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Saturday, January 16, 2016

A Trite Religion

Isaiah 66:1-3 Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest? For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word. He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man; he that sacrificeth a lamb, as if he cut off a dog's neck; he that offereth an oblation, as if he offered swine's blood; he that burneth incense, as if he blessed an idol. Yea, they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delighteth in their abominations.

Trite - Not interesting or effective because of being used too often: not fresh or original.

One of the synonyms for trite is "stale".  The title of the blog post could have just as easily been A Stale Religion!

In every religion there is something to do.  False religion is characterized by doing certain things to appease God and gain his favor and hopefully salvation which is defined in a host of different ways depending on the false religions one is considering.

True religion,  bible Christianity, is characterized by doing certain things because one has been made right with God by grace apart from human merit and effort.  However there are lots of things a bible Christian should do!  The real difference, as I often point out, is that the bible teaches we don't do good works to gain the favor of God but we do good works because we have the favor of God through repentance and faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In the context of bible Christianity, true religion, what we do as Christians can become "trite" or "stale" if you like that word better.  Whatever you call it we should scorn it as the plague.  A trite religion is a dying or dead religion.  Coming to church because that is just what we do.  Praying for stuff or about things instead of praying to God.  When we read our bibles it is dry and disconnected from reality.  Church is just something we do if we don't have anything better to do.  We sing without worshipping.  We listen to sermons without hearing.  We are churchy at church time and worldly the rest of the time.  We pray with our hearts unhumbled and our eyes half open.  It is quintessential "having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof".

When Jesus disappears from what we are "doing" then what we are "doing" loses all its meaning!  Ours is a relational religion.  If the relationship is lacking our religion becomes "trite" or "stale".  Without Jesus at the center of what we are "doing" all the "doing" becomes mechanical.  It ceases to have warmth and zest!  It ceases to be emotional because it has ceased to be relational!  We are no longer excited and anticipating going to church because it is something we do instead of because of who we know!  Prayer is difficult because it is a list of things instead of a talk with the Father in Jesus name!  Bible reading is drudgery because we are counting pages or chapters instead of looking for Jesus and relevance!  Singing is underwhelming because we are singing a song instead of singing about Jesus!

Result: Religion is Trite!

The passage before us addresses this very issue.  It essentially follows this logic.  We need a fresh view and a bold renewal.  If we do not have this our religion will become trite.

Verse one and the first part of verse two is where we are challenged to have a fresh view.

The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool

God is big!  Stop for a minute and take in the imagery that is deployed to arrest our attention and make us think, "WOW! God is immense!  To often we have a little God!  But a little God is not the God of the bible.  The God of the bible is big.  He should be filling our view!  A trite religion is the result of having trifling thoughts of God!  Religious acts cease to be trite when done with a conscience awareness of the magnitude of God.

where is the house that ye build unto me?

Don't be lulled into thinking that God's prescribed method of worship is an indication that he can be contained.  Because God purposed to especially reveal himself in a tabernacle, or temple, or congregation of baptized believers, or in prayer, or a hymn, or in the word of God we should never thing that God is completely contained within those things.  Not one or all of them.  God predates the Jewish temple.  God is in the church and the church is in God.  God is not just hearing prayer he is hearing everything.  It is not the hymn that exalts God it is God that exalts the hymn.  The word of God does not extend to the limits of God but it does extend beyond our own limits.  Our religion is trite because we perceive our God as small, and disconnected, and distant, and inconsequential.

and where is the place of my rest?

Where does God settle in?  We perceive God as inattentive but he is truly engaged at a level we have a hard time grasping.   He neither slumbers or sleeps.  He is active.  We think that he, like us, needs a rest.  Omnipotence does not tire!  Omnipotence need not disengage to seek a place and time of rest.  Our religion is trite because we experience God as stagnant.

For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been

Our God made the throne upon which he sits, and the earth upon which he rests his feet.  Our God made the house in which he is worshipped.  God is the origin of all things!  He is in everything!  We see him in little and possibly nothing and our religion becomes trite!  There is nothing that cannot ultimately be traced back to the great I AM!  Everything is about him although we live in a world that conducts itself as though nothing is about him!  We lose the wonder of his presence and the awe of his person and religion becomes a stale exercise.

At the end of verse two we are invited to experience a bold renewal.

But to this man will I look

God, of course, sees everything.  When he says to this man will I "look" he is saying it is this man that I will regard, it is this man that I will respect.  To be regarded by God is to keep our religion form becoming trite!

even to him that is poor

Poor is not just a reference to economic standing but to disposition of mind.  To be poor is to be depressed in mind and circumstances.  It is the essence of humility.  A truly humble man is more likely to have a fresh and interesting religion.  A trite religion is the possession of a proud man.  A stale religion is the curse of arrogance.  While God is in everything and it all originates with him our tendency is to see ourselves in everything.  We view everything through the lens of self-importance rather than the lens self-abasement.  God is little because we are big!

and of a contrite spirit

Contrite is a powerful word that is laden with emotion.  It involves the idea of being smitten, dejected.  It is a feeling, or showing sorrow and remorse for a sin or shortcoming.  Our religion is trite because we are not contrite!  The more important we see ourselves the more trite and stale our religion becomes.  Think about it.  We panic if we leave our cellphone somewhere.  "What if someone needs to make contact with me?"  I'm actually a supporter of social media however we must keep our heads about us.  Few things have done more to give people a sense of self-importance like social media.  With four people telling us how smart, or beautiful, or caring, or spiritual, or remarkable we are it is hard to be contrite.  And, lets face it, it's easier to seek the approval of man than of God.  Especially of those who hardly know us.

The Lord has regard to the man with a contrite spirit.  When we are contrite, broken, coming to church is a privilege, praying is humbling work, singing is occasion for adoration and praise, bible reading is time for honesty and self-reflection comparing ourselves with a holy God and his son the Lord Jesus Christ rather than all the sinners around us.

and trembleth at my word

We tremble because we are fearful, afraid.  For a generation now we have been marching to the drumbeat of tolerance and acceptance.  When God speaks he expects us to pay attention.  We push aside his precepts, stiffen our necks at his statutes, cast aside his commandments and we complain that we don't get anything out of our religion.  The reality is that God regards the man that regards him!  A trembling man will not have a trite religion.  A reverential awe for the fact that God has spoken goes a long way in keeping religion fresh!  He who is more attentive to what the world says is a man who will end up with a trite religion.  Going through the motions because that is what respectable people do.

Then in verse three we have the full-blown fruit of a trite religion.

He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man; he that sacrificeth a lamb, as if he cut off a dog's neck; he that offereth an oblation, as if he offered swine's blood; he that burneth incense, as if he blessed an idol

He is doing all the right things but it does not mean anything.  He is at the place of worship but his heart is somewhere else.  He is doing and God is not regarding.  His religion has become trite and stale!  He does not rightly esteem the prescribed worship because he does not rightly esteem God!  His offerings are fresh but his heart is stale!  He does the right thing, at the right time, in the right place and he is unmoved by it.

Yea, they have chosen their own ways

This is not the attitude of a humble man.  This is not the attitude of a contrite man.  This is not the attitude of a man who trembles at the word of God.

and their soul delighteth in their abominations

But God does not!  They feel good about what they have done but they have not gotten anything out of what they have done.  They feel better about themselves but they are not better within themselves.  This is the result of a trite religion.

God give us a fresh view!  God give us a bold renewal!  God deliver us from a trite religion!
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