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Religion—What is it Good for?, Part 2

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
The Truth Network Radio
May 15, 2023 9:00 am

Religion—What is it Good for?, Part 2

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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May 15, 2023 9:00 am

Billy Graham said that what sends most people to hell is not their sins but their good works, because good works make us think there is something good about us that can save us from ourselves. Pastor J.D. continues in this message from Romans to show us how religion cannot reform us and willpower cannot change our hearts—and the one thing we need to come to Jesus for salvation.


Today on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. God's righteousness is not a standard that we have to obtain. The righteousness of God in Romans is a gracious gift that God gifts to all those who believe and trust that Jesus did it in their place. And when they believe that, God implants in their heart resurrection life that begins to transform them into his image. Welcome to Summit Life with pastor and author J.D.

Greer. As always, I'm your host, Molly Bidevich. You know, Billy Graham used to say that what sends most people to hell is not their sins, but actually their good works. Because good works make us think that there is something good about us that can ultimately save us. Today, Pastor J.D. continues his message from Romans chapter three, showing us how religion on its own cannot reform us and willpower in the end cannot change our hearts. And then he shares the one thing that we do need to come to Jesus for salvation.

If you'd like to follow along with the transcript of this message, you can always find them free of charge at Let's rejoin Pastor J.D. right now in Romans chapter three.

Surely Paul goes too far here. Nobody seeks God. I mean, I know people who aren't even Christians and they don't go to church, yet they are sincerely searching for the truth. Paul is not saying that no one ever seeks spiritual things or that nobody wants to connect to the supernatural. What he is saying is that nobody prompted by their own volition, their own decision, nobody wants to truly find God, at least not the true version of him. People may seek God to get blessings from him.

They may seek a reshaped God who conforms to their needs, their prejudices, and who serves their agendas, but that is different than seeking the true God for his own sake. You see, apart from his regenerating grace, I've heard it said, we flee from God even as we seek God. John 6 44, Jesus said, nobody comes to me unless the Father draws him, which means that if you are being drawn to Jesus and you want to know Jesus and there's a desire in your heart to know him, that desire is not from you. That's a desire from your heavenly Father who is drawing you. That's the only reason you would be here. Philippians 2 13, it is God who works in us both to will, to desire, and to do of his good pleasure.

1 Corinthians 12 3, nobody can come to the conviction that Jesus is Lord apart from the help of the Holy Spirit. You see, even as I'm saying this, it's making sense to some of you. You're like, well, that's where these questions come from. And that's why these troubles have been happening. And that's where all this stuff that seemed random to me, God has been drawing me.

He's drawing you. That's what you learn from that. Apart from his special regenerating grace, all have turned away. All alike have become worthless. This, which again, is a quote from both Isaiah 53 and Psalm 53 is the essence of sin. We've all turned away from God's truth. And each of us has sought our own way because we all preferred our way to God's.

Listen to me. There is one central lie that has propelled our rebellion since the garden of Eden. One suspicion, one doubt born in unbelief that has led to all the disaster of the human race. And that lie goes like this.

I think my way is probably better than God's. That same lie continues to echo in the hearts of businessmen and women and their quest for ambition. It echoes in the hearts of husbands who are dissatisfied with their marriages. It echoes in the hearts of empty nesters who are trying to decide what to do with this next chapter of their lives.

It resounds in the hearts of educators and homeschoolers and CEOs and retirees. And that lie is simply my way is probably better than God's when it comes to choices for my life. Paul says, there's nobody, there's no one who does what is good, not even one.

Now again, you're like, wait a minute, surely Paul, this is an overstatement. Nobody does what is good. I mean, what about the Marine who is not a Christian who doesn't believe in God, but throws himself on a grenade to save his buddy? Or how about the woman who sacrifices everything to get her kids out of poverty? I mean, she works three jobs and just scrapes by it so that she can give her kids a shot at a life that she never had a shot at. Aren't those genuinely good things? Well, yes they are.

