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Religion Can’t Save You, Part 2

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
The Truth Network Radio
May 11, 2023 9:00 am

Religion Can’t Save You, Part 2

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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May 11, 2023 9:00 am

Good news! Though religion can’t change us, the gospel gives us a new heart. In Romans 2 Paul admonishes religious people who have grown up in church and have never recognized their need for repentance but reminds us that there is hope. In this message, Pastor J.D. shows us the only way for religious and irreligious people to be saved and how God stands ready not with condemnation but mercy and kindness.


Today on Summit Life with J.D.

Greer. We like to learn concepts of truth more than we like to be confronted by concepts of truth. Religious people love to write down concepts of truth more than they love to be changed by concepts of truth. Paul says, look, God did not give his word for information. God gave his word for transformation.

This is not about filling up your notebook. It's about changing your heart. Welcome to Summit Life with J.D. Greer.

I'm Molly Vidovich. Okay, so here's the bad news. Religion can't change us. But the good news is that the gospel can change us by giving us a new heart. In Romans chapter 2, Paul admonishes religious people who have grown up in church but have never recognized their need for repentance.

He reminds us that, in spite of that tendency, there is still hope. And today, Pastor J.D. shows us the only way for religious and irreligious people to be saved and how God stands ready, not with condemnation, but mercy and kindness. This is part two of a message Pastor J.D. titled, Religion Can't Save You.

So let's rejoin him now in Romans chapter 2. Here's a biblical quiz for you. It's the Ten Commandments quiz. I'm going to reduce it down to eight to see how our hearts actually line up. Do we have the heart of a righteous person, or do we have the heart of a unrighteous person?

That's what you're asking. So here's what I want you to do. We're going to keep score.

I want you to write a column for yes, and I want you to write a column for no. Here's commandment number one. You shall have no other gods before me. I have never put anything before God in my life. I have never loved or trusted or obeyed anything more than God. God has always been preeminent, and my thoughts, my affections, and my actions worshiping Him has always been my greatest passion, yes or no. Commandment number three.

We'll jump to that one. You shall not take my name in vain. I've always held the name of God in highest respect, never uttering it carelessly, invoking it only with thoughtfulness and reverence. I have never been lethargic or apathetic during worship. I have never desecrated God's name by calling myself His follower, yet not representing Him well. The way that I talk, act, spend money, and drive, give honor to the God whose name I attached to my life and whose bumper sticker I put on my car, yes or no. All right, let's go to number five.

We're just doing the odd ones. I'm taking it easy for you. Honor your parents. I have always respected and obeyed the authorities in my life.

That includes my parents, my teachers, traffic cops, and the IRS, yes or no. Commandment number six. You shall not kill. That means I have not murdered anybody. I know some of you've been waiting for this one. You're like, all right, yes.

Okay, hang on. Before you check yes, remember Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount expanded this one. He said the heart of this one is not just whether you stick a knife in somebody's chest or not. The heart of this one is whether or not you in your heart want to cause harm to somebody else because somebody that loves to see harms come to somebody else, that's the spirit of murder. So to check yes on this one, you've got to be able to say this. Nor have I had hateful thoughts, nor have taken the slightest pleasure in seeing harm done to another human being. Yes or no.

Number seven. You shall not commit adultery. I've never had sex with somebody outside the bonds of marriage. Nor, according to Jesus, have I ever entertained sexual thoughts because Jesus said if you lust after somebody in your heart, even if you don't do the act, you're guilty of adultery in your heart. Yes or no.

And number eight. You shall not steal. I've never taken anything that didn't belong to me.

That includes downloading illegal music, cheating in school, fudging on my taxes. I've never taken credit that didn't belong to me. Nor have I ever let others assume good things about me that weren't true. Yes or no.

Number nine. You shall not lie. I've never bent the truth to get out of a bad situation. I've never stretched the truth to make myself look better in a situation. I've never slandered another person. I've always told the truth in every situation regarding every person I've ever known. And I've always fully fulfilled any promises that I've made. Yes or no. You shall not covet.

