Copyright © 2012 Robert B. Thompson. All Rights Reserved.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

The rest of God may be a new thought to some of us. It is presented in Hebrews chapter four. It is the eternal Sabbath, the place where we are living by the Life of the Lord Jesus rather than our own life. This is our goal, our land of Canaan. We are exhorted to cease from our own works and enter the rest of God.

Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. (Hebrews 4:1)

What is religion? Religion is the effort of human beings to gain favor with God. I think most religions have a supernatural origin. That is certainly true of Judaism and Christianity. God, or a fallen spirit dignitary of one sort or another, moved on a person to declare the will, the plan, the purpose of the supernatural Being.

In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, (Hebrews 1:1)

Often a book is dictated, as in the case of Judaism and Christianity. From this point forward a religion is constructed, based on the writings in the book. There may be prophets, people who claim to speak from the Person who originated the revelation and the book. But invariably, people who are organizers and administrators by nature attempt to make some practical sense of their new religion.

In the Jewish religion, the division is between prophets and elders, although of late the prophets seem to be in short supply. The priesthood serve as teachers and elders.

In the Christian religion, there always have been prophets and there are today. The denominational structures include pastors and evangelists, and those who perform administrative functions. I don’t know whether any of the major denominations recognize apostles and prophets formally as they do pastors and evangelists. Perhaps some denominations refer to their head administrators as “apostles,” even though the works of power that characterize apostles may not be present. Then there are bishops, archbishops, and other prelates in the Eastern Orthodox churches concerning which I know very little.

That is religion, and it has been with us in one form or another since the dawn of time, I suppose. It is in man’s nature to want to appease a supernatural God, and in this way man is different from all animals.

One of the principal problems with religion is that it is operated by man and not God. Therefore, all of the spiritual darkness that dwells in the nature of human beings is exhibited, such as personal ambition, jealousy, covetousness, treachery, hatred, murder, and self-will.

Because religion is man-made, there have been in time past, and still are, atrocities committed in the name of religion. The history of the Catholic Church was marked by severe, bloody tortures and murders. Today, the problem seems to be child molestation, probably due to the forcing of celibacy of priests.

Atrocities are being committed in our day by proponents of the Muslim religion. The Muslims appear to worship the Koran, and will avenge any action that appears to insult the Koran. Also, the Muslim religion has a political agenda, and its followers have no reservations about pursuing their goals with the sword.

I do not know of any parallel in the Christian religion to the “honor” killings of the Muslims, in which a daughter is slain because she has a boyfriend. Another teaching of the Muslim religion, if I understand correctly, is that if a Muslim converts to another religion he or she is to be killed.

The atrocities committed in the past by the Catholic Church, and the current actions of the Muslims, were not and are not directed by the God of Heaven — at least not by the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. While our God will punish severely the breaking of His commandments, He does not condone killing someone because he has converted to another religion, or because a girl has a boyfriend. These are not the ways of Jesus, the Son of God.

It sometimes happens that the worst enemies of the Lord Jesus Christ are religious people, including Christians. I have pondered why this is so. I believe it is because Satan is a religious creature that desires (but unable to obtain) the Glory in which he dwelled at one time. He infiltrates religion through the weaknesses of people. This may account for the ungodly behavior of Christians as they attack other Christians, as in the country of Ireland, for example.

There is a saying among Christian people that “the devil is in the choir.” This is because Satan originally was a sort of one-man orchestra, having his tambourines and flutes built into him. He gathers with the choir, if they are not prayerful, and preys upon their weaknesses.

Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created. (Ezekiel 28:13—KJV)

Satan’s built-in tambourines and flutes remind us of the gift of singing that is given to some people.

As I said, religion often features a book. People who are anxious to serve God may use the book to defend their plans and ideas. This was true among the Jews of the Old Testament. The Lord Jesus pointed out to them that they tithed herbs and then robbed widows. The religious Jews persuaded Governor Pilate to crucify Jesus, although Pilate suspected Jesus may well have been “The King of the Jews.” At least Pilate’s wife was alarmed over a dream she had and warned her husband.

