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Old Time Religion

“Give me that old time religion – it is good enough for me.”  We like this thought from an old song because it suggests comfort, familiarity, and a well-worn path for us to follow in our faith.  However, religion that is good enough in our eyes may not be good enough in the eyes of the Lord.  Therefore, we must be careful that the old time religion that we are given is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of God (Jas. 1:27).

The old time religion that we should seek is given to us by God through His Holy Word.  In the New Testament, individual Christians and collective churches are given clear patterns and traditions to follow in their beliefs, teachings, and practices.  Christians are admonished to adhere to these patterns and traditions from God as the expression of their faith in God, which is what true religion is (Phil. 3:17-21; 2Thess. 2:13-15; 3:6).  These patterns and traditions have not been altered since the first century when they were originally given, so we may rightly call them our old time religion.  In this sense, we should heed the words of God given to the Jews: “Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; and you shall find rest for your souls” (Jer. 6:16).

There are also many old time religions that are given by men through their traditions.  Such religions usually maintain some of the patterns and traditions of the New Testament while disregarding others in favor of traditions taught by men.  Jesus condemned such corrupted religion in the Pharisees, saying, “You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you, saying, ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me.  But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrine the precepts of men’” (Matt. 15:7-9).  The old time religion of the Pharisees was good enough for them in their own sight, but it was not good enough for the Lord.  Likewise, the man-made religions of today fall short of the Lord’s standard, although many people sincerely believe they are right.

There is yet a third variety of old time religion.  Those who practice this variety do so simply because it is what they have always done.  Their practice is a hand-me-down religion received from their parents, spouses, or some other trusted acquaintance.  They do not know if the origin of their religion is God or men.  They do not fully understand if it is right or powerful, but they observe it by habit and vain ritual.  Their attitude is revealed in their motto, “I was born a (fill in the blank), and I’ll die a (fill in the blank).”  Such religion may give the conscience a sense of piety, but it is hollow and has no substance.

So then, while the term “old time religion” can have many meanings, it is the obligation of every one of us to understand the meaning of our own religion.  Is our religion the old time religion of the New Testament church, is it some old time religion from men, or is it just the old time religion of our family?  Why do we believe what we believe?  Each one of us needs to take ownership of our own beliefs and practices, for we are accountable for ourselves to God.

That being the case, let us be certain that our beliefs and practices are those commended by God through His word.  Let us not embrace something just because someone else does it or because it is what we have always done.  Let us not reject something just because it seems new and different to us.  Instead, let us go back to the standard of the New Testament of our Lord to “understand what the will of the Lord is” (Eph. 5:17).  Only there will we find the old time religion that is good enough for God.

Stacey E. Durham



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