Every single person on this planet is religious, whether you want to be or not. Chances are, though, none of us think of ourselves as religious.
I was just hanging out with a friend last week, and he reminded me again as we were talking that he was not religious. And I get it. It’s not a great word, and it certainly has baggage, so no one wants to claim to be religious.
Christians don’t like to call themselves religious because we know that a relationship with God is so much more than the rituals and formulas that are so often associated with religion. And secular people don’t like to call themselves religious because they think it means to be interested in God, and they are not.
But if we take the basic definition of religion as being devoted to a system of beliefs or a way of viewing the world, everyone does that. Everyone, in some sense, is religious. We all worship something. We all have an inescapable craving to be enthralled by something, to anchor our lives in something bigger than ourselves. We all want meaning, and we all want to be happy — and we look for this everywhere . . . in our jobs, in our appearance, in our bank account, in our intellect, in our relationships, in our families. And wherever we go to look for this meaning and happiness, that becomes our religion. That’s where we’ll devote our best energy, our sacrifice, our time, our affections. Whatever it is that we think will give us ultimate significance and joy, that becomes our god. So we are all religious.
And here’s the problem: everything we try to make God that is not God, becomes a dead-end road. We will not find what we are looking for.
Even if we give ourselves to everything this world has to offer — if we climb the highest mountains, and run through some fields, and scale some city walls, it doesn’t matter, you still won’t find what you’re looking for.
Many of us here know exactly what that is like. So this morning, I want to tell you, and remind you, that only God can satisfy the deep longings of your heart. He made you to find your ultimate meaning and happiness in him. Everything else is a dead-end road.
For those of us who have trusted in Jesus, this now leads us to confession, because we know that, although we’ve been rescued by God to worship him, and to find our meaning and happiness in him, so often we feel the pull to travel back down those dead-end roads. So let me now lead us in a prayer of confession before we confess our sins silence.
Prayer of Confession
Father, the truth is that you know the truth of our hearts better than anyone. You can see everything, and you can see into the depth of our being, of our thoughts, of our motives. Even right now. You can see us. And still, you lean down toward us in grace and mercy because of Jesus. And because of your grace and mercy, we confess our sin.
We confess that though we know only you can satisfy our souls, we still so often live like our jobs will save us. We live like the approval of others is what we need more than anything. Day by day we function as if our relationships are the primary source of our joy, and when they get difficult, we despair. We have been religious in all the wrong ways, looking in all the wrong places for what only you can give. Forgive us, please. And lead us now in silent confession.