But two things you got to consider here. First, the Bible only considers a deed good if it is pure, not just in form, but also in motive. I've shown you that if we do good deeds to try to bolster our self-image or reputation, or we try to do our good deeds to earn blessing from God, then even if our deeds are good on the surface, they're not really good because they're inherently selfish. Right? I mean, you get that, right? You ever had somebody be really nice to you and then it turns out they were only be nice to you because they wanted something from you. You've had this happen, right? My wife and I, early in our marriage, we didn't have any money like most newlyweds, but we really wanted to go on vacation. So we took one of those too good to be true offers where you could go down to one of those timeshare places and they give you like three days at the beach. All you do is sit through this little presentation, right? And you think, it's too good to be true.

It is too good to be true. So you get down there and I'm telling you, when we got down there, they were so nice to us. I mean, oh, Mr. Greer, we've been waiting for you to come. We have your room prepared.

Do you like dark chocolate or do you like milk chocolate? Oh, your wife is so lovely. It's just, how can we take care of you?

How do you like your towels full? I mean, just everything was just waiting. We felt like kings and queens. Then we go to this little presentation, right?

They go into the presentation and man, we sit there. And I was like, I mean, for an hour, I kept telling the guy, I'm like, man, I'm not hiding anything from you. I ain't got no money. I got no money.

I couldn't do this if I wanted to. It took me an hour to convince the guy that I was telling the truth. And eventually when it finally, I could see it when it clicked that I really did not have any money. I mean, it was like somebody flipped a switch and I do, he just stands up from the thing. He's like, whoa, I think your checkout time was 30 minutes ago. Our staff has already taken your stuff and dumped it out on the lawn.

And here's a couple of trash bags for you to get it. You got 30 minutes to be off our property, right? It was apparent that all this hospitality was not because they liked us at all. It was because they wanted something from us.

They wanted us to sign a contract. So if we are doing good to get something from God, whether that's blessing or eternal life or whatever, that's an inherently selfish motive. And it's not really good. A deed is only good in God's eyes if it's motivated purely by love for God and others with no self-interest at all. The second reason that our good deeds are really not good and Paul could say, there's nobody good is that apart from faith, listen, even our good deeds aren't good because in light of our biggest sin, our biggest sin, which is cosmic treason, replacing God's authority in our lives with our own, in light of that, any good thing we do doesn't really seem that good.

Let me illustrate this by means of an analogy. Say you got a guy who's having an affair on his wife. And so as he is going into the hotel with this other woman to betray his wife, to sin against his children, to destroy his family, as he's going into this hotel, he generously tips the bellhop. Now that's a good deed, right?

He's generous to the bellhop. That's a good deed. But it's hard to call that deed good in light of the overall wickedness of what he is doing to his wife and his family.

You follow that? What if our rebellion against God was like that, but a billion times worse? What if even throwing yourself on a grenade for somebody else in light of your cosmic treason against God, in light of your rebellion, in light of the fact that we don't want to worship and serve God, what if that was just like tipping the bellhop? In light of our posture of cosmic treason, it's hard to even call our goodness good.

There is none good, he says, not even one. You say, but Oprah said I was beautiful and special and precious. Yes, you are. You are beautiful and special and precious. And that's part of the paradox of the human race. You are a beautiful person made in the image of God. You are, and you are special and precious, but you have been ruined by sin. And the ruin of that sin is greater than the loveliness of your creation. Jonathan Edwards, the Puritan theologian, the slightest sin has an infinite amount of hatefulness in it, enough to outweigh whatever loveliness the creature possessed.

Or Blaise Pascal, who you know is one of my favorite philosophers. What a contradiction man is, on the one hand, judge of all things, on the other, a stupid earthworm, a depository of truth and a heap of air, the glory and the refuse of the universe. Verse 13, their throat is an open grave. They deceive with their tongues.

Viper's venom is under their lips. Their mouth is full of cursing and bitterness. Y'all, the place that our corruption most reveals itself is probably in our words. Jesus said that our words uttered in private are the best indicators of what is actually going on in our hearts.

So how about this, church person, why don't you consider your speech just from the last week, what you've said to yourself and to your family and to your close friends, and why don't you see if those words are not filled with gossip and impurity and slander and anger and boasting and half-truths. Our words carry about the stench of death that comes from that open grave we call our heart. You're like, well, I'm just supposed to follow my heart.

You should not follow your heart. If you follow it into the grave is where it'll take you. Jesus said that by our words alone, we will be condemned. Verse 15, their feet are swift to shed blood, ruin and wretchedness are in their paths, the path of peace they have not known. You're like, all right, finally, one that doesn't apply to me. I mean, I've never been part of a murder troop. The point is that we all have a natural reaction to get violent when people get in the way of what we want, right?

