Religion by any name is not acceptable by the Holy God of the Bible. If you examine all of the well known religions of the world, and those not so well known, thee have one commonality. At the center is the human ego who wants to take credit, wants approval, wants “self” to be the center of attention. I know of no exception to this.
All egocentric efforts to be approved and accepted by God are in direct contradiction to the gospel of Jesus Christ. The only people God approves and accepts are those who have put their whole trust in His promises, who have taken Him at his Word. All whom God accepts are accepted only upon the work and merit of Jesus whose righteous life was given for those with unrighteous lives, whose body was a perfect sacrifice prepared to die the death required of everyone whose sins offended God, and upon Whom the angry wrath of God against sin was completley exhausted, so that when He rose from the dead, death, hell, and the grave were defeated. Now God declares “right” or “righteous” those who receive His gracious offer extended in the gospel. Never has God compromised his hatred and punishment for sin, the price has been fully paid.
Of this righteousness which is by grace through faith Paul asked, “Where is boasting? It is excluded”. Or he could have asked, “Where is religion? It is uselss”. Religious but lost. Who are they? Perhaps it is you or the man who has been on the same pew with you for decades. It is really simple to understand. All one must do is honestly answer only one question. On what basis do you expect to be given eternal life? If that answer includes anything that is acheived by human effort, anything that satisfies the human ego, anything that assumes the glory that only Christ deserves, you have given a wrong answer.
Jesus made a starteling statement in Matthew 7. He said in regard to the day of judgment, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.‘ (Matthew 7:21-23)
First, consider what He did not say. He never hints that they are backsliders, that they were once saved and became apostates. He does not say they were not religious folks, or not “good” people by the worlds standards. Perhaps they were “good” people even by the local church’s standards. Just what did He say?
Not everyone who claims to be a Christian is one. Not everyone who makes a profession of faith in Christ, not everyone who cries out “Lord, Lord” is saved. Also not all who do good works, even “mighty” works, or “wonderful” works are saved. And, not all the preachers and teachers will be saved. There are those who prophesy and cast out demons in Jesus name but are lost. Now, do you suppose these folks Jesus described were religious or not religious? Of course they were religious folks. They attended church, they said all the right things, they did all the right things. but were damned for hell. Why? Because they had failed to do the will of the Father in heaven. Strange you say! They had seemingly done the right stuff, perhaps they attended the “Lord’s church”, they had heard teaching, they had sung songs, they had prayed, they had given, they had taken the Lord’s Supper, but they had depended on themselves and not upon Jesus. They were religious but lost.
How many of these religious imposters are there? According to Jesus “Many”. If there are “many” who are religious actors why would you suppose that there are not some in my church or yours? It is the will of the Father in heaven that all men everywhere repent and put their whole trust in Jesus Christ the Lamb of God. Hear Jesus’ answer when asked, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” (John 6:28,29) And then He explained, “Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:35-40)
“Everyone who looks on the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life.” At hearing these words many of His own disciples turned away, they chose religion over Jesus alone. How wonderfully clear has Christ made His promises to hopeless and helpless sinners? Again and again He makes the gracious offer of Himself. Only those who trust Him alone and forsake everything else are secure for eternity.
Jesus characterized the way to heaven as “hard” and “narrow” and said that only “few” will find that way. The contrast is the road to hell which is “easy”, “wide”, and “many” are traveling on it. Yes, more lost than saved, more who trust themselves than Jesus. Remember “There is a way that seems right to a man but the end thereof is death.” That statement is still true in 2008.
What a sad condition! Religious but lost. “The wages of sin is death but the FREE GIFT OF GOD is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
Please, don’t cling to good works, religious ritual, saying all the right things, being in the right church, at the expense of the sacrifice of Jesus on your behalf. Throw yourself upon the mercy of God and trust Christ will all your heart. He will not always wait for you.