Skip Heitzig - Four Mistakes Religious People Make
Would you now turn in your Bibles to the book of Romans, chapter 2. We continue our study through this book. We call it heart and soul. And we are today in the second chapter for a message I've called Four Mistakes Religious People Make. The hardest people to reach with the gospel are religious people. That's because they don't see their need. They're religious. They don't see their need for Christ. Those who are morally bankrupt, those who have hit rock bottom, they know they need help. But people who have a religion or a ritual or a set of ceremonies, they often do not. And religion can cover a multitude of sins. That is, it can become a mask worn by the hypocrite.
Let me introduce you to two of my friends from high school. One was named Richard. The other was named Raymond. Now, Richard, he was the guy that your parents warned you about. This guy had trouble, this guy had sin written all over him. He was a troublemaker. He was the school troublemaker. He was a liar. He was a manipulator, really a smooth character. And eventually, he got murdered in a bad drug deal. That was Richard. You saw Richard coming. Uh-oh. Here comes trouble. My parents told me that. But then there was Raymond. Raymond was very different. Raymond was the all-American kid next door. He's the kind you would want your daughter to go out with.
He had this winsome smile. He was very athletic, played lots of different sports. Very polite, very seemingly sincere. Went to church every Sunday with his family. But Raymond was an actor. And I mean that literally. He was in the drama club in high school, and he very gifted. But he took that skill into real life. And so Raymond acted the part of the polite, religious guy. So very few people knew of his drug addictions and alcoholism. On Sunday, he was in church. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, he was partying.
Raymond and Richard, two very different people but both needed the gospel. In chapter 2, after dealing with one group, Paul deals with another group. In chapter 2, Paul begins to address the religious person, the moralist who lives by some kind of code. The apostle has already introduced the gospel in chapter 1, the good news about Christ. And it's the good news of salvation, how a person who is not right with God can be made right with God. But first, Paul says, each person needs to know how not right with God they are. They have to understand the bad news before they could ever grasp and appreciate the good news.
So if you went to a doctor, and the doctor said, I've looked at your tests. And I need to do surgery on you. You hear that, and that's bad news. You might even think, what kind of a doctor are you? You're supposed to be nice to me. I'm supposed to walk out of here feeling good. You just told me some news that I think is bad news. But listen to the rest of what the doctor will say. If I don't do this surgery, you're probably going to die. But if I do this surgery, chances are you're going to live a long life. Well, now all of a sudden, the news that sounded like bad news sounds pretty good, especially against that bleak, black backdrop of you could die otherwise. So now you're looking at, I need to do surgery on you as good news because you understand now how bad the bad news really is.
And so what is the bad news that Paul has been telling us about? Well, he introduces the bad news in chapter 1, verse 18. Here it is. "For the wrath of God is revealed from Heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who hold the truth in unrighteousness." That's pretty bad news. So he begins to take us on this trajectory downward to paint the dark picture of the human condition, so that when he gets to the part in Romans of the grace of God, it's going to sound really good because you now understand the wrath of God. But there are those who, they don't know that. They don't know the bad news. They don't think they need a doctor. They have diagnosed themselves. They walk away, everyday looking in the mirror saying, I feel good about myself. I'm good just the way I am. In fact, I think I'm better than other people around me because they hide behind a veil of that little code of morality or that religious background.
With that in mind, let's begin in verse 1 of chapter 2. "Therefore, you are inexcusable, o man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself, for you who judge practice the same things. But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things. And do you think this, o man, you who judge those practicing such things and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you despise the riches of his goodness and forbearance and long-suffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart, you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to each one according to his deeds eternal life to those who by patient continuance and doing good seek for glory honor and immortality. But to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth but obey unrighteousness, indignation, and wrath, tribulation, and anguish, on every soul of man that does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek. But glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek, for there is no partiality with God. For as many as have sinned without the law will also perish without the law. And as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law, for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified. For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law. These, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves, their thoughts accusing or else excusing them. In the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel."
Not exactly light reading, right? This isn't something you read before you go to sleep to feel really, really, really good. You probably don't underline a lot of these verses and say, they're my life verses. It's some pretty tough stuff. The question is, who is Paul speaking to? Paul is speaking to religious folks. He's speaking to people who are either Jewish like himself and have that religious background, or very moral Greeks or Romans, who would hear or read what Paul said so far in chapter 1 and go, I agree with you, Paul. Those people really are bad that you mentioned in chapter 1.
