I once heard a radio preacher make the statement, “You can be religious to your fingertips and still go to hell.”
This is absolutely true.
Religion and salvation are two vastly different things. Religion is man trying to reach God by his own efforts, through rituals and ceremonies and keeping of the laws and rules of the religion he is practicing. It may include doing good works, it may include trying to turn others to your religion and it may include other such things that may be well and good as far as this life is concerned, but it won’t get you to heaven.
Salvation on the other hand is simply recognizing what God has already done for you, that He through Jesus has already done everything necessary to secure your salvation, and all you have to do is accept it by inviting Jesus into your life, into your inner man. Once you do that you are saved for all of eternity, heaven will be your future home, and nobody and nothing on this earth can take it away from you.
The Greeks worshiped many gods. In Athens they had altars and statues to every god they could think of, and even an altar to “the unknown god” just in case they happened to miss one. The apostle Paul saw this when he visited Athens while making his rounds as a missionary and was greatly moved by what he saw. He preached Jesus to them, which seemed to them as some strange new god they had never heard of.
Standing in the Areopagus he told them, “Men of Athens, I perceive that you are very religious in all respects. For while I was passing through and examining the subjects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘To an Unknown God.’ What therefore you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you.” And he preached to them about Jesus, the “unknown god,” as the only Way of salvation.
One thing that all religions have in common is you have to do something to work or earn your way to God (or whatever god that religion worships), or do something to merit that god’s attention. Even some who profess Christianity think we have to do something to earn our way to Heaven. I believe this is mainly based on misinterpretation of the Bible, trying to mix in Old Testament teachings with human reasoning. Whatever, it isn’t true.
But what does the Scripture say? In order to properly understand Scripture we have to apply some commonsense rules to the reading of it that could apply to any reading.
1. Take the writings in the Bible at face value, as literally true, unless the context indicates otherwise.
2. Don’t take Scripture out of context. Read what comes before and after the passage you’re looking at to get a clear picture of what it is actually saying. Don’t do “proof” texts, which are usually isolated verses taken out of context. Much false doctrine comes from taking Scripture out of context and mixing it with human reasoning. You can “prove” just about anything you want to by taking Scripture out of context but that doesn’t make it so and it really doesn’t prove anything.
3. Do cross-references. Look at other passages on the same subject or event, compare them and see what they say together. Compare Scripture with Scripture. This will give you a much clearer picture of what you are looking for.
4. Ask some questions about the passage you are reading: Who? What? When? Where? Why? Who is speaking? Who is he speaking to? What is he saying? What event or thing is he talking about? What is he doing, and why is he doing it? Where is this event, taking place? And why? What is the occasion? When is this happening, or being said? Finding the answers to these questions will help shed more light on what you are reading.
We’ve already seen that all religions are based on some sort of works, earning your way to heaven. What do Isaiah and others in the Bible say about that?
Isaiah 64:6 “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.”
Romans 3:19-20, Paul: “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be shut, and that all the world may become accountable to God, because by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified in the sight of God; for by the law comes the knowledge of sin.”
Romans 3:10-12, Paul: “For as many are of the works of the law are under a curse, for as it is written, ‘Cursed is every one who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them.’ Now that no one is justified before God is evident, for ‘the righteous man shall live by faith. However, the law is not of faith; on the contrary, ‘He who practices them shall live by them.’”
In other words all the law does is tell us we are sinners, but it doesn’t do anything to fix the situation.
The fact of the matter is that we are all sinners, and as such have no capacity to save ourselves. Keeping the laws given through Moses will not save us. All the law does is show us that we are sinners. And as sinners we are all under the condemnation of God, because God cannot allow sin in heaven and there is only one other place to go to when we die—hell. Sin is a bit like an ounce of poison in a pot of stew. No amount of stirring or adding other ingredients will neutralize the poison. The poison has to be removed but you have nothing to remove it with.
Enter Jesus. There is only one way to remove the poison of sin from our lives, and that is for an innocent substitute to take the punishment for that sin upon Himself. In the Old Testament it was a lamb or a goat or other animal without spot or blemish, a type or shadow looking forward to Jesus’ execution on the cross. In our case, that innocent Substitute is none other than God Himself, in the person of Jesus the Christ, the anointed Son of God.
When Jesus was crucified God the Father laid every sin of every person on earth, past, present and future, on Jesus. When He died He took all our sins to the grave with Him, never to be held against us again. When He arose from the dead it was proof positive that God had accepted that payment for the sins that He had been charged with—our sins. He had no sin of His own. For thirty-three years He lived on this earth, being born as a little baby just like the rest of us once were, growing to manhood, being tempted and tried in every manner that we all are, and yet totally without sin. Only then was He qualified to be the Substitute for our sins. And we are saved by His righteousness not our own. If we could save ourselves by our own self -righteousness, then Jesus died for no purpose.
Now what do we have to do to receive this righteousness?
John 1: 9-11: “He [Jesus] was in the world, the world was made by Him and the world knew Him not. He came to His own and and His own received Him not. But to as many as received Him, to them He gave the authority to become the sons of God, even to those who believe on His name.”
John 3:16-18: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son to condemn the world, but that through Him the world might be saved. Whoever believes on Him is not condemned, but he who believes not is condemned already, because he has not believed on the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
John 14:6: “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father except through Me.’”
Romans 10:9-10: “That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved. For with the heart man believes to righteousness and with the mouth confession is made to salvation.”
2 Corinthians 5:21: “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace are you saved through faith, it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast.”
So you see, it all works by faith. Everything necessary for your salvation has already been done, all you have to do is receive it by receiving Jesus into your life as your Lord and Savior. How do you get him to come into your life and be your Lord and Savior? Just ask Him to, and believe He will. It’s that simple. No rocket science needed, just sincere faith that He will do what you ask Him to do.
Religion: Do and do and do—all your life and get nowhere, and maybe end-up in hell.
Salvation: It’s already done, all taken care of by Jesus. Just receive Him by faith, like a child would ask his daddy to give him something he wants, believing he’ll get it for him. It’s that simple.
Believe me, it works!
Questions? Email me: email@example.com