief spokesman for the “tax cut” party of the nation of Israel. It was in that position that he was elected their king. Read the changes Jeroboam made as king of these tribes in the confederacy of Israel (1 Kings 12:25-33):
- He changed the object of worship from God to golden calves (vs. 28). Observe his words: “Israel, these are the gods that brought you out of Egypt.” Note that Jeroboam was not intending to establish a “new religion;” he was simply trying to aid his followers in worshiping the God of heaven in a way that appealed to their senses and emotions. He wanted them to stay home, so he tried to provide an addition to worship that would accomplish that end.
- He changed the place of worship from Jerusalem to Bethel and Dan (vs. 29).
- He changed the priesthood from Levi to any of the people (vs. 31).
- He changed the time of worship from the seventh to the eighth month (vs. 33). This was the Feast of Tabernacles, which was to be celebrated in the seventh month (Leviticus 23:34ff).
Why did Jeroboam violate the law of God and create a religion after his own likeness? Note verses 26-27—Jeroboam was afraid of losing popularity. Everybody likes to be liked; we like to be comfortable. Few people like being told that the path they are going to take is going to require pain, sacrifice, and self-denial. Many people would love to be doctors and lawyers for the salary and perks that come with it, but they back out when they realize how demanding the training is.
Religion is fundamental to man. The people who actually practice no religion are considerably in the minority. Man has to deny a fundamental urge within the human heart to worship in order to be a non-practitioner of a religion. So, Jeroboam believed it would be better for his people to at least worship somewhere and somehow as to not worship at all.
It is clear that God does not accept this “religion with no tears/no sacrifice” mentality. “What a terrible sin this was” (1 Kings 12:30). Religion is not about what pleases me; it’s about pleasing God. God let Jeroboam know, both through miraculous signs, and through the word of the prophet Ahijah, that He does not like this go-along-to-get-along religion (1 Kings 13:1-5; 14:6-14).
It was a sin because the source of authority for Jeroboam’s actions was found “in his own heart” (vss. 26,33). There was no “Thus says the Lord” behind his actions. He could not point to a book, chapter, and verse for his actions. He was denying the holiness of God by ignoring the authority of God. Man has to change God’s plan if he wants to have his way. The phrase “word of God” is scarcely found in chapter 12, but in chapter 13, where God punished disobedience, the expression is found 10 times!
Religion without tears is a religion without sacrifice, and that religion will never save anyone.
Copyright © 2014 by Paul Holland, in Droplets of Living Water, October 27.