Religious Retreat

Michael Beck

“Woe unto them! for they have fled from me: destruction unto them!” (Hosea 7:13)

When God Himself came down to earth He could not dislodge some zealous folks from their religion. They worshipped in His temple, they called upon His name, but when He showed up they didn’t even recognize Him. In fact, they thought He was from the other guy and they nailed Him to a cross. So much for spiritual discernment. Karl Marx called religion the opiate of the people. Never mind his version of reality, in terms of soberly comprehending truth, religion indeed has always had a way of distorting one’s ability to perceive God.

Religion offers men with a substitute for truly knowing God.

If the religion is packed neatly enough it can garner a multitude of souls seeking refuge from the face of God. The longer it’s been around, the more people it has, the more magnificent its edifices, the greater its appeal. Some rugged individualists can be happily deceived with a religion of their own making. The majority tend to cling to the sides of the ships which look the most seaworthy. But remember the Titanic sunk!  No one ever made it safely to the shores of heaven because they belonged to the “right” religion. Why? Because there is no right religion. No “ism” can save man – not Protestantism, Catholicism, Judaism, Hinduism etc., etc. Those who hang their hopes of eternal life on being plugged into the right “ism” are as foolishly deceived as those who believed the Titanic was unsinkable. Any religion which even remotely insinuates that belonging to it brings hope of salvation is a deceptive counterfeit, that drowns its victims in perdition.

How is it that men can hate the Living God enough to stone His prophets and murder His Son, yet love their religion with a burning zeal? Jesus experienced the awful power of religion and warned His followers of it, “Yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.” (John 16:2) Religion gives one the fantasy of being a God-pleaser. Religion allows one to continue to evade God; do one’s own will; work on sin at one’s own pace; and cover up one’s love of the world; all while having a form of godliness. Religion soothes the conscience; staves off conviction and keeps the true God in check. If gotten into our system early enough it can vaccinate us from God for life.

How often it is that men discover “their” religion only after being confronted by one who is interested in introducing them to God Himself. Whatever their religion is, it provides a convenient doorway to duck into until God has turned the corner and is out of view, then they can return ?to business as usual. The thought of actually having a confrontation with God is frightening; but sitting in front of a statue of God in dark silence is comforting. Albeit, venerating a statue is little different from bowing before a totem pole.

The actual God must be reduced in our minds to a manageable form. Turn Him into an old grandfatherly type who is always smiling with understanding at His rambunctious creatures, or better yet, make Him into an impersonal vapor who doesn’t know a whole lot, but emanates good vibrations to us all. Perhaps best of all is the overworked executive who sits in His command center somewhere beyond Pluto with a trillion planets to worry about and little time or attention to be concerned or aware of what little ol’ you or me is doing. Wouldn’t that be nice?

The God of the Bible is much too personal. He sees all, knows all and will one day judge our every deed, thought and motive. Don’t get too near people with such a God – they are bound to go on a religious retreat.

Michael Beck is a pastor in the Dallas, TX area and the main author on Signpost. Receive a daily devotional he publishes every morning via email.