Thursday, October 7, 2010

Religion or Salvation: Which Will You Take?

Fundamentally religion means: to do something over and over again. This means that anything or anyone can be a religion; therefore anything starting with the premise of religion will be false. What Christ offered us on the cross was not religion, but salvation.

In religion there is the opportunity for more than one interpretation. Hence the many religions we have in the word, based on any given person’s interpretation of their sacred writings. For every scripture written there could be a religion attached to it, because one person will interpret it differently from someone else. In salvation there is no interpretations only revelation revealed by the Holy Spirit, therefore, there is only one revelation.

Religion is simply a way for people to do their own thing with an organization to back it up. “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears” (2 Timothy 4:3). “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter
times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils” (1 Timothy 4:1). Religion, much like the law for the Jews, is a cloak to keep us from the true salvation found only in Christ Jesus; a school master if you will, until the true salvation appeared.

In the Bible time we could us religion as a premise, because they were dedicated to its foundation. “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this; To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27). If religion did this for us today, we would be in a
far better place, however, religion has failed us, because we have miss used it, and through it have turned the truth of God into a lie.

Salvation is a far better premise because it is not dependent on anyone’s interpretation. It is only dependent on the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Therefore, whether you believe or not does not make salvation void, furthermore, salvation is not by works, but by faith. “For by grace are ye saved through faith;
and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Religion is thought as something you work towards while salvation is given through the faith of Jesus Christ.
Therefore, religion is something you do, but salvation is something you receive through faith, and salvation can never be thought of as a crutch.

According to the Encarta Dictionary, crutch means: something that sustains or supports somebody or something that is otherwise liable to collapse, fail, or falter.

By this definition we should not look at religion or salvation as a crutch, but the Lord himself. This is exactly what He is asking us to do: to lean and depend completely on Him, in other words; to be supported by Him. “Therefore I say unto you, take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment” (Matthew 6:25)? Certainly without Christ we will collapse, fail, and falter.

Here Jesus is talking to his disciples and a crowd that gathered around Him:

"And call no [man] your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven." Matthew 23:9
And a moment later He says:

"But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in [yourselves], neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves." Matthew 23:13-15

When we consider the differences between the religions of the world, it becomes obvious these difference exist because they teach different doctrines. But why? (We are creatures that seem to need answers, though we are good at ignoring them, too). The first thing that we tend to look at is God; and we are forced into one of three conclusions in that regard. Either there is no God, so there is no absolute standard of right and wrong
(and so it doesn't matter what anyone believes because that is what many people today believe?); or there is a God, but either it doesn't matter to Him who believes what, or He hasn't indicated what He wants (and so it still doesn't matter what anyone believes); or there is a God, there is an absolute standard which has been announced, and it does matter to Him what people believe.

If the third alternative is true, then obviously people are not following this same “absolute” standard (otherwise they would all be teaching “absolutely” the same thing!). Why not? At this point, the curiosity of many tends to wane. Most people wonder about this conclusion, but few pursue it to where it leads, feeling comfortable with their own beliefs and traditions, fearing that a further search might lead to the abandonment of those beliefs and traditions. The fear is justifiable, but the abandonment of the search is not. If one's beliefs are not in accordance with God's standard, then they must be abandoned in favor of His will.

The continuation of our quest leads to three more possibilities. Either God's standard has not been clearly announced (is it the Bible? The Koran? The Book of Mormon?), or if it has, it can not be clearly understood. In either of those cases, we are back to square two (and again, many are content to return there). The third and final conclusion: God's standard is both understandable and absolute, but people do not seek it out, nor care to adhere to it when they find it.

The focus of this standard always goes back to one book: the Bible. There is good reason for this. The Bible is the oldest of the religious books that presents only one God, whose standard is absolute. The flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, and the numerous destructions at God's hands which are written about in the Bible are testimonies of its teaching concerning God's standard of right and wrong, and the terrible consequences for man and society when these standards are continually violated. God's grace and patience are
also revealed in that Book, but they are conditional upon acceptance of one man as Lord and Savior. Even a casual reading of the New Testament shows that one does not have to be a theologian to figure out that Jesus accepted no compromise with regard to the truth. Consider some of His words:

Of Himself, Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6).

Of judgment He said, “Unless you believe that I am He, you shall die in your sins” (John 8:24).

Of truth and salvation, Jesus said, “Ask, and it shall be given to you; Seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you” (Matt. 7:7), and yet five verses later He says, “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it. For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it” (Matt. 7:13–14). One can only conclude that while truth is accessible, it must be sought after, and few care to seek.

It is small wonder that the Bible is constantly being challenged and attacked. When a religion depends upon traditions and “continuing revelations,” that religion is constantly changing. There is no absolute. But a document that is written and preserved intact is unchangeable. The only thing one can do with the Bible is believe it as it is, deny it to be of divine origin, or deny its relevance any time beyond the date it was written, or at least when it was “standardized” (325 A.D.).

The Catholic church, the Protestant denominations, the Mormons, the Jehovah's Witnesses—all philosophies and religions not based solely upon an absolute standard are destined to change as society changes. One might argue that such change is good, healthy and necessary, but that's exactly the issue, isn't it?
Does morality change? If adultery was wrong in the first century, why is it right in the twentieth? Do the conditions of salvation change? If one had to obey the gospel of Jesus Christ in the first century in order to be saved (2nd Thess. 1:7–8), why is it not necessary in our time? Is the Bible an absolute standard or not?

The Word of God has never changed. God will not be mocked. Jesus made it clear that we cannot serve two masters, and here we are speaking of religion acting as the master. If a doctrine does not line up with the Word of God (not your interpretation of it), it is a false doctrine and Jesus warned us about this, as well.

Here is a little more on how Jesus felt about the "organized religion" of his day:

Matthew 24:28 "Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous (good) unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity' (sin).

Matthew 24:33 "Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?"

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