The Backwards Mentality of Religion

I had a conversation with a gentlemen once who asked me what I did [for a job] – and I told him that I was a Gospel minister – to which he paused awkwardly, and then said “Oh, I’m not religious”. So I chuckled and said, “That’s okay neither am I!” – after that we each went our separate ways.

It wasn’t until three days later, that we met again and he said to me in a puzzled voice: “What did you mean, when you said that you weren’t religious?!”.

You see, religion is not at all the same thing, as having a relationship, a union with Christ. And sometimes I think that we use the words and say these phrases, but haven’t really stopped to consider what they mean, or what the implications of them are.

It may also surprise you to hear that a great number of Christians also do not understand these differences. And so we are going to explore this today, and look at how the mentality of religion, is actually quite backwards to the truth of the Gospel of Christ taught in the scripture. And right-away I need to mention that when I say “backwards mentality” – I am not using that term as slang for stupid or unintelligent; not at all…

What I am saying, is that there is a religious mentality among many Christians, that is actually 180 degrees opposite to what the scriptures actually teach, and what the Gospel of Christ actually says. And this is what we will be exploring (and exposing) in today’s study.

The Sacrifice of Jesus is Enough

When you think of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, what comes to your mind? This is a question that I asked to a group of believers, and most of them had the same couple of answers:
– Forgiveness of sins
– The pain and suffering of the torture

There’s nothing too surprising with these responses. In-fact these are all that is typically mentioned on Sunday’s in most sermons. Many people see the sacrifice of Christ as little more than spiritual fire-insurance. You get a ticket on the Heaven-bus when it arrives.

The sacrifice of Christ becomes something that merely gets mentioned at the end of sermons in order to attracted new converts to the membership of the church, but otherwise it is ignored.

However I’m here today my friend to tell you that the sacrifice of Jesus is much more than simply fire insurance – it is much more than a tool to gain new converts – it is in-fact everything that you need. And it is more than enough to solve every problem.

What it Means to Have Love

Most people who have read the book of 1st Corinthians, are familiar with the phrase from chapter 13, stating that if you do not have love, nothing else matters. Most people and most preachers for that matter present this in a way which makes it seem as though this verse is saying you must work up love, and do your best to love others – and most people tend to accept and believe that to be true.

However, what I want to share with you today is a different perspective. As we take a look at 1st Corinthians 13, through the lens of Grace and the finished work of Christ, we begin to see something different than what is generally assumed. Something less focused on our efforts to try and work-up love within ourselves, and something more (properly) focused on Christ, His finished work, and His love for us. By seeing this, you will have a new appreciation and application of the love of God in your daily life.

See the Mercy of God and Rejoice

All throughout scripture, we are encouraged to testify and rejoice for what God has done. We sing plenty of songs about it in church, and listen to others singing out it on radio and TV (some of the time!), but for many people it doesn’t really go any further beyond the weekly ritual of singing hymns or listening to Christian radio or TV. Think about it… when is the last time you actually rejoiced – even sang to God, personally for something He has done specifically for you? Not in a corporate church setting; not with a group… just you and God?

For most people, they can’t even remember that far back, and the question is, why is it so rare? For something that the scripture encourages us to do, why doesn’t it occur more often? Why do Christians spent more time complaining and depressed, instead of singing and rejoicing?

Personally, I believe they are not focused on the right thing. I believe that their vision is skewed and they are looking at themselves and their current circumstances instead of looking at Jesus and seeing the victory that He has already won – I know that I have lived that way for quite a long time, and I recognize the signs and symptoms of it very well. So today I want to share with you an encouraging study on seeing the mercy of Jesus, and how it causes you to overflow with genuine, real rejoicing.

Jesus in Proverbs 15

The book of Proverbs is many things to many people. Some see it as a book of wisdom. Others see it as poetry. From one standpoint, it is both a book containing wisdom and poetry; many of the wisdom verses are written using Hebrew poetry. However while all of that may be nice, in the long-run, to be quite honest, it doesn’t really matter. It doesn’t save anyone, or change anyone’s life, to know that Proverbs is considered a “wisdom book” or a “poetry book” – at the end of the day, it is just an interesting fact, just another piece of what I call Bible trivia.