Last one. I've never been greedy for something that was not mine. Nor have I ever been jealous of the abilities, the looks, the position, or the possessions of others. I've rejoiced with others and what they have. I've never complained about what God has provided for me. And I've always been thankful and fully content with what I have and where I am in life.

Even willing to share what I have with others who have less than me. If I describe your life, if so, then put yes. If not, then put no.

Are you finished? If you got a good score on this, you need to go back to commandment number nine. Thou shalt not lie.

I'll give you a big old immediate fail on this one. Now, if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God, and you're convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light to those in darkness, may you who preach you must not steal, do you actually steal in your heart? You who say we shouldn't commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who detest idols, do you rob the temples of those idols? Paul says when you look down into your heart motives, don't you still do the very things that you tell others not to do?

You say don't steal, but there's plenty of evidence from your life of you taking more than what belongs to you. You say don't commit adultery, but you sexually fantasize about people who you were not married to. By the way, that term robbing temples is clearly figurative. Paul doesn't mean that these religious Jews by night dress up as vigilantes and go around and rob the temples of pagan gods and plunder their treasuries. All Paul is doing with that commandment is what Jesus did with the other commandments in the Sermon on the Mount.

When Jesus said adultery is more than just the act, it is actually what happens in your heart when you lust after somebody else. Paul is saying, hey, we know not to worship idols, but you guys know that idol worshiping is more than the physical act of bowing down to a statue, right? The reason that pagan people bow down to idols is because they think that idol will give them, say, prosperity. As a religious person, you might not bow down to the gold statue, but you worship prosperity just as much as they do. You crave money and respect and power just as much as they do. You may not worship the idol, but you want what is in that idol's temple, so you rob the temple.

You go after prosperity just as much as they do, and you can see that, for example, in how much you worry about money. You can see that in how important money is to you, how much you seek it, how you refuse to be generous with your money, how you refuse to obey God's commandments to give it and to share it, and in how much you complain to God when God doesn't give it to you. In fact, you might even say that you are using God in religion to help you in pursuit of that idol. That's why God doesn't take up his end of the bargain for you, and your job doesn't give you the bonus, or you don't make a lot of money. You feel like God has let you down on something. You're like, well, God, I did everything I was supposed to give, and I tithed, and I went to church, and I'm still not the one who got the raise, and I'm still not able to afford all these things that I want, and you're furious at God.

God, I did my part. You see, what that's revealing is that you used religion to get things from God instead of getting more of God. He says, hey, you say you're not an idolater, but look in your heart. You who boast of the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law?

Yeah, you do. For as it is written, the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you. Even the Gentiles can look at your life, and they can see that there's not actually that much difference between you and them, and that you worship the same things they worship. And if anything, Paul saying your religion made you worse. Religiosity is this strange disease because one person has it, and it makes everybody else around them want to vomit. Tim Keller summarizes Paul's attitude toward religiosity this way. It says religiosity. Religiosity, Paul is saying, makes people, first of all, smug.

You just walk around with this subtle but nauseating air about you. Oh, I just got everything together. I don't have the problems you people have because I just do a better job than you. And generally speaking, I'm just a better class of person than you. Ask yourself, if you're a parent, when you hear about your friend's kid acting up in school, is your gut response, well, my kid would never do that, so I must be doing something right. Or is your response, dang, parenting is impossible, and my kid's got all kinds of problems too. And thank God for his grace because if not, all of our kids will be doomed. Or when you find out that another famous pastor has fallen into sin, what's your first gut level response? Well, serves him right. I didn't like his theology anyway.

Where's your first response? Lord God in heaven, I got to consider myself because I'm made out of the same stuff as anybody. Religious makes people smug. The gospel makes people humble. Religiosity makes people, Paul says, overly sensitive because your identity is built on your righteousness. People can't undermine that or challenge that in any way because they'd be attacking your identity.

They can't even question it. If somebody criticizes you, oh, that is deeply bothersome, maybe even devastating, and so you replay their criticism over and over and over again. Ask yourself, when somebody confronts you about your sin, what is your first reaction? Is it to get defensive?

