Robert Jeffress - How To Be A Christian Without Being Religious? - Part 2
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. The apostle Paul didn't hold back when talking about the so-called religious people. With their overt attempts to impress others, with their piety and their pretense, and the worst part is when they reduce the Gospel to nothing more than a strict moral code. Well, today, we'll see Paul's instructions in Romans chapter two, that can liberate us from the smothering influence of religious hypocrisy. My message is titled, "How to be a Christian Without Being Religious" on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
You see, the Jews had fallen into a trap that quite Frankly many of us have fallen into as well. We equate knowing God's word with doing God's word. We equate knowledge with obedience. They are not the same thing. In Paul's day, the Jewish rabbi's taught, they said, well now, it's impossible to obey God's law completely, so all you have to do is know it. If you can recite all of God's laws, that's the same as doing God's law. And then another rabbi came along and said, you know what? It's impossible to know all of God's law. So if you simply have a copy of it in your house, in the scrolls, that's the same as obedience. We laugh at that and say how could anybody be that stupid to think that knowing or possessing God's law is the same as doing God's will. But don't we make the same mistake today as Christians?
We equate biblical knowledge with obedience. We think as long as I believe that this book is the inerrant Word of God, as long as I stand up for the sanctity of life and the sanctity of marriage and so on and so forth, I'm okay with God. Let me burst your Baptist bubble here for just a moment, okay? Did you know you get absolutely no credit with God for believing the right thing. You get zero zip credit with God. You believe the Bible is inerrant Word of God, you believe in the sanctity of life and sanctity of marriage, you don't get one check Mark for that. All you get credit for as a Christian, is how you obey God. Now, don't misunderstand, beliefs and knowledge are important, it's impossible to obey that what you don't know. But unfortunately you can know a lot of things that you don't obey. That's why Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, "Only he who believes is obedient. And only he who is obedient truly believes". Bible says it's not our knowledge of God's word, it's our obedience of God's will that makes a difference.
That's what Paul was saying to the Jews. He was saying in this passage, you teach, don't steal, don't steal from God. But are you stealing from God? Are you holding on to tides and offerings that belong to him? You say, do not commit adultery, but aren't you yourselves engaged in legitimized adultery, unbiblical divorce? And it's not just knowing God's word, it's obeying God's will that makes the difference. That was the problem with the Jew. He thought it was all about knowledge. He said, "Look at my spiritual heritage. Look at my biblical knowledge". Paul says, "Not enough". Finally look at his third excuse. For not needing the righteousness of Christ, he'll say, watch my religious works. Look at verse 25. "For indeed circumcision is a value, if you practice the law: but if you are a transgressor of the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision".
One commentator says about this passage, in this final section, Paul pursues the Jew into his last retreat, his last excuse for rejecting the Gospel. Physical circumcision was only to be a physical symbol of a spiritual circumcision that was yet to come. Return back to Romans 2:28 and 29. That's what Paul says here. "For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly," let that sink in. It's not being a Jew physically that makes you a Jew, an inheritor of God's promise, "For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, neither is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly: and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the spirit, not by the letter: and his praise is not from men, but from God". And yet the Jew constantly taught, it was physical circumcision that saved a person.
Rabbi Menachem in his commentary on the book of Moses said, "Our rabbis have taught that no circumcised man will see hell". Another commentator wrote, circumcision saves from hell. In the mid rash you will find these words, God swore to Abraham that no one who was circumcised should be sent to hell. That's what the religious person does. He trusts in physical acts, religious works in order to save him. Paul says, "No, religion will not save you". I believe that if Paul were writing to the First Baptist Church of Dallas, instead of the Romans. If Paul were writing to us today, he would substitute the word baptism for circumcision. Because we have done the same thing with baptism that the Jews did with circumcision. You talk to many people today and ask you, what know, when did you trust in Christ as your Savior? They'll say, oh, I was baptized when I was 10. That's not what I ask you. Both circumcision and baptism are alike in this way, they are physical acts that are absolutely meaningless without the spiritual reality behind them. And that's why throughout the Bible, you find the emphasis on believer's baptism.
Throughout the New Testament, the pattern is always this: believe and be baptized. Did you know there is not one instance in the New Testament where anyone was ever baptized first and then later became a Christian. That never happened. It was always believe first and then be baptized. And there is not one instant in the Bible of any baby ever being baptized. Give me one instance and I will quit talking about this. But the fact is, there isn't an instance of that. It was always believe and be baptized. The Bible teaches believer baptism, not baby baptism. If you want to dedicate your child to God, wonderful, do it, bring them down to the front, baptize them, but don't throw any water on them and get them in danger of catching pneumonia. You don't use water. The Bible doesn't teach baby baptism, it teaches believers baptism.
I always talk about this with children once they've made their decision to trust in Christ. I explain to them that baptism is a sign of their salvation, it is not the means of their salvation. And this is what I'll say to a child. I'll point to this wedding ring. And I'll say, you know, about 36 years ago, I made a commitment to my wife, an unconditional commitment that I would love her with all of my heart. And when I made that commitment, here at the First Baptist Church in Dallas, she put this new... I mean, this ring around my finger here. And this ring means I belong to her. And anytime anybody looks at this ring, they know I belong to somebody. And then I'll say to the child, now, is it possible for me to be married without this ring? Yes, the child will say. And I'll say, well, I certainly hope so because this is my third wedding ring, I've lost two of them already. Because there are times I didn't have the ring on, but it wasn't the ring that made me married, it was the commitment that I made to my wife.