In fact, can we just go back a few verses to chapter 1, just to remind you of what Paul said, so you understand what he's saying here? Go back to verse 28 of chapter 1. It says, "And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind to do those things which are not fitting, being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness, full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil mindedness. They are whispers, back biters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful, who knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them."
Now, the next word, therefore, so he's referring to the, he pivots now in chapter 2. Therefore, you are inexcusable, o man, who judge these people. He is imagining someone listening to him or reading this epistle. After pointing at the crowd in chapter 1, they're going to say, yeah, I agree with you. Those people are deserving of death. They're really bad. They ought to be judged. Now He says to the religious person, the moralist, you are inexcusable, o man. Question, who would fit this category today? Answer, any unsaved person who is hiding behind either religion or morality. It is the self-righteous person, those who trust in their baptism, those who trust in confirmation, those who trust in a ritual observance, those who trust in family heritage or church membership or high ethical standard or doctrinal purity.
If you trust anything else other than Christ alone for your eternal safety, that's who He's writing to. Now, this person that He's referring to in chapter 2 is moral, friendly, charitable, but self-satisfied and unsaved. Now, when I use the term today religion or religious person, I understand that James in the New Testament used it in a positive way. He said pure and undefiled religion is this, and he described it. I'm not using it in that sense. I'm using it in the classical dictionary sense of religion. Religion according to the dictionary is "A set of beliefs and practices, usually involving devotional and ritual observances." That's what I'm referring to.
I used to be a religious person. I am not anymore. I'm a recovering religious person. People say, oh, you're a religious figure. No, I am not. I am not religious at all in this sense of the word. Oh, I believe in God. And I follow Christ personally. But that's very different. Paul is referring to the religionist, the moralist. And the truth is no one can be saved. This is what Paul is underlining in these chapters. No one can be saved until they realize we're all guilty, and we all need God's solution in Christ. So let me give you four mistakes religious people make according to Romans, chapter 2.
Let me give them all to you. And then I'll explain them. Blame, number one; brashness, number two; bitterness, number three; and blindness, number four. Let's go through them, and I'll explain them. First of all, blame. That is pointing the finger but not perceiving the heart. Look at verse 1 and 2 again. "Therefore, you are inexcusable, o man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself, for you who judge practice the same things." We know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things. You've heard the old saying, you'll be able to finish it, when you point your finger, three fingers are pointing back at you. You've heard that saying. That's true. But there's another truth here, and that is you can point your finger, but you can't pinpoint the heart. You don't know the full scoop.
All human judgment is distorted. All human judgment is skewed. It is not according to truth because we don't know all the details. We don't know the motives. We don't know the particulars. We don't know the causes. We don't know the state of mind. There's a lot of things we don't know. And yet, how often do we misjudge people? I can't believe she's driving that nice car. Well, maybe her bad old beater finally stopped, and somebody was generous and had another vehicle and said, here, drive it. It's a nice car. Enjoy it. Use it for a while until you get yours fixed.
You don't know that. And yet, you make a judgment. Or can you believe that guy stood up and walked out right in the middle of the sermon? I don't like that, but maybe there's an emergency we don't know about. Maybe he's feeling ill. Aren't you glad he's not going to throw up all over you, but he's going to actually do you the courtesy of getting up? Or maybe he heard something preached, and he's so convicted of sin that he hasn't dealt with that if he hears anymore, he'll just explode.
We don't know. Jesus told them a story you're familiar with, and I'm sure, about two men going up to the temple to pray. Remember that story? It said two men went up to the temple to pray. One was a religious man. One was a wretched man. Jesus said one was a Pharisee, the other was a tax collector, a notorious kind of a sinner. Or if you don't mind, one was like the guy in chapter 2 of Romans. One was like the guy in chapter 1 of Romans, the blatantly bad guy, chapter 1, the religious guy but also guilty, chapter 2.
So two guys went up to the temple to pray, Pharisee and tax collector. And Jesus said the religious guy prayed like this. This is what he prayed. Lord, I thank You that I'm not like other men. Does that sound any self-righteous to you? I thank You that I'm not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers. But he continued, or even like this tax collector.