Or how about this, do you start mentally listing out all the problems they have, or do you receive their rebuke, humbly and legitimately ask God to help you hear it and thankful for it? Religion makes people really, really sensitive because it's their identity and they can't be criticized. It makes them on the flip side judgmental. You have a need to find other people worse so that you can feel better about yourself. And so you're really critical of others, always finding fault.

You're the kind of person that you can literally find a fault with anybody. You're judgmental because it's a personal insecurity. You need other people to be less so that you can feel like you're more. And when you do see some fault or weakness in others, you're not really compassionate. Here's again, here's how Tim Keller says it, you will be at best cold and at worst outright condemning toward those who are struggling. Rather than speaking words of encouragement to the struggler, helping to lift them up, you speak words of gossip about them to others to show yourself in a comparatively good light. I'll just think over your last week, was it characterized by you lovingly confronting people and helping them change and compassion with the struggler? Or was it characterized by you texting and calling people and whispering things about people because it made you feel good? A sign of this condition is that people don't want to share their problems with you.

And you are very defensive if others point out your problems to you. Thanks for listening to Summit Life with JD Greer. I wanted to take a moment to share with you a great resource that will help you stay committed to spending time in God's word every day. It's our free daily email devotional written by Pastor JD himself. Every Monday through Friday, you'll receive a short practical email that corresponds with our current teaching series here on Summit Life. These devotionals are designed to help you grow in your faith and apply biblical truths to your everyday life. Signing up is easy. Just visit slash resources, and we'll send these daily devotionals straight to your inbox.

And best of all, it's completely free. So if you're looking for a way to deepen your relationship with God and spend time with him each day, sign up for our daily email devotional today. Now let's get back to today's message with Pastor JD Greer here on Summit Life. Next characteristic, you're hypocritical. That's what he's talking about in verse 21. You've got this theory only stance toward God's word. We like to learn concepts of truth more than we like to be confronted by concepts of truth. Here's what I've learned after two decades of being a pastor. Religious people love to write down concepts of truth more than they love to be changed by concepts of truth. Paul says, look, God did not give his word for information. God gave his word for transformation.

Again, Tim Keller, a real Christian finds the Bible living and active. When they hear the Bible or they read the Bible, they are convicted. They are comforted, thrilled, disturbed, melted, slammed down, or lifted up, never just educated. They're hypocritical. Lastly, they are insecure.

Man, they're always worried, aren't they? Am I good enough? Am I better than others?

Am I going to pass the curve? Other people think I'm a good person. Is God going to think I'm a good person?

Write it down. Any religion that does not begin with a deep experience of God's grace and the cross is going to leave you smug, overly sensitive, judgmental, hypocritical, and insecure. You say, that sounds like every Christian I know on Facebook. Yeah, but see, the problem is you just thought that about everybody else and not yourself.

So go back to judgmental. Is it religion does this? It just makes us defensive and we don't begin with God's grace. We begin with our righteousness. The result is that irreligious people blaspheme God because of us.

They dislike the God that we claim to represent because they see in our lifestyle, no difference between what our hearts are like and what their hearts are like. Circumcision, he goes on, benefits you if you observe the law. But if you're a law breaker, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. In those days, before modern standards of cleanliness, not being circumcised was the resource of a lot of disease. So circumcision was removing a source of filthiness at the very point of new life. Circumcision was an important sign of what God wanted to do in the heart of Jewish people. And that was to remove the filth and corruption at the point of the source of life.

In our day, we could replace circumcision here with baptism. Baptism is also an outward picture of an inward covenant. Your body gets washed with water, but that's supposed to picture the cleansing of your heart.

It's like we bury you in the water like Jesus was being buried in the earth, symbolic of the fact that you are coming out of that into new spiritual life. Paul would say, so you got baptized, your body got dipped with water and washed with water, but does your heart show signs of being cleansed? You take the Lord's table, the bread and the cup, but are you showing the inward effects of transforming grace? Does your life show evidence of Jesus living on the inside, working on the outside? Again, if we were to put you on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence from private conversations, from your friends that are away from the church to convict you of being a person who loves God and believes the gospel?