And then I'll take the ring off, and I'll ask the child to put their finger out. And I'll take the ring and I'll put it on the child's finger. And I say, now, does this mean you're married? And that will giggle and they'll say, oh no, no, no, no, no. I said, "Right, the ring doesn't mean anything, unless you've made that commitment in your heart". And I said, "Now, baptism is the very same way". Baptism is a sign, it's a symbol that you've trusted in Jesus as your Savior. Could you be saved without being baptized? Yes. But God commands you to be baptized as a way of showing that you belonged to him. That's what the Bible teaches about baptism. But baptism is simply a physical symbol of a spiritual reality. And without that spiritual reality, if you get baptized, you've done nothing but get wet. The Bible teaches believers baptism. The message of Romans two is simply this: religion is absolutely worthless in obtaining righteousness for you. The religious person is condemned before God in spite of his spiritual heritage, his biblical knowledge and his religious works.
Now I was thinking this week, now, how to sum all of this up because this is some deep stuff in Romans chapter two, how to sum it up. And so I want to close today with two principles I want you to write down. That contrast genuine righteousness, a right standing with God, with empty religion. Would you write down these two statements. The difference between genuine righteousness and empty religion. Number one, righteousness results in works, religion results in words. True righteousness always results in works, religion results in words. Now, and don't misunderstand. I am not saying we are saved by our good works. Good works are not the means of our salvation, but they are the measure of our salvation. If we are truly saved in a right standing with God, good works are going to flow from our life. That's what Paul is saying in this passage.
Now, many people don't understand that. They focus on empty religion. But here's the problem with empty religion. It only focuses on the external. Baptism, church membership, going through this ritual or that ritual. But religion doesn't provide the internal change in our life necessary to produce truly good and consistent works in our life. My oldest daughter, Julia, when she was about eight years old, she was always interested, and Dorothy, you can attest to this. She was always interested and where people went to church, and wanted to know if those people were going to heaven or not. She was very evangelistic, even as a little girl. And so when she was about eight years old she asked me about a particular family, a particular person in our community. And she said, "Dad, what church does he go to"? And I mentioned the name of the church. And she said, "Well, how do they believe you get to heaven"? And I said, "Well, they believe it's good works that sends you into heaven". And Julia shook her head and said, "Boy, by the way he acts he's not going to make it, is he"?
You see, that's the irony of religion. Religion says you're saved by good works. But it doesn't give you the internal mechanism you need to produce those good works. In 2 Corinthians 5:17, Paul said, "If any man be in Christ, he's a new creation. Old things have passed away, new things have come". While it's true that good works are not the means of our salvation, they are the measure of our salvation. That's what Paul is talking about in verses seven to 10 of Romans two. Go back up there and look at it for a moment. How do you know if you're in a right standing with God? The way to know it is by looking at the work, so the fruit of your life. He said in verse seven, "To those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality," what awaits them? "Eternal life: but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, what awaits them is wrath and indignation. There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek".
What Paul is saying is, what comes forth from your life, demonstrates which road you're on. Are you on the road to heaven? Are you on the road to hell? The best way to know is, what has been produced in your life right now. It's time right now to examine your own heart. What is it that really characterizes your life on a day in and day out basis? Selfish ambition. Materialism. Anger. Bitterness. Lust. Or is your life characterized by purity, obedience to God, a desire to put his kingdom first? Jesus said, "You will know them by their fruits".
See, genuine righteousness always results in works. Empty religion for all its talk, only ends up and results in words. There's a second bAlancing truth in this passage, and that is, genuine righteousness is based on God's effort, religion is based on our efforts. That it's true, good works are important, they are the measure of our salvation. But they are not the means of our salvation. In fact, we'll see in this next section of Romans, Paul goes overboard to show that our good works cannot earn God's favor. It's something that we receive as a gift from God. There's this misnomer, this idea that, well, the Old Testament teaches salvation by works, and the New Testament teaches salvation by grace. No, it's always been by grace. King David understood that. Remember after his sin with Bathsheba, after his sin with Bathsheba he's poured out his heart, toward God he confessed to sin, but he knew confession was not enough. And in Psalm 51:7, he cried out, "Purify me God with hyssop and I shall be clean: wash me and I shall be whiter than snow".
Do you know what hyssop was? Hyssop was a plant, it was a very bushy plant in Israel that was used to sprinkle the blood of a sacrifice on the altar in the temple. And what David was simply praying was this, he said, "God, I need you to cover my sin. I need you to take innocent blood and cover over my sin". That's what atonement means, it means covering. David understood he needed someone to cover over his sin. We all need that. And that's why as we read this morning from Colossians two, it is the grace, the blood of Jesus Christ that covers us from all of our transgressions. It doesn't matter what you do or what you have done in the past, the blood of Christ is sufficient to cover you of all of your sin. Listen, salvation, a right standing with God is not the result of our efforts, of what we do for Christ, it is what Christ has done for us. Why is religion worthless? It cannot obtain a right standing with God in spite of our spiritual heritage, in spite of our biblical knowledge, in spite of our religious works.
I once heard Chuck Swindoll use this analogy of a person who depends upon religion to save him. He said, "Such a person is like a parachutist, who is standing on the edge of the airplane door, getting ready to jump out. But accidentally, instead of strapping on a parachute, he straps on knapsack filled with cement. He confidently plunges poured the earth below. He starts to pull on the strings, and only then does he realize what he was depending on to deliver him is going to destroy him". And so it is with the person who depends upon religion to save him. Listen to me this morning, when that time comes for you to make that jump from this life into the vastness of eternity, and we're all going to make that leap one day. When that time comes for you to jump from this life into the vastness of eternity, what are you going to be depending on to deliver you from God's deserved judgment? If you're depending upon your religious heritage, your biblical knowledge, your religious rituals to save you, you're going to be sadly disappointed. There is only one thing that will deliver you from the wrath of God. And that is the blood, the forgiveness of Jesus Christ.