I mean, as long as we got what we want, we're peaceable, but let somebody else get what we want. Let them take the promotion. Let them get the recognition. Let them get the boyfriend that you feel like you deserve.

Let their kid get the honors that you want for your kid. And you don't respond with excitement and gratefulness for them. You don't respond with contentment and the blessings God has given you and trust in his good plan for your life. No, you struggle with hating that person. You struggle with hating that woman. You struggle with, with despising that man and wishing harm on him.

That's why your ears perk up when you hear somebody pointing out something bad they've done or criticizing them, because you love to hear those who are your competitors criticized. That's all what he's talking about right there. Finally, verse 18, there is no fear of God before their eyes.

That just kind of sums it all up. We don't recognize God's size and his goodness or importance in our lives. When he says there's no fear of God before our eyes, what he means is that God and his authority are just not that big of a deal to us. We may recognize that it's out there, but what's a really big deal to us, what's important, what dominates our thinking is our needs, our desires, and our agendas. That is what the big thing is in our heart. This, ladies and gentlemen, is what Paul says is the description of your heart from your Hebrew Bible. You're listening to Summit Life with J.D.

Greer. For more information about this ministry, visit I wanted to take a moment to tell you about an exciting new resource that's meant to help you grow in your understanding of the essentials of the faith.

It's Pastor J.D. 's newest book called Essential Christianity. This new book explores the foundational beliefs of Christianity by using key passages from the book of Romans. It's a practical, accessible guide for anyone who wants to grow in their faith and understand the gospel more fully.

And the best part? It covers a lot of the same ground as our Romans teaching series, so they'll work hand in hand. To receive your copy of Essential Christianity, simply visit and make a donation of $35 or more to this ministry.

And when you do, we'll also include a free companion study guide to help you go deeper into the material. Thank you for supporting Summit Life and helping us continue to provide valuable resources to believers around the world. Now let's jump back into today's teaching with Pastor J.D.

Greer here on Summit Life. So verse 20. Is it any surprise that nobody will be justified and decided by the works of the law? It's only the knowledge of sin that can come through the law. The purpose of the law, Paul says, is not to correct sin. The purpose of the law is to reveal sin. The law was supposed to function like a mirror that just reveals to us how sinful we are. By looking into the mirror of the law, I'm supposed to see the shape of what my heart is supposed to look like and then be dismayed on what my heart actually is like. I'm supposed to read, for example, commandment nine, thou shalt not lie.

And I'm supposed to realize that my heart should love truth so much that I would never be tempted to bend truth or twist it to gain personal advantage. I'm supposed to look at commandment seven, thou shalt not commit adultery. That's supposed to show me that I should love purity so much that I would never dream of committing some kind of sexual act with somebody who's not married to me because I'd love purity more than I love any kind of sexual urge and I just want to do things God's way. Commandment number 10, thou shalt not covet. That shows me that I'm supposed to be so satisfied with God, so trusting of his plan in my life that I don't get jealous when somebody else has something that I think that I want. But I don't know about y'all, but I read just those three commands and I think, well, my heart didn't like that.

My heart's not like that at all. That's what Paul means when he says it is the knowledge of sin in your heart. That's what the law's purpose is. It is to reveal to you. It is to make you know the sin that's in your heart.

The law just shows us how messed up and spiritually rotten our heart is. I've heard it described before like an x-ray. A friend of mine, he said his daughter went to a birthday party at one of those we hate kids and want to see them die trampoline warehouses. You know, we used to send him to jump for a while and he said that, he said, my daughter, who's normally very tough, comes up and she's got fighting back tears. And she's like, she's like, dad, I heard something pop when I landed on my shoulder. And so we could tell something's wrong. We took her to the emergency room. We got her x-rayed, he said, and sure enough, she popped her arm out of socket.

And we're gonna have to do all this stuff to get it, you know, everything taken care of. He says, what was amazing though, is he says that x-ray, I saw the price of that x-ray. That x-ray was absurdly expensive and it didn't fix anything. All it did was show the problem, right?

