by Terry Wane Benton

I keep hearing people talk about “religion” as a bad thing. I hear some say things like, “I believe in God but not religion,” or “I accept Jesus but reject all religion.” It’s as if they have a concept of “religion” that is all negative, but Jesus is all positive. There seems to be a disconnect between what exactly people mean and what they think they mean by the term “religion.”

James said that there is such thing as “pure religion” (James 1:27), and he, by the Spirit, exhorted us to practice “pure religion.” You cannot serve Jesus and reject practicing “pure religion.” They go together! They are not two separate things. I know that modern use of the term has invented a concept of “religion” being all bad, but that is a modern faulty concept. “Pure religion” is not bad. It is expected that you would love and serve God. Only the impure religion should be rejected. It is an impure religion that God rejects, but not the “pure religion.”

I had one guy argue that God rejects all religion. When I pointed out that God demands “pure religion” and gave him the verse, he became adamant that the translators were all wrong. Why? Because he swallowed the newly invented concept that all “religion” is bad. That concept was not around when the translators gave us the words “pure religion” in English. English usage predates the modern concept. The word in Greek is “threskia” and has been translated as “religion” for hundreds of years in English. The translators thought it was a valid word for the Greek word “threskia.” So, who gets to come along later and change the word “religion” and make it all evil? Modern usage does not get to redefine the word that for hundreds of years was just “binding back” to God as a lifestyle. You can bind back in a pure way, or you can go about binding back in an impure way. The etymology of the word is:

In English, the meaning "particular system of faith in the worship of a divine being or beings" dates from c. 1300; the sense of "recognition of and allegiance in the manner of life (perceived as justly due) to a higher, unseen power or powers" dates from the 1530s.

If we have faith in God and believe we should worship and serve Him and bind our hearts back to Him, then that is, by definition, what religion is. You practice this either purely or impurely, but you cannot escape the fact that it is your religion. Jesus gave us a particular system, a pure doctrine to follow in the New Testament, a pure example in Himself to pattern our lives after. We either do this as “pure religion,” or we do impure religion, but your faith in God is your religion, no matter what. “Pure religion” is good. Claiming to have no religion is bad. Practicing impure religion is bad. Don’t let people confuse you. You must practice pure religion if you claim any relationship with God!

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