From Faith To Religion.

1Samuel 15 relates the story of how King Saul went from having faith to being religious and along the way, lost the crown.  One of the parts of this story that really resonates with me is Samuel’s emotional pain due to this transition, up all night praying for Saul when God brings His decree, and Samuel mourned for Saul –not for the loss of being King, but for the loss of relationship with God. 

Here’s the basics of the story…

Saul was sent by God to destroy Amalek for their attacking Israel as they came up from Egypt. Saul set off, but decided to bring back their King, Agog, and the best of the livestock. The first as a trophy, the second to ‘sacrifice to God’ –waste not, want not. God speaks to Samuel, the prophet, that night and tells him Saul is done as King. Saul has turned from God and disobeyed his instructions.  When Samuel, sleepless, meets Saul the next day Saul greets him by saying “We have obeyed God, destroyed everything and brought back sacrifices and King Agog.”  Hmmm, there is something wrong with this statement, isn’t there?  Once confronted, Saul confesses he has sinned and wants to be restored before the people.  Wait!  Notice what is missing? Shouldn’t he want to be restored in his relationship with God?  The bigger issue was not Saul’s disobedience, but his turning away from God.  Religion is great –when we have a relationship with God and follow God.  Religion is a problem –when we use it to get or maintain and position/reputation/identity before people.  Jesus taught that the greatest commandment of the Old Testament and indeed the New Testament is to “Love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength.”

God wants our obedience, but in context of our relationship; loving God and being loved by God. Mere obedience is religion. Faith is engagement in relationship with God, out of which flows a passion for obedience.  May you develop a hunger to follow God, discovering His great love for you and learning to return that love.

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