What is Bad Religion?

Have you ever been disappointed or even angry with religion? Perhaps you’ve heard someone say that the church is full of hypocrites. Maybe you’ve even said that yourself!

This is a passage of Scripture that we looked at last night, the first is out series on Decision: Seeking God’s Guidance. At the end, you’ll see how this chapter fits into the topic.

Isaiah rebuked Israel for practicing bad religion—religion that benefited no one and offended God (Isaiah 58:1–14). The prophet specifically zeroed in on fasting (Isaiah 58:2–5), pointing out ways in which the people misused this important spiritual discipline:

  • They nagged God in the interests of their own personal gain.
  • While seeking their own self-interests, they exploited their laborers.
  • Their fasts became a source of strife, debate, and hostility toward others.
  • They used severe fasting practices to call attention to themselves.

After challenging these practices, Isaiah described what true fasting ought to be like (Isaiah 58:6–13):

  • It should result in bringing relief to the oppressed.
  • It should result in feeding the hungry.
  • It should result in the poor being taken into homes for shelter and clothing.
  • Superior attitudes of finger pointing and evil should decline and ultimately disappear.
  • It should lead to repairing things, including damaged relationships.
  • It should involve treating the Sabbath as a day to worship the Lord rather than continuing to work for personal gain.

It’s easy to point the finger at others and criticize or ridicule their religious practices and spiritual life, but what about your own patterns of faith? How do they measure up to the Lord’s description of true religion? If there are places where you need to change, find at least one other person who will hold you accountable for making the necessary reforms.

For me, Isaiah 58:11 ties this chapter to the key on seeking God’s guidance: The Lord will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. Pay attention to THIS chapter to better position yourself to hear from God and allow him to guide you.

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