But the religious Jews, filled with Satan, screamed “Crucify Him!” How could people learned in the Torah, scream at the governor to crucify their Messiah, the Son of God? Jesus had done nothing wrong. He went about teaching and healing people. Jesus was preaching eternal life and the coming of the Kingdom of God. He did not teach the overthrow of Judaism. He did nothing against the Torah! In their murderous wrath, the Jewish leaders revealed the spirit that almost always can be found in the religions of the world. It was Satan, who had been barred from the Glory of the highest Heaven and was revealing his eternal spite.

The opposite of religion is the “rest of God,” which is the thesis of the book of Hebrews, although approached in various ways. The rest of God is the state of being where we set aside our own fleshly thinking, speaking, and acting, and choose to think, speak, and act in agreement with the will of the Lord Jesus. This is how Jesus lives. He always thinks, speaks, and acts in agreement with the Father. We are to think, speak, and act in agreement with the Lord Jesus.

When this becomes how we live, the Bible, instead of being a book of rules, is a handbook that guides us as we keep looking to Jesus for what we are doing. This is not to say that we ever go against the intent of the Bible verses. The Bible has been given to us so that as we learn to be lead by the Spirit of God, we do not take advice from the wrong spirit.

Jesus appeared to violate the Sabbath commandment by healing on the Sabbath and by the fact that His disciples ate handfuls of grain in the fields as they passed through on the Sabbath. But Jesus was not actually violating the intent of the Sabbath, only the understanding of the minds of religionists. The purpose of the Sabbath was to direct the Jews to set aside one day each week to give their attention to God and honor Him. Healing a sick person on the Sabbath glorifies God, which is the intent of the Sabbath.

And as far as the disciples eating the grain on the Sabbath, and King David and his men eating the showbread, it always is proper to eat when doing God’s business; and if there is nothing but showbread to eat, or grain on the stalks in the field, then that is what one eats, with God’s blessing.

But how did Jesus know it was permissible to heal on the Sabbath? Because He was in continual touch with His Father. The same with the grain in the field. How did David know he and his men could eat the showbread? Because David knew God’s heart.

Here is the problem with religion. Religion has its mind fixed on the earth, and reasons with its earthly mind. The rest of God has its mind fixed at all times on the Lord Jesus, and does what He does.

I have been endeavoring for many years to do the things I think Jesus wants me to do. I have made mistakes. I have had to humble myself, confess my errors, and make restitution as Jesus directed. I honestly do not know whether there is any way to learn to be led by the Spirit other than to keep working at it until the lessons are learned.

When people come to me and tell me they have sinned, I advise them to make restitution as God leads, and confess the sin only as God directs. We may want to run to our husband or wife and confess in order to get the load of guilt off our back. We should not place this kind of a burden on our mate just to relieve our guilt, unless we know clearly this is what Jesus desires.

I pray with the person as he renounces his sin. He is never to do this again. He is to think about what he has learned, and to go out and fight onward in Christ. I do not counsel women about their sins. My wife does this.

Sometimes people who have been divorced want to remarry. I know what the Bible says. It is easy to say “This is what the Bible says,” tell the person he never can remarry, and that’s that. I don’t do that. I go to the Lord. I weigh the situation. Sometimes there are children involved. Sometimes the divorce took place before the person was a Christian and did not know any better.

Missionaries have advised tribal chiefs to put away all their wives except one, regardless of the social and economic considerations. Remember, King David, a man after God’s own heart, had something like sixteen wives. These kind of impractical religious decisions are made when the preacher or teacher does not go to Jesus with the question.

I myself am known as a strict Bible teacher, and sometimes am accused of not having “love.” So I am not suggesting a casual approach toward the words of the Bible. I have lived by them for 65 years and have found every syllable to be the Word of God.

