Religion, down through the ages, is the record of man’s attempt to establish a relationship with the Almighty God. Most religions have sought to find a way to appease their god, or gods, having no understanding of the one true God. As a result, we read about crazy religious practices that we may laugh at, or worse, horrify us. Many religions went so far as to sacrifice human beings in order to appease the gods. The Bible speaks about some of the pagan religions in Old Testament times where men caused their first born to pass through the fire as part of their worship. Some ancient fertility religions involved consorting with prostitutes with the idea that such a union would make the crops grow. Some religions would go the other way and set up a strict list of rules and regulations to follow so that people might be good enough for god to like them. When Christians have let religion infiltrate their faith, we have tended toward that idea of legalism.
All of these religious practices, as crazy or even, as dangerous as they may be, have one thing in common: a desire to please their god or the gods so that the follower of that religion might be acceptable in that god’s eyes. And if you read about those religions, there’s always something more to be done, there’s always something left undone. It’s these types of religious beliefs that discourage people. Think about it, if you could never do anything well enough to get success, would you keep doing it? But these religious obligations keep coming up, and many keep doing them, hoping that god or the gods will finally accept them. As followers of Christ, we have good news. None of those religious practices will make God love us. God already loves us. He sent His Son to pay the penalty for our sins. We don’t worship a god who lives far away and may stop hating us; we serve a risen Savior whose name is Immanuel – God with us. As John describes the Jerusalem in the new earth, he describes God’s presence: “I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.” (Revelation 21:22)
The final judgment has happened and it was time to reveal eternity. God brought down a new heaven and a new earth. The earth, long ago infected by the sin of Adam has been remade. As followers of Christ, we talk about being born again. The earth has undergone a similar renewal as all sin has been cleansed through the last judgment and the power of Christ. It is a land where there is no sorrow, no mourning, no pain, and no death. To those whose faithfulness had led to persecution where every day was filled with sorrow, mourning, pain, and death, this was an amazing message of hope. And the most amazing part of all this is that God Himself will be walking among us. We won’t need to worry about religious practices because we will be with God. There will be no more temples nor any more church buildings because we’ll be walking with God for all of eternity.
The presence of God. Just let that thought roll around in your head for a bit. We will be with God for eternity. I don’t worry too much when people try to tell me what eternity will look like. I’m guessing none of those people have been there. To be honest, I don’t really care about the details because I know the most important thing: God will be there with us. Yes, He’s with us now in the presence of the Holy Spirit, but sometimes I want God to respond verbally – especially in difficult times – and it doesn’t seem to happen. I can only imagine the joy and exultation of being able to walk joyfully with God instead of trying to be religious and please Him that way.
Lord, help me to introduce other people to You so that they too can experience the joy of Your presence.