You know what he's doing now? Pointing the finger. He's pointing the finger. I'm glad I'm not like that guy. He's pointing the finger. But he doesn't know the heart. God did know the heart. Jesus said the other guy prayed a far off, stood a far off, wouldn't even come close, wouldn't even look up to Heaven. But he beat his breast saying, God, be merciful to me. I'm a sinner. Jesus said that wretched guy, that bad guy that the first one misjudged, he went back to his house justified before God. Jesus knew his heart. God knew his heart. The Pharisee who pointed the finger did not know his heart. So we can only point the finger, but only God can pinpoint the heart.
Look at verse 2. He says, "But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things." You see, only God's judgment is according to truth because that's part of God's very nature, truth. You know why? Because God has an attribute that you and I don't have. Actually, He has several attributes we don't have. One of those attributes is that God is omniscient. You know what that means? He knows everything. He knows everything. And if you know everything, then there's nothing you don't know. I know that sounds obvious. But that's how it would be stated in a logic class. If you know everything, then there's nothing you don't know, which means people's motives. You know the particulars. You know the causes. You know what humans don't know.
David understood this, Psalm 139. He said, Lord, you know when I sit down. You know when I get up. And then he said, You understand my thought afar off, or You know what I think before I think the thought. Before it ever enters my mind, and the chemicals get together, and the synapse is made, You know it. And then he said, such knowledge is too wonderful for me. It is high. I cannot attain it. God, you're in a different category. You know everything. I do not know. So what that means is in real life is that God always has a spoiler alert about everything. You can never play with God the game I spy with my little eyes. Something that is, God goes, before you even had that little thought in your head and saw it, I knew what you were going to say.
In Acts, chapter 15, it was the first council of the church, the first disagreement over doctrine in the church. There were two groups. And the biggest group was the religious group. These were Jewish people who were Christian people. They were saved. They believed in Jesus as Messiah. But they had a very Jewish background, very legalistic. And they were pointing the finger at Gentiles, saying, they can't be saved unless they go through the rituals of circumcision. Fortunately, Peter was there. And he stood up and he said this. God, who knows the heart, has showed that he has accepted them by giving them the Holy Spirit, even as he did to us at the beginning.
You know why God accepted them? Because he knows what's in their heart. You don't. You're looking at the outward. You're pointing the finger at the ritual or lack thereof. But God knows the heart. And he's accepted them. When Solomon dedicated the temple, he said to God, you alone know the hearts of the sons of men. That's God's job. When Jesus wrote that little postcard in Revelation 2 to the Church at Thyatira, He introduced Himself as, I am the one who searches the minds and the hearts. So Paul is imagining someone pointing the finger at the crowd in chapter 1 that he spoke about. But they really don't know the condition of those people's hearts. And sadly, they don't know the condition of their own heart.
So rather than being finger pointers, rather than being fault finders, rather than being sin sniffers, let's realize that the only one qualified to point the finger is the one who had spikes put in His hand just below His fingers. He's the only one qualified. That's the first mistake, blame, pointing the finger but not perceiving the heart. There is a second mistake. And that is brashness. And what I mean by this, as we'll see, is sitting as a judge while forgetting you're actually standing before the judge. Verse 3, "And do you think this, o man, you who judge those practicing such things and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God?"
Some pious people are experts at evaluating everybody else, and they forget they're being evaluated by God. That just escapes them. They're standing before the judge. John Stott, an Anglican preacher who's now in heaven, I've always loved his work, wrote a commentary on the book of Acts. He said, and I quote, "What we are often doing is seeing our faults in others and judging them vicariously. That way, we experience the pleasure of self-righteousness without the pain of penitence."
Now, the problem is in our thinking. That's what the verse says, verse 3. "And do you think this, o man", the word think here is the word logidzomai. Logidzomai. It means to evaluate. It means to estimate. It means to calculate. Logidzomai. We get our word logic from it. So the religious person uses logic, calculates, but he does it wrongly. He's logical, but he's not theological. So his logic is skewed. So he calculates and evaluates people's lifestyles. He calculates and evaluates God's judgment. He calculates and evaluates his own life. But he does it falsely.
Why? Because this is the danger of self-righteousness. Somebody who is self-righteous is always underestimating God's perfection and overestimating their own. They are content to be plaintiff and judge, forgetting they're actually the defendant. In Hebrews, chapter 4, verse 13, the writer says, "There is no creature hidden from his sight. But all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him", listen to this, "to whom we must give account." Who's going to give account? We must give account.
