Just Enough Religion to Be Miserable
Some people have just enough religion to make themselves absolutely miserable. They know the truth but do not live in conformity with it. Thus, guilt gnaws at their souls. Since ordinary folks do not like experiencing that distressing feeling, they will do just about anything to get rid of it. For some, this means giving up on Christ and going back to the old life of sin. They sear their consciences (cf. I Tim. 4:1,2). Others realize the danger they are in and this leads them to repent (cf. Rom. 2:4).

God gave man a conscience for this very reason. Godly sorrow leads to repentance while worldly sorrow leads to death (cf. II Cor. 7:10). When a person is convicted of sin, his heart will be pricked--either for the better or worse. Consider two very different outcomes when people were informed of their sins:

  1. On the day of Pentecost Peter told the devout Jews (cf. Acts 2:5) of their complicity in the death of Jesus - "'Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ' Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, 'Men and brethren, what shall we do?'" (Acts 2:36,37). Their pure religion led to salvation and joy (cf. Acts 2:38-41; 8:39).

  2. There were other Jews, however, whose hearts were cut by the truth of God's word, but it led them to become even more sinful. Stephen pointed out their rejection of God and murder of Christ - "'You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers, who have received the law by the direction of angels and have not kept it.' When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth" (Acts 7:51-54). These Jews felt the sting of guilt though no doubt they would have vehemently denied being sinful (cf. John 8:37-47). Instead of being reconciled to God (cf. Rom. 5:8-11) they killed Stephen, as recorded in Acts 7:57-59. They had just enough religion to be utterly miserable yet did not see their wretched condition (e.g., Rev. 3:17; John 9:41).

Tragically, there are those today who try the path of compromise with one foot in the world and the other in the church. James speaks of the "double-minded" man (James 4:8). He wants the pleasures of the world while simultaneously seeking to feel acceptable to God. This person is "unstable in all his ways" (James 1:8). Undivided loyalty to Jesus and His word keeps the Christian stable (cf. II Tim. 1:7,13).

Friends, does your religion make you thoroughly miserable? If so, you have a choice to make. Will you abandon the Savior and resign yourself to a life enslaved to sin? That decision leads to eternal condemnation (cf. Rom. 6:16). The preferable choice is to embrace the love of God and eternal life. This is accomplished by leaving the life of sin and its hypocrisy. It takes resolve of heart to repent but it brings great joy (e.g., Luke 15:17-24). One must truly let go of the ways of the world if he wants to have peace and joy with the Lord!

In order to know the joy of the Christian life, one must have more than just a little religion. It requires growing "in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (II Pet. 3:18). God's word has great power for those who want to do what is right (cf. Heb. 4:12; I Thess. 2:13). It can change one from being a miserable wretch into a victorious child of God!

The excellent article above was written by Douglas Hoff (with some minor editing on my part). Those who are wise will seriously reflect upon their lives as a new year begins. What direction are you headed spiritually? Are you fully dedicated to serving God or are you foolishly trying to serve two masters? "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon" (Matt. 6:24; cf. 16:24-27)?