Homemade Religion – A Disaster in Disguise

Pastor Tom Ascol continues his series on the book of Judges. Using Judges 17:1 through 18:31 as the text, his message is entitled: “Homemade Religion: A Disaster in Disguise.” The cyclical nature of Judges, repeated rebellion, judgment, repentance, and restoration, speaks to the Israelite tendency to fashion their own religion. While not necessarily an overt turning from God, perhaps more insidious was their tendency to believe some of what God said and mix it with their own desires and understandings as well as with other pagan religious tenets, fashioning a homemade religion.

Pastor shows five lessons to be learned from this passage. The first is homemade religion arises out of neglect for God’s Word. Throughout Judges the reader reads and sees “everyone did what was right in their own eyes” (17:6 for example). Moral decisions were not based on God’s absolute standards but on the subjective standards of the individual. The actions evident in the text spring directly from a neglect of God’s Word and His design for living. It is impossible to intimately know God without the hearing or reading of His Word; it seems evident that the characters in today’s text did not know God personally. This neglect happened despite the warnings of Moses to stay true to God’s revelation.

Interestingly, the second lesson is homemade religion can have commendable qualities. The text shows confession, repentance, forgiveness, and restoration. The commendable, however, is mixed with the despicable. False, personal gods that deny the living God and personal rules and worship were contrary to God’s design and expressly forbidden. Nonetheless, coupling commendable qualities with impressive activities makes the religion attractive. Lesson three is that these activities, rituals, worship, god-talk, supposed holy men, shrines and offering, once again, are contrary to God’s Word. Outward appearance is indicative of the Pharisees rather than true worshippers. The Pharisees were all about show; their actions were designed to bring them glory and honor which belong to God alone. They neglected justice, mercy, and faithfulness, all of which also seem to be the result of homemade religion.

The fourth lesson calls for believers to exercise care because homemade religion can have apparent blessings. Making offerings, confession and receiving of a personal priest, the opportunity for the Levite, and the victory for the Danites may appear as a blessing but they all were only and ultimately temporary. Turning from God and His Word will not provide benefit in the long-run. It will, however, make the fifth lesson obvious to the observer. Adherents of homemade religion will their opportunity to have a relationship with God. They will miss His revelation. Homemade religion is foolish. It is condemned. It results in spiritual death.

But, there is an antidote. Jesus, in Matthew 7:24-27, tells the story of the wise man who built his house upon God’s Word. His foundation was sure and he was able to withstand storm and trouble. The same is true today. Rather than fashioning a homemade religion, humankind is called by God to come to Him, but only in the way He has provided and shown in His Word. That way is the one true Savior Jesus Christ. As believers we react to His Word; as we follow His commands we show our love for Him. For non-believers He calls to come to Him through the work of the Savior on the Cross. That work is sufficient to cover our sins and change a broken and homemade religion into a restored relationship with the God who loves.

Tom Ascol has served as a Pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, FL since 1986. Prior to moving to Florida he served as pastor and associate pastor of churches in Texas. He has a BS degree in sociology from Texas A&M University (1979) and has also earned the MDiv and PhD degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas. He has served as an adjunct professor of theology for various colleges and seminaries, including Reformed Theological Seminary, the Covenant Baptist Theological Seminary, African Christian University, Copperbelt Ministerial College, and Reformed Baptist Seminary. He has also served as Visiting Professor at the Nicole Institute for Baptist Studies at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. Tom serves as the President of Founders Ministries and The Institute of Public Theology. He has edited the Founders Journal, a quarterly theological publication of Founders Ministries, and has written hundreds of articles for various journals and magazines. He has been a regular contributor to TableTalk, the monthly magazine of Ligonier Ministries. He has also edited and contributed to several books, including Dear Timothy: Letters on Pastoral Ministry, The Truth and Grace Memory Books for children and  Recovering the Gospel and Reformation of Churches. He is also the author of From the Protestant Reformation to the Southern Baptist ConventionTraditional Theology and the SBC and Strong and Courageous. Tom regularly preaches and lectures at various conferences throughout the United States and other countries. In addition he regularly contributes articles to the Founders website and hosts a weekly podcast called The Sword & The Trowel. He and his wife Donna have six children along with four sons-in-law and a daughter-in-law. They have sixteen grandchildren.
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