You think paying that much money would fix it, but you gotta do something else to fix the problem. The law is like the x-ray, that's all it is. The x-ray that shows you how spiritually broken and out of line your heart actually is, but it is powerless to fix it. And just forcing yourself to act righteous doesn't change your heart.

Man, if anything, forcing yourself to act righteous just covers up the corruption. You ever see that Tupperware container at the back of your refrigerator and you're like, how long has that been in there, right? Where did that come from?

And so you take it out and you open it up to see what's in there. And then like four hours later, they have to revive you because you know, the moldy chicken or the barbecue has got stuff growing on it, you know, whatever. When that happens, do any of you say like, well, all we need is some good stout barbecue sauce, not barbecue sauce. We cover up the taste of that rotten meat and that thing's gonna be just fine, right? Nobody says that, right? Because you don't want to cover up the corruption.

You got to get rid of the corruption and covering it up doesn't change the fact that it's corrupt. All the law does is it sweetens up your behavior without actually changing your heart. God created us to be so naturally righteous in our hearts that we wouldn't need a law to do what was right.

We would instinctively do what was right because we desired to do what was right. I don't need a law to do the things that I love. You never have to command me to eat dessert.

Never. I don't need any commands. I just do that instinctively. You never have to command me to take a nap. Never have to command me to kiss my wife. I love to do those things so there is no law required.

The only time the law is required for me is when my heart wants to go the wrong direction. Growing up, my granddad used to have pigs. I go up and, you know, when I spend time with him, he'd go take me out with him to go slop the pigs is what he always called it. Slop the pig. Now, nobody ever showed me a recipe for slop.

I don't think there is an official recipe because it's basically just like trash and rotten food and the stuff that was in the Tupperware container in the back of the thing. You put all that in this big bucket and it is the nastiest smelling stuff you could imagine. But man, those pigs, they love it.

And we carry it out there and carried out there. And sometimes remember he'd have to put it down and go get something from the barn. Not one time did he ever have to say to me, now JD, you were not allowed to eat that slop. He didn't have to say, I wouldn't touch it.

If he told me to touch it, I wouldn't do it. Now there's pigs though. I mean, they're behind the fence, but they can smell it.

They're pawing the ground and they're trying to get at it cause they love it. That fence is required to keep them from doing the thing that they love. But because I naturally hate it, you don't have to have any restraint between me and that. Cause I wouldn't choose it.

Even if I had the opportunity. God doesn't want spiritual pigs in heaven who only avoid the slop of sin because they're afraid of what God will do to them. If they do, God wants people in heaven who love righteousness and find the slop of sin disgusting. And so they wouldn't do sin.

Even if they had the opportunity, they don't need a law to do that. It's in their nature. It's why we say that God is not just after obedience. God is after a whole new kind of obedience and obedience that grows from desire and obedience where you do righteousness because you crave righteousness, where you seek God because you love God. That is what the gospel is trying to produce. Listen, you understand that sin is not so much an action as it is a condition. Many people only think of sin as bad actions that we do, stealing and lying. But Paul's analysis here is much more devastating. The sin that we commit is because of the heart that we possess.

Look at the words he uses in chapter three. They're much more about the heart condition than they are the life action. He says that your throat, your hearts are open graves. You're filled with viper's venom. You have mouths full of cursing and bitterness. Those actions we do are merely symptomatic of our hearts. It's like being sick, right? You're not sick because you show symptoms.

You show symptoms because you're sick. In the same way, we're not sinners because we sin. We sin because we are sinners. And what we say and do with our mouths and do with our hands is just a symptom of the rottenness of our hearts, which is why religion cannot fix us. But now, apart from the law, the righteousness of God has been revealed, attested to all along by the law and the prophets.

