What is the difference Between being religious (full of dead works) and having a living faith?
In Matthew 23, We find Jesus preaching hard and having a regular hissy fit with the religious leaders of his day.
But before he started rebuking them, he was careful to instruct his followers not to rebel against the "God-instituted" authority of that day (whose leadership was admittedly flawed and coming to a swift end). After that, he proceeded to flail that authority for all it was worth--publically.
He pointed out that even though they said the right things, they did not do the right things.
In chapter 23, Jesus warned his followers to, "do what they say (speaking of the scribes and Pharisees, but do not do what they do."
So, from this, we know that it is possible for a person to say all the right things and still be wrong.
In Matthew chapter 7, Jesus did not say, "Ye shall know them by their words." He said, "Ye shall know them by their fruits."
**Although the scribes and the pharisees were in a place of legitimate authority and were not false prophets, per se, the things Jesus says in Matthew chapter 7, can be very valuable in identifying the false prophets Jesus warned about in that chapter.
Having said all that, let's look at Dead Works -Vs- Living Faith.
Living Faith is rooted entirely in love and relationship. The Bible says living faith works by love, while being "religious" is always rooted in dead works.
It is possible to be saved and at the same time have our lives filled with dead works?which almost certainly choke out the living faith we should be growing in.
When Jesus swung his spiritual 2x4 at the religious leadership of his day, he pointed out how beautiful their outward appearance of holiness was.
Dead works are seductive. They appear beautiful. They feel good (read Proverbs 14:12).
They are very deceiving. Dead works can cause us to adopt a form a godliness while missing the real thing entirely.
Jesus said those who appeared to be so holy and spiritual, were nothing more than elaborately, beautifully "decorated" grave sites. They were walking dead men. Their faith was not alive. Under the lovely veneer of religion, they were full of putrefication and stunk to high heaven.
That is the case with all dead works.
And what was worse, those who looked to them for instruction in the ways of life--became like them--putrefied, stinking, children of hell. Read Matthew 23:15.
Jesus called those who depended upon adherence to rituals and the visual reinforcements of religion "blind fools."
Jesus did stress that obeying the written Word of God?the scriptures?was always
the right thing to do, but he clarified that by saying that it is the spirit?not the letter?that gives life (23:23).
The spirits, those personal non-benevolent entities, that deceived the blind religious fools of Jesus' day are still alive and well today. And they still
produce only dead works and death.
In seeking to establish their own righteousness, many, along with the scribes and the Pharisees, have rejected the righteousness that comes only by faith in the shed blood, the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ?without rituals, works or visual reinforcements. Read Romans 10:2-3, then proceed to 9-13.
Blind, religious fools do not believe they have rejected God's righteousness. There is no way we could convince most them that they are not?of all people?most holy--definitely most spiritual.
But too much of their faith is rooted in ritual, in visual reinforcement, in their own works, activities, will-power and ability.
Because of that subtle deception, many are deceived into thinking they have living faith, when in reality they are keeping company with the scribes and the Pharisees?the very ones Jesus called the walking dead.
Don't we want every part of our faith to be living?
If anyone one feels they can connect with Jesus better through any religious ritual, ceremony or by adhering to a set of activities, rules and regulations (even ones we establish for ourselves), this is not living faith. This is being religious. All such things are dead works. They are useless.
In God's eyes they are worse than useless?they stink.
Does the presence of religious pictures, symbols, images such as Jesus, crosses, so-called angels or icons of any sort give you comfort and help you feel holier and closer to God?
The Bible forbids such things and makes very clear that those who resort to visuals do not possess a living faith.
Such practices are merely religious, providing a façade of faith toward the true and living God, and a façade of spirituality, i.e., dead works.
Jesus, the Creator, is not revealed in icons, images or symbols. He is only revealed in things that were made without human hands.
Jesus, the Living Word, is revealed within the pages of the God breathed, written Word of God?the Holy Scriptures.
Jesus, the only way, the only truth and the only life, resides within those who belong to him. He is always there. He requires no ritual or visual reinforcement-beyond faith and obedience to the scriptures, in order to activate his presence and power in our lives.
In reality, these visuals detract from his presence, which needs no help from us besides a surrendered life.
We are commanded in the Word of God, the second commandment found in Deuteronomy chapter five, verse eight, not to provide ourselves with any
The scriptures say, "Blessed are those who have not seen yet believed." Faith without visuals is the purest faith.
It is a spirit of idolatry which drives people to desire visuals. We need to "see," but our sight must come only through eyes of faith.
And faith is what...?
The substance of things hoped for?the evidence of things "not" seen.
The scriptures are clear that it is sin to provide ourselves with visuals intended to reinforce our faith or to advertise our beliefs to others. Using visuals to advertise our beliefs to others is not being a witness. That is also a dead work... Not a living faith.
The religious leadership of Jesus' day did all those things?and taught others to do them as well...
And Jesus exposed them?publicly and undiplomatically?for the blind, fool hypocrites that they really were... (Matthew 23:5).