Shadow Or Substance?

Blue Horizontal Line


The key to looking at religion is all in the balance of it. Or we might say the fullness of grace in it. An unbalanced religion is when “the zeal of thine house has eaten me up.” (John 2:17) Or a shallow and not full, or not deeply in grace religion is only superficial and not spiritual. Religions sometimes degenerate to show a lack of depth and/ or an unbalanced disposition.

Putting God first is establishing a balanced view of life. A hierarchy of values is set to order and balance our lives. Putting the Kingdom of God first (Matthew 6:33) does not mean an abolition of the natural but rightly ordering impulses, desires and responsibilities that are the gifts of nature. Life is born to be balanced. Men are born low in grace. We need religions that inspire balance, putting things in the right order. We need religions that are full of grace in the right way.

But there are many in the churches whose religion is unbalanced. One group lacking balance are those who have churchyness but an almost empty faith. They lack a spiritual awareness and the spiritual transcendence that should come with religion. Lacking this, they give religion a questionable name. They often figure in religious satire.

The forms of religion are perfectly possible to observe without having any spiritual transcendence or awareness of God. This is often done. Instead of the spiritual substance of faith, many settle for the material shadows of faith.

Limited religionists observe the letter of religion but not the Holy Spirit in religion. “for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.”                               (II Corinthians 3:6)  Is this not very true? (Fellows in the Spirit, read or hear me with your Bible at hand. We are reasoning together on the Word of God, the wishes of God, not the wishes of corrupt men with strangely depraved minds. There are very many of those around and loose upon the church.)

My question for you to ask yourself: Is your religion of the spiritual substance of God, the reality of Christ? Or is your religion the mere falling shadows of the invisible substance of God passing by? Is your faith like an empty prayer? Is your faith a shadow boxing of rote words and ritual? Talking about God but never arriving at God. Being on a train that never arrives at the station. Is your religion passing God by?

If you feel that way, your religion is probably either empty or unbalanced. You need to be happy in Christ. Try a form of religion that goes to the heart of the matter: that is a personal relationship with God. That relationship is God’s crowning mercy in any life. Don’t miss it. Don’t let it pass you by. Don’t avoid the real thing as you shadow box with fripperies of faith. As you over concern yourselves with the bagatelles of religion.

If you have the spiritual substance of God in a personal relationship with God that has a touch of intimacy with Christ, then you have the genuine article in religion. You have a true, full and balanced faith. You have more than a shadow boxing religion of rote words, empty church attendance and soothing magical rites. Skip the nonsense! Get down to God.

Is your religion having the substance or settling for the shadow? “If it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it;” (Acts 5:39) But if it be not of God, it is a fad and a fashion, it will soon pass. Or it may prove so insubstantial that it will not be recognized by those usually recognizing grace.

I urge you to find a full and balanced faith and to it, by the grace of God, immortal, invisible, One God, good and wise, to hold fast and hold sure. Having proved God by faith to your satisfaction, “hold fast that which is good.” (I Thessalonians 5:21)


Dr. James MacLeod may be contacted through the Neill Macaulay Foundation.