In these 65 years, I have learned also that the words of the New Testament must be interpreted by the Spirit of God. For example, the Lord Jesus told us if someone sues us for our sweater, to give him our coat also. To make a religious principle of this would be to demand that if someone sues you for your car, give him your house also. If someone punches you in the face, invite him to do it again. Do you see what I mean? You must hear from Christ before you give someone your house, or allow an individual to beat you to the ground without resisting. Yes, there might be a time to do such things. But the Lord Jesus would have us look to Him before we indulge in religious zeal.

He has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit produces life. (II Corinthians 3:6)

Does that verse above mean we can treat the words of the New Testament in a casual manner; putting any application on them that feels good? Not at all. It means that the writing of the New Testament is the testimony of the Apostles and are intended to be a guide to us. We must hear from the Lord.

Many of the ladies of our church are active. The men are in charge. But if a woman has a teaching, or a prophecy, she is free to speak in church, although the letter of the New Testament would forbid this.

How do we know when it is proper for a woman to speak in church? When the elders of the assembly feel it is appropriate. The elders would know when something was out of line. I am the oldest of the elders and would take action if the service got out of hand. We just need to know the mind of the Lord.

Our congregation is seasoned enough that they would know when something is out of order, and care would be taken to correct it.

So no, we do not say “When the Bible speaks, we speak; when the Bible is silent, we are silent.” The Bible does not direct us in most of the decisions we are called upon to make each day. The Bible gives us moral guidelines, and these are to be obeyed—especially the warnings of Paul about sin not being permitted in the Kingdom of God.

As for the rest of the decisions, we must look constantly to Jesus. We must commit our way to Him always, believing that if we do so, not relying on our own wisdom, He will direct our paths.

Religion and the rest of God are two different approaches to knowing and pleasing God. In religion, we follow the letter of our holy book, without asking God, and we endeavor to obey the practices of our religion, as directed by our religious leader.

In the rest of God, we endeavor to cease from our own striving, and immerse ourselves in the Lord Jesus. We look to Him continually throughout the day and night, speaking to Him, asking His help, thanking Him for answered prayer, enjoying His fellowship, walking with Him through our lives as with our best Friend.

As we do this, the Presence of Christ increases in our life. Our awareness of Christ and His angels may increase. It certainly has in my life, although each person has his or her kind of fellowship with Jesus.

If you are part of a religious group, do whatever you are supposed to do as long as you are part of the group, unless it obviously is wrong, like killing your son or daughter because he went against your religion. If you feel your honor is at stake, ask God to place the happiness and welfare of your children above your so-called “honor.” The child or young person is more important than your honor!

There is such a thing as common sense, and religion is one of the world’s leaders in defying common sense.

Work with your children and other people, understanding that the call on their lives may not be the same as yours! Pray for them often. Treat all people with kindness and understanding as far as possible.

Children must be brought up with love and gentleness, and taught what is right. When they grow up, they must be free to choose the kind of life they prefer. If they look back on their formative years as having been treated with love and consideration, they very well may return home.

I realize that today in America, the demons are increasing, and sometimes little boys and girls behave in unusually violent ways. If they do not respond to counseling, it may be a matter of just attempting to hold things together and looking to the Lord for wisdom. Sometimes they come out of it. Then there are incidents in our society in which young people murder their parents. This is a symptom of the moral decline of our culture, and it is a matter for the police.

That is the American culture. Sometimes religion helps. Sometimes it is a hindrance. But every person, child, parent, elder, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, and all others are welcome to enter the rest of God. Learning to look to the living Jesus continually (He is God’s Son and has all authority) is a wonderful way in which to live.

It is true that we must set aside our own willful ways. But what happiness have your ways brought you? Think about it! Life in Jesus requires discipline and self-control. But—hear me in this, as someone older and likely with more experience than you—life with Jesus results in everlasting righteousness, love, joy, and peace.

Do you have a better plan?

(“Religion, or the Rest of God?”, 3531-1, proofed 20211003)

  • P.O. Box 1522 Escondido, CA 92033 US