Twice in the New Testament Paul said, "We must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ." And that's the only one who has perfect knowledge of all things. But the secret hope of the hypocrite, you know what it is? The secret hope of the hypocrite is that God will judge them by a lower standard. They're hoping that God will wink at his sin but whack others for their sin. They want God, in their case, to grade on a curve, or to give them a pass, or to give them an A on the final exam, even if they deserve an F on the final exam. One person observed, there's some kind of still little voice in everybody that constantly convinces them that in the end it's going to be OK. You know what that little voice is? Your fallen nature that's always trying to justify yourself.
Now, I just want to comment on this. This is not a call to suspend analytical judgment or critical judgment. We're called in the Bible to think critically about life and to use discernment. But the point here isn't suspend discernment, suspend critical analytical thinking, as much as he is saying, don't take God's place as judge, condemning others without examining yourself. That's hypocritical. That's a double standard because the truth is, and he's going to be leading up to this in chapter 3, for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
So that is a mistake, brashness. Blame, pointing the finger but not perceiving the heart. Brashness, sitting as a judge while actually standing before the judge. Third mistake, bitterness. This is a big one. What I mean by bitterness is hating people's badness more than loving God's goodness.
There's some people who just, they know what's bad. That's all they know. They look around at the world. It's pretty bad. People are wicked. And they see it. They smell it. They complain about it. That's all they see, is the badness. And they love to point out badness more than pointing out God's goodness.
Verse 4, "Or do you despise the riches of his goodness, forbearance and long-suffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?" They love talking about how wicked the world is, how bad the world is, not how good God is. In fact, the word despise means that they scorn it. They look down on it. They undervalue it.
What do they undervalue? God's patience. In fact, I want you to notice how patient God is. I'm going to give you a few words. Actually, Paul gave them to you. I'm just going to explain some of the words in verse 4. Paul uses some colorful words to describe God's goodness and patience. First is the word forbearance. You see that in verse 4? "Do you despise the riches of his goodness?" Forbearance.
Forbearance refers to withholding judgment. It's as if God calls a temporary truce. Example, God announced at one time that He would judge the entire world in an event called the flood. You know how many years He waited before that happened? Noah built the ark, and it says preached, preached to people 120 years. That's forbearance, 120 years.
I'm calling a truce. Flood's not going to happen for 120 years. Noah, get that word out. Get that word out because something might happen in the hearts of these people. That's forbearance. Another example, for hundreds of years, God announced that His people, if they keep going down that path of disobedience, would be taken captive in Babylon for 70 years.
He sent prophet after prophet after prophet. God waited, from the first announcement, 800 years before that event happened. That's forbearance. So that's one word, forbearance. The word after that is the word long-suffering. I love this word. Long-suffering means just like it sounds. You suffer long with people.
The Greek word, it's a great word, makrothumeo. It comes from two words. It's a compound word. Makro, I bet you know what makro means. It means big, large, macro. The other word, thumos, means anger, or thumeo. Thumos means anger. So the word means large, great anger. When applied to God, it means that God has this incredible, amazing capacity to store up anger before He ever lets it spill out in judgement.
It's almost like you can tick God off, but He won't do anything for a long time. Oh, it's coming, but He's makrothumeo. He is long-suffering. He puts up with a lot. Then notice the word goodness mentioned twice in verse 4. "Do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, long-suffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?"
Now, the English word good is related to the English word God. And that's because our Anglo-Saxon word for God originally meant the good. And why is that important? It means that in the mind of the ancient Anglo-Saxons who developed the language, they saw that goodness was such an essential part of God's character, that goodness was part of Godness. God is good.
We even say that, right? An anthem, a theme, a refrain of the church historically is, God is good all the time. All the time God is good. I bet you've heard that. At least 18 of you have, I heard. So God is good. God is long-suffering. God is forbearing.
But do you know that some scorn that attribute of God? They despise that attribute of God. They undervalue, underestimate that attribute of God. You go, really? No. Yeah. It's as if they're thinking, how could God ever forgive something that bad? Let me give you an example.
This happened many years ago. But I remember it. And I had the conversation with Dobson last year about this. Years ago, there was a serial killer named Ted Bundy. Anybody heard his name? Ted Bundy, he admitted to killing and raping 30 victims. He was sentenced to death.
