Yesterday we were talking about how someone at step three in the Christian transformation journey has come to a realization that they have broken a universal moral code. In step four they discover it is God’s code they have broken, and become aware that only Jesus is capable of forgiving this transgression (sin). This is a tipping point in the Christian journey where a decision of what to do with this information must be made.
People generally either choose to immediately surrender to Christ (step 8), try to appease their conscience through religion (step 5), or revert to not caring about their sin (step 2).
5. Commitment to Faith-Based Activities
People in step five commit to religious activities. These can range from occasional attendance at church, to an all-out lifestyle of religion. Activities can include any or all of the things we generally consider to be “good works”:
- church attendance
- acts of service
- giving / tithing
- charity work
- bible reading
- bible study
- theology education, degrees
This list sounds very moral and obedient, doesn’t it? These aren’t bad things – they are, in fact, good. It is when people are using religious busy-work to soothe their conscience, to try to earn salvation, or to try to prove salvation to others (or themselves), that “religion” is a problem. God tells us through the prophet Isaiah that all our righteous deeds, our good works, are as “filthy rags” (literally, soiled menstrual pads) in regards to salvation.
But we are not godly; we are constant sinners and have been all our lives. Therefore your wrath is heavy on us. How can such as we be saved? We are all infected and impure with sin. When we put on our prized robes of righteousness, we find they are but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves we fade, wither, and fall. And our sins, like the wind, sweep us away. Yet no one calls upon your name or pleads with you for mercy. Therefore, you have turned away from us and turned us over to our sins. (Isaiah 64:5-7 NLT)
We can never be “good enough”. We can never earn or maintain our salvation. We can never be worthy.
Those who rely on their own works to save them, though they intellectually know Jesus and may do great deeds in His Name (they may even be famous preachers or teachers), are unknown by Him. These are among the most terrifying words recorded in the Bible:
“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 ESV)
If we cannot earn our salvation, how then may we be saved?
Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” But [Jesus] said, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” (Luke 18:26-27 ESV)
Going back to Isaiah 64, did you note what Isaiah went on to say? “Yet no one calls upon your name or pleads with you for mercy”. If they would but call upon the Name of the Lord, they could be saved!
“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13 BSB)
Jesus gives a stern warning to those who are relying on their own “prized robes” of righteous deeds, that they are actually spiritually naked. He counsels them to buy white garments from Him that they might be clothed in His righteousness.
“‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:15-20 ESV)
We must fling open the doors of our hearts to let Christ in! He knocks and knocks, but He’s a gentleman – He won’t barge the door down. Over the next few days we will examine how Jesus continues to knock at the doors of our hearts. Two of these ways are through emptiness and brokenness.
Step five represents “religion” without a true “relationship” with Jesus. Barna’s statistics alarmingly show that approximately 24% of the “Christian” population does not proceed past this step.
Please Pray With Me:
Oh Jesus, please don’t let me trust in my own works to save me! I love to do good things in Your Name, but it is by Your work alone on the cross that I can be saved. I hear You knocking at the door of my heart. I open it fully! Please come in and abide in me as I learn to abide in You.
I would like you to think about the religious involvement you have had in your life. Were you involved for your own benefit (finding friends, finding dates, finding community, using talents, seeking fulfillment, getting acknowledged, earning credits etc.)? Or were you there solely to worship and serve the living God? Examine your own heart for your past motives. Are you happy with your motives, or do you wish to work on changing them?
Consider watching this YouTube sermon:
A Personal Relationship (Francis Chan)
We do church services, events, and we even quote God, but is He really behind it? We are professionals at talking about God, but do we honestly have a personal relationship with Him? Are we real and open with God? Or do we treat God more like a social media friend?
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