February 2

Leviticus 11-13, Psalm 33

When sharing the gospel message, praying with someone publicly, listening to a message in the cafeteria, or quietly reading the Bible, a common question is, “are you religious?” This is an honest question and often well-intentioned. But the honest answer should be, “no”. Our desire should be to have a relationship with God not perform a bunch of works in an attempt to earn His love or acceptance. In fact, Jesus expressed His harshest words in Matthew 23 against the religious establishment.

When Eve responded to Satan in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3:3, it was the beginning of religion. Though God told Adam not to eat of the tree, Eve added “… nor shall you touch it, lest you die”. Adam then added further to religion in Genesis 3:7, after sinning, “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.” This was Adam’s attempt at doing his best to cover the shame of his guilt, seeking to atone for his evil by some good work. Whenever we add to God’s Word, or rules outlined in His Word we are forming religious positions. The purpose of the laws that we read today is stated in Leviticus 11:44, “For I am the Lord your God. You shall therefore consecrate yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy.” He was setting apart His people to make them Holy as He was Holy. Chapter 11 is full of the many Levitical dietary laws. What you see absent from this list of dietary laws is the separation of meat and dairy. In Exodus 23:19 we read, “…You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.” This was put in place to distinguish the Israelites from the Canaanites who would do this as a fertility rite. This was reinterpreted and added to the dietary laws where now those keeping kosher must have separate plates to keep the dairy from touching the meat. This was never the intent of the law as it was given.

Religion separates us from God’s Word and the intent of His Word.
May we never forget it is a relationship with God which we should desire, not the following of rules made by man in the name of religion. Many look at the Levitical laws, and since those of us Gentiles saved by grace don’t follow the ceremonial or dietary laws feel that religion has not crept into our lives. But anything done ritualistically in a rote fashion with no heart component is religion. Whether that be reciting a specific prayer, following new man-made church rules, etc no matter who establishes it, is religion. Paul warned in Galatians 1:8, “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.” The gospel rests completely on the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. It is all based on what He did, and not what we do. Once we add the word, “and” to grace it is no longer grace but religion. May we carefully rest on the truth of His Word, and trust in Him and Him alone.

Messages from Pastor Lloyd Pulley:

Aaron Salvato