Before his death, he asked Dr. James Dobson to come into his jail cell for a final interview. He was very open and very honest. And Dobson spent hours with him, interviewing him, and led him to what Dobson said was a sincere, authentic commitment of his life to Jesus Christ, being sorry for his past, and amazed that there is a God in Heaven who could forgive him.
But Dobson said, I believe it was absolutely sincere. I believe he said he's saved. Now when that happened, you know what came out in the press? Anger. Anger. Scorn, despite, oh, that's a sham. That's a scam. That's a cover-up. It's a ploy. See, people hated the notion that God could or ever would forgive such badness. Instead of loving God for His goodness, they hated God for forgiving badness.
Do you think the religious leaders that Jesus had a conflict with, remember the woman caught in adultery? When they're ready to stone her, they pick up stones. Jesus said, whoever's without sin, throw the first one. And they say, OK. And they dropped them and walked away. And then Jesus said to her, woman, where are your accusers? Sir, I have none. Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.
Do you think those religious leaders that He had the confrontation with were happy with Jesus after that? Do you think they thought, man, He's so good. He's so forgiving. He's so loving. I love that about Him. You know what they said? Let's kill Him. That is a mistake religious people make, bitterness, hating people's badness more than loving God's goodness.
Now, here's a question. Why is God so good? Good luck answering that. Why is God so good? Well, actually the text answers it. Why is God so long-suffering? What's the purpose of this forbearance? It says to lead them to what? To lead them to repentance. Second Peter, chapter three, "God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance."
So God isn't being lenient when He waits for judgment. God is being patient when He waits for judgment. He's not winking at sin. He's waiting for the sinner to change his mind. He's giving them space. He's hoping maybe this 800 years, maybe this 120 years of Noah, maybe. I'm going to give them a chance. I'm going to give them space to change their minds.
Why would anyone ever despise that? Why would anybody look down or underestimate or undervalue that? And before you hate people's badness and the world's wickedness over God's goodness, let me ask you a question. Was God patient with your ignorance and your rebellion? Was he just very kind and long-suffering with you, when you didn't know any better, before you came to Christ? Then, as a transformed individual filled with the Holy Spirit of God, can't you look at other people with those same eyes? Well, religious people don't.
And that leads us to our fourth and final mistake, and that is blindness, meaning they behold others' sin, but they're blind to their own. Verse 5, he continues, "But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart, you are treasuring up for yourself wrath, in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to each one according to his deeds." He's quoting several Old Testament passages in that verse 6.
"Eternal life to those, who by patient continuance and doing good, seek for glory, honor, and immortality. But to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth but obey unrighteousness, indignation, and wrath, tribulation, anguish in every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek. But glory, honor, peace, to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek."
This whole section uncovers the human tendency to be hard in our judgment of others but soft in our judgment for ourselves. We love to call that righteous indignation, right? Sometimes it's really self-righteous indignation, not righteous indignation. Sometimes you're just being hard on others, but you're being soft on yourself.
And why is that? Well, it's like the guy driving down the country road. He ran over a skunk, got stuck on the front of his car. So he's driving down the road going, man, there must be a skunk out in those woods somewhere. It's on his car. He didn't know it. He keeps driving. It gets worse, not better.
He goes, man, there must be a lot of skunks out there in that country. The stink is going wherever he goes. And so often, we go, man, you stink. These people stink. No, dude. You stink. You're smelling yourself on them.
You, see this kind of blindness, this noticing others' problems and failures and sins without acknowledging your own, that reveals a hard heart. Verse 5, "In accordance with hardness and your impenitent heart", I just want to point out that the word hardness in that verse is a word you need to know about. In fact, it's a word you know. Some of you know it.
Sklerotes, you go, no. You're wrong. I don't know it. Here it is again in another form, skleros. Have you heard of sclerosis, arteriosclerosis or atherosclerosis? One in four Americans die of that. One in four Americans die of that, hardening of the arteries. This word skleros, sklerotes, is the hardening of one's spiritual heart, becoming insensitive to God, which is far worse than the hardening of the arteries.