If your best friend could not stand up here and say beyond any shadow of a doubt, yes, I know that they are a lover and follower of Jesus. I know that they've been born again based on how they talk and what they do when they're away from the church and away from their parents, that it might be because you're not actually born again. The gospel hasn't taken that journey that we call that 18 inch journey of eternity from your head to your heart, where you embrace Jesus for yourself and you begin in grace. You see, a person is not a Jew or a Christian who is just one outwardly and true circumcision is not something visible in the flesh, nor is baptism something that only happens on the outside, nor is communion about getting some juice and cracker in you.

These things are external symbols about an inward transformation. Circumcision is of the heart and so is baptism. It's by the spirit, it's not by the letter. Paul is saying to us, friends beware religious inoculation. You know inoculation, you've heard of this, right? This is maybe one of the most important concepts for you that grew up in church. Inoculation, in some places where they immunize you.

They'll take a dead version of the disease, give you a little bit of it so that your body will develop the antibodies so that if ever encounters the real thing, you've already got the antibodies to fight it. What Paul is explaining is there are a lot of people who got inoculated to the true gospel. They got this dead version of religion, this dead orthodoxy, and that made them immune to the actual gospel when they got confronted with it. To quote Tim Keller one more time, it is possible to trust in Christianity rather than in Christ. And this can happen in conservative evangelical churches, it happens especially here. Paul is showing us a condition called dead orthodoxy where the basic doctrines of the Bible are accurately subscribed to, but do not make any internal difference. There is an intellectual grasp of the gospel, but there is no internal revolution caused by the gospel. Paul's point, friend, listen, religion can't change you, only the gospel can.

And that gospel has to be embraced deep in your heart. You may never have heard of Dr. Christian Bernard. He's one of the most famous physicians of all time because he did the first successful heart transplant surgery.

His second one that he did was on a guy. And after the guy came out of the surgery successfully, he asked the doctor, he said, can I see my old heart? So the doctor thought it was a strange request, but Dr. Bernard took him over to where he put his old heart in a jar and the guy picked up the jar, according to the story. And he looks at it a few times, looks around and he says, so this is what was causing me all those problems. And Dr. Bernard said, yep, that's it. Handed it back to the doctor.

He turned around, walked out and left it behind forever. That's what Paul is encouraging you to do to take a look at your heart and to realize you need a brand new heart and embrace the gospel deep in your soul because that's when God gives you a new heart. It is when you finally come to that point where you recognize that your heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. And what you need is not just a little religion. You need not new resolutions. You need not renewal. You don't need just to be conformed to something.

You don't need any kinds of resolves to do better. You need to be born again. So that's the question. Have you embraced the gospel deep in your heart? Not have you been baptized? Not have you joined the church? Not did you go through a confirmation class?

Not were your parents Christians? Not have you prayed this prayer? But has the gospel traversed that 18 inches between your head and your heart? Because I've always heard it said that most people are going to miss heaven by 18 inches.

That's certainly what was going to happen to me. Having grown up in a great religious home where I knew all the things that were there, there was a gap between what was going on here and what was going on here. And so it wasn't until later in high school that I suddenly, it wasn't that I didn't learn anything new. It's that suddenly I began to understand that Jesus was the savior and Lord who had died for me and he wanted to be my Lord and it became personal, became real. I know a young boy in our church who recently just told his dad. He said, you know, I said in the middle of one of our worship sets here at the church, in the middle of one of our worship sets, he says, dad, I don't know what, not exactly sure how to articulate this, but it just suddenly became aware. I realized that I'd known that Jesus died and I prayed and asked Jesus to be my savior, but it was like in the middle of that worship set, I realized suddenly that he died for me. It was my sin that he died for and that he wants to be Lord of my life. He said, dad, I hope this is okay, but I asked Jesus if he would be my savior again during that worship set.