Reading the Bible is more than just absorbing facts, scriptural knowledge or Bible trivia. The focus should never be on raw data retention or interesting tidbits . It’s not a what that we should be focusing on, but rather a who… it is Jesus. All of the scripture reading in the world, is all meaningless if we do not see Jesus in it; because He is the one who gives it meaning.

So today, I want to share with you, some beautiful aspects of Jesus, directly from Proverbs 15, and by seeing Him, you have a new way to appreciate and savor Jesus, in the book of Proverbs.

Psalm 51, Jesus, and Your Relationship

If you’ve read any of our previous studies, you know that I talk a lot about your identity in Christ, your foundation in Him, your Relationship with God. I talk about those things so often because without these things, you really have nothing but dead religion. Without these things: without your identity, without your relationship, without your foundation on Jesus Christ, it’s all just empty ritual, empty tradition, and ultimately an empty existence.

I had one person ask me once: Why don’t you teach something more relevant? And I had to respond and say that there is nothing more relevant than the finished work of Jesus Christ, and who you are in Him. I have discussions with people all of the time, who claim to be Christian’s, who say that they are believers, but they have no real relationship with God; they have no foundation, or realization of their identity… and these same people are living defeated lives… they are down all of the time, and they spend more time talking about how the enemy is beating them down rather than the victory that Jesus has won.

And please understand, I am not pointing fingers at those people, I’m not judging or ridiculing them at all – that’s not what Jesus called me to do… my purpose in mentioning their situation, is to highlight an issue that needs to be addressed… the lack of this foundation, identity and relationship in and through Jesus, is hurting people and destroying lives.

So what I want to share with you today, is more on this foundation. So that you will be able to live in the confidence, joy and peace of Jesus Christ every single day.

The Generosity of God Revealed

God is generous. I know by making this one statement, I’ve probably managed to offend someone. The idea of a truly generous God is not very popular today. Many people will say that they believe in a giving and generous God, but when you dig a little deeper, you will find that those same people only have a superficial belief in the generosity of God – which is to say that they don’t really believe that He is generous at all. I have encountered quite a number of people who feel that they must beg God to give them things and barely scrape by in life, and even some who think that the more needy and poor they are, the more it gives God glory and keeps them holy and humble.

On the other side, I have encountered people who say that God could not possibly be generous, because He wants to “test and try us” or “teach us lessons”, and then there are those think that God would just be some kind of magical genie, and so they oppose His generosity on those grounds. So what I want to share with you today, what the scriptures say about God’s generosity, and what He says about Himself.

You Are Completely Clean in Christ

How clean are you? This question is often posed to congregations of believers in an attempt to motivate them to good works. However I am posing this question to you today for an entirely different reason… Not to expose your perceived failings or shortcomings, but instead to show you how completely clean you are in Christ Jesus today. You see, many believers are living life with the belief that they are clean one-moment (when they think they are behaving well) and then dirty the next moment (when they fail), so they are on some sort of spiritual teeter-totter – up one moment and down the next moment.

This however is not how God wants us to live. This shifting-sand, roller-coaster mentality is not the abundant life which Christ died to give us. So today we will be examining the truth of how completely clean you are in Christ (in every way) and how by seeing this truth, you will be on the unshakable foundation of Jesus Christ, instead of the shifting sand of emotions, feelings and your own performance.

Grace is the Cure for Carnality

All across the world, good and honest believers have this idea that they must work at “doing good”. They must struggle and strive to “do the right thing”, to make God happy or to prove their love for Him, or whatever the underlying motivation may be; it leads to the same place: a merit-centered, man-centered mentality which is not focused on God, but is focused on self-performance and behavior.

Many believers think that if they themselves or their fellow brother or sister in Christ is failing in a particular area of behavior, that it is due to some sin in their life, or that they are just being lazy and they need to try harder. But is this what the scriptures actually say?

In this study today, we will be taking a look at what God has to say on this very subject, and how God’s diagnosis of the problem of wrong behaviors is not what we might expect. As you see this truth, it will give you a new mindset regarding this issue, and a new confidence in your relationship with God as well.

Jesus: the Way, the Truth and the Life

In John 14:6, Jesus makes a statement to Thomas that was quite profound and controversial – especially for His primarily Jewish audience at the time. His proclamation that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life is still controversial today, but there is more meaning to what our LORD has said, than only declaring that He alone gives us access to the Father.

So today we will be examining the totality of this statement made by Jesus, to see all of what He meant when He made this bold declaration, and how His statement applies for us as believers.