Jesus was in the synagogue one day. And the religious folks were there. And you would think, oh, these religious people are here to worship God. And you know what they were there for? They wanted to see if Jesus would heal a dude on the Sabbath. They're going to nail Him. You can't, instead of saying, people can get healed? Like really? Like be miraculously healed? I want to see that.
They go, let's see if He can do that. If He does that on the Sabbath, He's in trouble. You know what it says? Jesus looked around at them and was grieved because of the hardness of their hearts. Sclerosis of the heart. Now here's the sad thing about arteriosclerosis, one in four Americans die of. Most people that have it don't know they have it.
The first symptom is a heart attack. Now they know. Sometimes it's too late. They're walking around going, I feel good. I'm fine. No, I'm healthy. I'm the picture of help. Boom, heart attack. Why? Arteriosclerosis. They didn't know they have it. Do you know that most people do not know their own spiritual condition? And the worst is a hardened heart against God because hardening of the arteries may send you to your grave. Hardening your spiritual heart will send you to hell.
And that's the mask religious people can hide behind. And that's why Paul is exposing it because he wants all people to know we're saved by grace. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. The good news is anyone who calls on Him can be saved. One thing about Paul the Apostle I just admire is that he was never blind to his own condition. He didn't say, yeah, that crowd in chapter 1, I've never been like that. They're really bad.
You know what he said? He said, this is a faithful saying that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. What? Paul the Apostle said he was the worst sinner? Where does that leave Skip? Worse off than Paul.
Paul knew it, and he admitted it. So here's the bottom line. The essence of the good news, the essence of the gospel, is that God extends grace to unworthy people, and we all are. Whether you're a high moral Greek or Roman or a religious Jewish person or a Catholic or a Protestant, you can't hide behind that stuff.
I'm going to close with a story to lighten things up and bring a fine point on this. Let me tell you about Bubba. Great name, right? Bubba. Bubba was from Alabama. He was a good old Southern Baptist boy. But he loved to go to the races on the weekends and bet on the horses. So Bubba was at the horse race one Sunday, or one weekend. I don't know when they had horse races in Alabama.
But he's there, and he's losing all of his money happily. But he sees a priest go out on the racetrack before one of the races and bless the forehead of one of the horses and then goes back in the crowd, disappears. And Bubba goes, no. It's a long shot. That horse can't win. The horse won the race. Bubba said, wow.
So before the next race, he sees that priest out there again blessing the forehead of another horse. He goes and buys a ticket for that horse, a little bit. The horse wins. He gets some money. Well, this happens all day. And the guy's making hand over fist. Bubba's making money on what the priest is doing.
So at the last race, Bubba says, I'm going to take all the money I have in savings. I'm going to my ATM. I'm going to go big. The priest goes out on a track, blesses the forehead and eyes and ears and hoofs of a particular horse. Bubba bets all of his savings on that horse. That horse comes in last and then falls over dead.
Now, Bubba finds the priest. He goes, dude, what up? Now, we were doing good, you and I together. I was betting, and we were winning. I was winning. But now because of you, I lost all of my life savings because of what you did on the last horse. And the priest smiled and said, that's the problem with you Protestants. You can't tell the difference between a simple blessing and the last rites.
Now, some of you have bet everything on a ritual. Some of you have bet everything on your family heritage. I was raised in a Christian home. Some of you have bet everything on tradition and ceremony and a religious experience. You need to know the difference between a blessing and the last rites. You need to put all your life, bet everything on one thing, one person, what Jesus did for you because all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. But by simple trust in what He did for you, whole new ballgame, whole new horse race.
Father, thank You for Your grace to sinners, some who very well know they are, and probably most people who have not yet admitted that they are. They don't know the bad news, so they never appreciate the good. But Lord, thank You for sending to us the writings of Paul the Apostle to explain in detail not only what our need is but what the solution is.
And if you're here this morning, and you've heard this message, and you've suddenly realized, I've hidden behind church attendance, heritage, background, religion, but I don't know Christ, just right now where you are, say this to Him. Just say something like this, very simply, it's not a formula or an incantation. It's just an honest prayer. Say:
Lord, I admit I'm a sinner. You tell Him that. And I'm sorry for my sin. I believe in Jesus, that He came from Heaven to Earth, that He died for me on the cross, and that He rose again from the dead. I turn from my past. I turn to Jesus as Savior. I want Him to be my Lord. Show me how. Help me. It's in His name I pray. Amen.