Is that okay or am I going to be in trouble? His dad said, that's just fine. So y'all let me end with Paul's admonition to the religious because it's good news to the religious. To those of you that grew up in church, this may have felt like a really harsh message, but Paul's got good news for you.

It's not harsh. Look at chapter two, verse four. Do you despise religious person? Do you despise the riches of his kindness? Man, letting you grow up in church, letting you have a Bible, letting you hear sermons, that was kindness to you. Restraint, God could have punished you, but he didn't.

He puts you in an environment where you can hear all these things in patience. Do you not recognize that God's kindness was intended to lead you to repentance? The reason that he gave you the Bible is because he wanted to draw you to Jesus.

God's word to you this weekend is not condemnation, it is mercy, it is kindness. The father gave his son so that you could be brought in. I've heard it said that Romans one and Romans two is the apostle Paul retelling the story of the prodigal son. In Romans one it's all about the younger son. Remember the younger son was the one who rejected the father, I don't want you in my life anymore, took his inheritance and ran off to the far country where he spent it all on wild riotous living, ends up in a pit with pigs, feeding the pigs, defiled, broken, hungry, comes back to the father's house and pleads for mercy and the father runs out to receive him and welcomes him into his home, takes him into the home begins to throw a party.

Romans one, that's what that's about is yes, even the Gentiles, even those who have run far away, they're still welcome at God's table because God has mercy for them. But see there's another son in this story, it's the older son, that's Romans two, that's the religious guy. About halfway through the party that the father is throwing for the younger son, somebody tells the dad like, hey, your older son is outside the house pouting, he's angry. So the dad goes outside and finds out that this son is out there because he's angry because he doesn't understand why the father has mercy on this younger son.

Here's the detail everybody overlooks in this story. Watch this, the older son is also outside of the house. He may not have gone as far as the younger son, but he's every bit as separated from the fellowship of the father as the younger one was.

And the older son has to be invited back in too. And what the father basically says to the son is, hey, there's room in my house here for you also, but it's not going to be because you think you're good enough to earn it. It's because you understand that my grace is sufficient for you. My grace was sufficient to bring your lost brother home.

And my grace is sufficient to cover your pride and your hypocrisy. You see, there's only one way for religious and irreligious people to be saved. And that is they both got to come to the same cross. That cross declares that there is no righteousness in you, that there's nothing you could do to earn your place before God, that God has done it all. And if you will humble yourself and say, I have nothing wherewith to claim the riches of God, then God will receive you based on the finished work of Jesus and not your own. There's only one possible way for you to come into the father's house. And that is through surrender to Jesus as Lord and receive receiving him as your savior and your only hope of heaven.

And that is offered to Jew and Greek religious and irreligious alike. There's only one song that we will sing in heaven. And that is Amazing Grace.

How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost just like the younger son, but now I've been found also. I was blind, but now I see. Here is my question. Have you ever received Jesus as your savior in your heart?

Has it traveled at 18 inches? Jesus lived the life that you and I couldn't live. And he died the death that we deserved. If you missed any part of today's teaching, visit us at JD, the first message in this series was titled Who's Your One?

And that's a big theme throughout this series for you. So for those who may have missed the first message, what do you mean by Who's Your One? So Who's Your One was actually the name of a national campaign that we did when I was Southern Baptist Convention president, where we just encouraged everybody to identify at least one person that God had put in their life that they should pray for and look for an opportunity to share the gospel with, maybe invite to a church service or have a conversation with or read a book like Essential Christianity with them.

So the question is, Who's Your One? Who's that one person that you are intentionally sharing Christ with? Who needs to hear this program or who is it that you can get a copy of the Essential Christianity and read together with? One thing that is true of all Christians is that when God saves us, He saves us to be a witness to others. He saves us to share. So we're praying for you.

Reach out to us here at and let us get you some tools that'll help you in those conversations. I'm Molly Vidovitch. Now we know that religion can't save us, so be sure to join us again on Friday as we answer the follow-up question, Religion, what is it good for? That's right here on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by J.D. Greer Ministries.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-11 11:29:59 / 2023-05-11 11:40:53 / 11

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