As the world is getting darker around us, we are supposed to be shining brighter. Unfortunately, this is not true. Religious traditions have introduced Christians to the bondages Christ came to free us. I believe the increasing lawlessness in our society is the resulting fruit of the Church allowing herself to forget who she is due to the completed work of Christ.
We must keep in mind that the message of the cross is not just referencing Jesus’ atoning work. It also references the grace required to appropriate what we receive in redemption. None of us can “earn” the blessings of God as they are provided in Christ Jesus.
Most Christians believe that God’s provision is based on our actions. For example, in healing, the prevailing thought seems to be that we must complete several steps before God releases His healing power. I have a problem with this train of thought. Healing is a finished work provided before any of us were born in Jesus’ redemptive work, and our part today is “receiving” what is already ours.
If you are trying to get God to provide you with something like healing, you are not operating in His grace. Instead, you are operating under the Law and are not enjoying the benefits of your redemption. The cross of Christ has no power in your life as a result.
While church attendance is a vital part of the Christian experience, we must always be aware that not every church is preaching the message of the cross accurately. Religion and religious traditions have robbed the Church of God’s power, and so the world continues to grow darker around us.
Many old-line denominational churches preach religious rites requiring actions from parishioners such as attending confession, partaking in communion, or fasting to gain God’s favor. All of these requirements ignore clear Scriptural teaching.
And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. (Ephesians 4:24)
Every Christian is holy and righteous from the moment they make Jesus the Lord of their life. In other words, we are “holy” and so cannot become more holy by our works. Paul’s statement in Ephesians is one of many examples in Scripture that debunk requirements for religious rites as taught by most denominational churches today.
I believe our religious traditions have left millions of people frustrated regarding their walk with God. They know God exists but believe He requires so much from them they are in a state of exhaustion due to the effort “required” to clean themselves up for Him to accept them. The underlying truth is they are failing to “earn” His acceptance because He had already accepted them before they made Jesus the Lord of their lives (Ephesians 1:6).
So, what am I trying to say? Simply that God will not change His opinion of us if we forget to read a chapter in the Bible every day, do not spend time praying daily, or retain habits Scripture classify as sin. We are accepted through Jesus Christ by God, and our efforts and failures will do nothing to change this fact. God will move in our lives based on the cross’s completed work, and there is nothing we can do to change this fact!
10 When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?
11 She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more. (John 8:10 – 11)
I understand that there are people who will resist the things I am saying. Many people confuse the message of grace and declare it provides a license to sin. While our sins cannot affect God’s opinion of us, they open the door for Satan to work in our lives.
The above verses from John 8 provide us a clue about how Jesus handles sin. The woman he addressed had been caught in the act of adultery, and the Law clearly said that this sin required a sentence of death. I want you to notice especially that Jesus instead showed mercy and told her to go forth and “sin no more.”
Jesus ministered grace and mercy to sinners, and the religious leaders accused Him of being friends with them. It is interesting to note that the only people Jesus rebuked were the Pharisees and Sadducees. He never condemned a prostitute, a tax collector, or other sinners. As with the woman caught in adultery, He did not condone their sins but extended mercy to all.
The religious leaders fasted at least twice every week, calculated their tithes to the minutest details, and honored the Sabbath. They lived so that they were more “righteous” and “holy” than anyone else but still were the only ones who earned a rebuke from Jesus. He did not rebuke the sinners, harlots, or tax collectors but did rebuke the “holy” people. I believe that the reason for this is that “self-righteousness” is at the top of the list of sins in God’s eyes.
People living in sin are making the wrong choices. Their lifestyles are not godly, but Jesus has already paid the price required for their redemption. I have ministered in churches and a street mission with homeless people. I’ve found in common with people who have persistent sin, regardless of whether they are a business person, teacher, or drug addict, that all inherently know they are not living right.
We tend to focus on people’s sins forgetting that Jesus has paid the price and obtained an eternal inheritance for every person who will ever live from Adam and Eve forward. God has mercy on any who will approach Him with a repentant heart, but He cannot work with self-righteousness as it takes the focus off of Jesus.
People who believe they are “good enough” and have “earned” God’s favor will not operate from a repentant heart. I think this is an attitude that is much worse than lying, alcoholism, or adultery. It is not always expressed blatantly but could be subtle. We may be guilty of being self-righteous without realizing it.
Religion promotes and encourages self-righteousness by promoting work-based Christianity. Today, more than anything else, our religious traditions make the cross “of none effect” (1 Corinthians 1:17).