This, Tim Keller says, that word but is one of the biggest transitions in the whole Bible. God is gonna change us. God is gonna make us righteous, but it's not gonna be by the commands of the law. No, no, no, it's the righteousness of God. It's through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. We're not gonna be made righteous by doing anything. We're gonna be made righteous by something God did for us and by believing that Jesus kept the law in our place, living the life we were supposed to live, dying the death we were condemned to die in our place. Believing this, Paul says, connects you to the power of God. It is the power of God into salvation because in it, he said, the righteousness of God was revealed. I told you the greatest thing about that righteousness was that God's righteousness is not a standard that we have to obtain, that he will one day hold as our standard and judge us by. The righteousness of God in Romans is a gracious gift that God gives to all those who believe and trust that Jesus did it in their place. And when they believe that, God implants in their heart resurrection life that begins to transform them into his image. And that is available to all people, Paul says, Greek, Jew, Gentile, religious, irreligious, young, old, black, white, rich, poor, bad, sinner, religious, sinner, they're all alike, they're just sinners. And they're gonna believe that if Jesus died in their place and rose from the dead, then he can give them righteousness based on his record. And he can give them resurrection power based on his resurrection. And then he turns to the Jews and he says, hey, hey, this was attested to the whole time by the law and the prophets, go back and read your Bible.

This is not something new I'm introducing. This is what God was trying to say through the whole Old Testament. I mean, it was what God was saying, for example, through Abraham, when God told Abraham to sacrifice his son, but at the last minute, God revealed that there was this ram caught in the thicket and the ram was offered in sacrifice instead of Isaac. See that ram was like Jesus who would one day be slain in the altar for you so that you could walk free. God was trying to show you through the Passover when they had to take a lamb and kill the lamb and put the blood on the doorposts of their house so the death angel would pass over. See that was a picture of what Jesus was gonna do when he came as the Passover lamb.

He was gonna shed his blood so that when his blood was put on the doorpost of your heart, God's death angel, his death sentence would pass over you. It's what God was trying to show them in the wilderness when he told Moses to strike the rock so that water would come out and it would slake their thirst in the midst of this wilderness. See that was a picture of how one day you would wander in the wilderness of sin and God would strike Jesus with his wrath and out of his broken body and resurrection would come eternal living water that would satisfy your soul and cleanse you forever. It's what God was trying to show through David when King David ran out onto the field all by himself to slay Goliath while the armies of Israel sat cowering in fear on the sidelines unable to help. That was a picture of what Jesus would do one day because see he was going to come and he was going to be this unassuming warrior who would slay the real giant which was sin and death while we you and I stood on the sideline unable even to lift a finger to help him. It was what God was trying to say through Isaiah when he talked about a suffering servant who would come who would be wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities. It was what Hosea was trying to give you a picture of when he was this ever faithful husband pursuing his ever unfaithful bride. That was going to be Jesus who was going to come after you and even when you put him on a cross he was still going to say father forgive them you don't know what you're doing.

Hey this is not something new I'm introducing to you. This is something that God told 3,000 years ago through all these different authors there's been one message and that is you can't save yourself. God's got to do it.

That's why Jesus's name in Hebrew is literally Yah'shua. God is salvation. The salvation you're looking for is not found in the law. It's not found through your effort. It's not found in religion. It's found in God alone. So blessed is the person who has made God his refuge and his strength.

That's not just talking about crises that you have in parenting. God is your refuge and strength begins with salvation. I can't save myself.

I can't make my heart new. I can't earn my place before God. God has to do it and God did it in my place. He lived the life I was supposed to live, died the death I was condemned to die and all I could do was receive it as a gift and through faith through faith I was made righteous. Through faith I was made alive. Through faith I was made his. Through faith I am made new.

Here's the question. Have you ever received Jesus as your Savior? Jesus plus nothing equals everything. Today's message was titled religion what's it good for and it's part of our study of the book of Romans. As we journey through the teaching of this book together we'll grow to understand God's righteousness and our unrighteousness apart from him the significance of Jesus's life death and resurrection and the implications of the gospel message for our everyday lives and that's actually why Pastor JD wrote his newest book called Essential Christianity. The book is based on the first 12 chapters of the book of Romans and it was written to give all of us a resource that articulates the basics of Christianity in very clear easy to understand terms for our own sake but also that we can share our faith with others and right now we're offering his new book to our Summit Life family along with a discussion guide to help you facilitate gospel conversations with others based on the book. We'll send you a copy of Essential Christianity and the discussion guide when you give today to support this ministry. Reserve your copy by calling 866-335-5220 or you can give online anytime at I'm Molly Bittovitch inviting you to listen again Tuesday as we dive a bit deeper into Romans chapter 3 here on Summit Life with JD Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by JD Greer Ministries.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-15 10:51:01 / 2023-05-15 11:02:22 / 11

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