Ever notice the universal reality of how “religious” our world is today?
We live in a “enlightened society” and notice how highly religious we are.
Interesting facts: probably already outdated!
In our country there are many different religions.
Buddhism – 1.5 million +
Mormons – 13 million (worldwide)
Hindu – 1 million +
Agnostics – 1.4 million +
Atheists – 1.3 million +
Baha’i – 120 thousand +
Taoist – 50 thousand +
Scientology – 100 thousand +
Eckankar – 30 thousand +
Pagans/Wicca/Druids – conservatively – 1 million +
So conservatively we have millions of “Religiously” lost souls in America.
Why would I say they are “religious” and lost?
Every religion that is not based on “God’s Word” alone is a distortion of the one true God’s revealed truth.
The truth is only found in the 66 books of the Old and New Testament which reveals God’s will and way to heaven that comes to us by grace alone through faith alone in the finished work of Jesus Christ alone.
John 14:6 (ESV)
6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
In truth all other religions according to Scripture are distortions of the reality of what Biblical Christianity teaches.
Scripture is clear that man can only come to God one way and through one truth that will grant us eternal life. We cannot come to God through any man-centered ideology, philosophy, religious experience or religious organization we can only come to God by faith in His revealed Word.
Mankind is religious by nature but we are regenerated by God’s revelation.
Let’s think about what religion is for a moment.
It is man’s attempt to reach God whereas regeneration occurs because God has reached down to man.
Mankind tries to find God by studying or sampling all the religions of the world.
This may prove insightful but it will not lead you to the true essence of “biblical” religion that is only found in God’s revelation – the Bible alone.
According to Scripture in order for religion to be true and accepted to God that religion must be based on what God has revealed about Himself in Holy Scriptures.
John 4:21-24 (ESV)
21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.
22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.
23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.
24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
The essential nature of religion is based on God’s self-disclosure.
“Religion is concerned with man’s relation to God, and man has no right or ability to accurately determine the nature of this relation. It is God’s prerogative to specify how man should be related to Him, and He does this in His divine word.”
In the Old Testament “fear” of God moved the truly elect of Israel to view the Law as representation of God’s holiness.
This Law served to point out mankind’s failure to please God on their own merit.
That inability produced “fear” and fear drove them to depend on God’s mercy not their religious acts.
Genesis 15:1-6 (ESV)
1 After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.”
2 But Abram said, “O Lord GOD, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?”
3 And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.”
4 And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.”
5 And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”
6 And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.
Romans 4:2-3 (ESV)
2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.
3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.”
Romans 5:1-2 (ESV)
1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
The whole sacrificial (religious) system was intended to produce trust in God’s mercy not the sacrificial system.
The religious system instituted by God displayed or pictured what was to occur within the heart of all the truly elect of Israel.
It was through that system that they learned to fear God and that drove the elect to depend on God alone to provide their atonement for sin.
That fear was shaped by God’s revelation.
Hebrews 10:1-18 (ESV)
1 For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near.
2 Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sin?
3 But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sin every year.
4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
5 Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me;
6 in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure.
7 Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’ “
8 When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law),
9 then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He abolishes the first in order to establish the second.
10 And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.
12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God,
13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet.
14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.
15 And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,
16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,”
17 then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”
18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.
The essence of true religion in Old Testament is the “fear” of God that came through His revelation (His self-disclosure) through His word that came to man.
Proverbs 1:7 (ESV)
7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Job 28:28 (ESV)
28 And he said to man, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding.’ “
Psalms 19:7-9 (ESV)
7 The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;
8 the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;
9 the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether.
Divine revelation effects the emotions, intellect and will of man and produces “awe-reverence” which is the essence of true religion.
Romans 12:1-2 (ESV)
1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
The New Testament shines more light on holy “fear” by showing us that “Fear entails Faith”.
Galatians 2:16-21 (ESV)
16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.
17 But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not!
18 For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor.
19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ.
20 It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if justification were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.
Romans 16:25-27 (ESV)
25 Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages
26 but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith—
27 to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.
Again we see that the essential nature of religion is based on God’s revelation not man‘s imagination.
In the New Testament we see that “true religion” is based on faith in Christ’s atoning work of redemption not Law.
So in the New Testament we see that the “fear” of God moves us to seek Him by “faith” knowing we cannot appease this holy God on our own merit.
Holy fear then leads to holy faith.
A holy fear also protects against carelessness or heresy in religion.
Matthew 10:28 (ESV)
28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
Philippians 2:12-13 (ESV)
12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,
13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
Hebrews 12:28-29 (ESV)
28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe,
29 for our God is a consuming fire.
Ephesians 5:15-21 (ESV)
15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise,
16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.
17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,
19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart,
20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
2 Timothy 4:1-5 (ESV)
1 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom:
2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.
3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,
4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.
5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
Holy fear moves us to sorrow over offending our holy God.
2 Corinthians 7:9-10 (ESV)
9 As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us.
10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.
The essence of true religion can be defined as a “true fear of God based on His word as it reveals His holy nature through the Law and the Life of Christ.
That fear then moves the sinner to see his own nature in light of such holiness and drives the sinner to trust in God to justify him by faith alone in God’s mercy. Faith and fear are both revealed to the sinner through the self-disclosure of God through Holy Scripture. This revelation brings us into right relations with holy God through God the Son Jesus Christ atoning work on our behalf.
In the Old Testament this relationship was revealed to be necessary by God’s self-disclosure through the Law (his holiness). In the New Testament by Christ (the holiness of God incarnate) who displayed holiness by fulfilling the Law on our behalf.
This gracious act of God (His self-disclosure) produces in the man both “fear” that moves us to see ourselves in light of His holiness and “faith”.
Biblical based fear and faith drives man to trust in Jesus Christ’s holiness and Jesus’ righteous standing before God the Father not our own.
Romans 3:10-18 (ESV)
10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one;
11 no one understands; no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
True saving faith and fear moves us to complete dependence on God’s promise of eternal life. Dependence and trust in God produces obedience to His will out of love for His grace and this produces true religion and true worship based on God‘s revelation found only in Scripture.
1689 Baptist Confession of Faith
1. The light of nature shows that there is a God, who hath lordship and sovereignty over all; is just, good and doth good unto all; and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in and served, with all the heart and all the soul and with all the might.
Jer. 10:7; Mk 12:33
But the acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by himself and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshipped according to the imagination and devices of men, nor the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representations, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scriptures.
Gen. 4:1-5; Ex 20:4-6; Mtt.15:3,8-9; 2 Kings 16:10-18; Lev.10:1-3; Deut. 17:3; 4:2; 12:29-32; Josh.1:7; 23:6-8; Mtt. 15:13; Col. 2:20-23; 2Tim. 3:15-17
2. Religious worship is to be given to God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and to him alone;
Mtt.4:9-10; John 5:23; 2 Cor. 13:14
not to angels, saints, or any other creatures;
Rom.1:25; Col. 2:10; Rev. 19:10
and since the Fall, not without a mediator, nor in the mediation of any other but Christ alone.
John 14:6; Eph. 2:18; Col. 3:17; 1Tim.2:5