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The Religiously Immunized

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
The Truth Network Radio
March 15, 2024 9:00 am

The Religiously Immunized

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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March 15, 2024 9:00 am

In our new series called, Can’t Believe, we’re looking at some of the most common barriers that hold people back from saving faith. And the first one might surprise you: religion. Most of us think of religion as a good thing.

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J.D. Greear

Today on Summit Life, a cautionary message from J.D. Greer. A lot of people stay immune to the real gospel because they have the antibody of superficial religion. This is a group of people who can't believe in Jesus because their superficial religion keeps them from seeing why Jesus' invitation for them to come to him is even relevant to them. Welcome to Summit Life, the Bible teaching ministry of pastor, author, and apologist, J.D.

Greer. As always, I'm your host, Molly Vidovitch. Today we're kicking off a new teaching series called Can't Believe where we'll be looking at some of the most common barriers that hold people back from saving faith. We're beginning by talking about a barrier that many people might find surprising. It's religion. It might seem weird for a pastor to say that, but today J.D. explains to us how religion can actually keep you from truly surrendering to Jesus and experiencing the power of the gospel. It sounds a little off, right?

Well, maybe the title gives us a little more insight. Pastor J.D. called this teaching the religiously immunized. Let me take you a little bit into my past. I learned to share the gospel when I was a teenager. That's right after I came to Christ.

I came to Christ in my teenage years. I learned to share the gospel by means of what we call a gospel tract. It is a short kind of trifold pamphlet that explains the basic points of the gospel. At the Christian bookstore near my house, there was no end to the different kinds of these that were offered, depending on your personality, depending on how you wanted to do it.

It's just a whole rack of them. Now, we learned to give these tracts to waitresses or to those people that were seated next to us on airplanes, especially if they looked nervous during takeoff or landing. That was a key time to deliver them. If personal interaction made you uncomfortable, you just didn't really like people, then you could just place them stealthily in public restrooms on top of the urinal or leave them in VHS tapes that you were returning to Blockbuster. One of my favorites was, this is an actual strategy, you could pay the toll booth attendant the fare of the person in the car behind you and then ask them, the toll booth attendant, to give the tract to the person that was in the car behind you because you paid their toll.

Not a word that I've said is joking, it was all, that's the way we did it. Now, the whole focus of the tract was usually to get somebody to pray a prayer that was printed at the end. That was the sinner's prayer. You prayed a prayer, you asked Jesus to come into your heart, you would ask for forgiveness of your sins, and if they prayed that prayer, there were a number of things that you were supposed to tell them immediately in response.

You were supposed to encourage them to start reading the Bible and to pray and to go to church, but you were also supposed to say something like this to them. Now that you have prayed this prayer to accept Jesus as your savior, you are saved forever. You are guaranteed to go to heaven.

He promises never to leave you or forsake you and no one can pluck them out of your father's hand. So from here on out, you are saved no matter what. Welcome to the family of God. And sometimes they would even tell you at this point, stick your hand out and shake their hand and welcome them into the family of God. Now, did you know that a 2011 Barna study shows that 50% of Americans say that they have prayed a prayer just like that one at some point in their life?

Maybe it didn't happen at the end of a Gospel tract presentation. Maybe it's because they saw Billy Graham on TV or maybe it's because they came to a church and they prayed a prayer at the end or their grandma led them through it. 50% of people in our culture say that they have prayed a prayer like that one. However, the same study revealed that less than half of that group goes to church on any regular basis.

More than half of them think that the Bible is wrong in a number of things that it teaches and about two-thirds of them have lifestyles, the study showed, that in no significant way differ from those that are on the outside of the Christian faith. Now in these people, this 50% of this culture that I talk to, when you tell them that they need Jesus to be saved, their immediate thought is, oh, been there, done that. I prayed the prayer. I've been to the class. I've been baptized or confirmed or whatever.

I'm good. My grandma was there. It was super meaningful. I got a little thing in my Bible.

It has a name on it and a date. I know when I prayed that prayer. But what I want to show you today is that the Bible speaks frequently about a kind of faith that is superficial, a faith that doesn't go very deep and a faith that does not save at all. That's what you're going to see from John chapter 2. The tragedy is that for a lot of people like this, a lot of people, their superficial faith has immunized them from understanding their need for the real gospel. Immunize. You know how immunization works?

Immunization, you know, or at least some immunizations, they give you just a small amount of the disease, usually a dead impotent version of the disease, so that your body develops the antibodies to be able to defend itself against the disease if you're ever exposed to the real thing. A lot of people stay immune to the real gospel because they have the antibody of superficial religion. This is a group of people who can't believe in Jesus because their superficial religion keeps them from seeing why Jesus' invitation for them to come to him is even relevant to them.

Like, I already prayed that. I already believe. And I want to show you how specifically Jesus addressed that group. You see, we're starting a new series today called Can't Believe, and we're going to look at seven different stories from the Gospel of John of people who, for whatever reason, couldn't believe, could not believe. Some of these people couldn't believe because they had a blind spot.

Some of them wanted to believe but, for whatever reason, felt like they couldn't. We're going to look at the sexual captive. We're going to look at the skeptic, the distracted, the hurt, and the disappointed. We're going to look at the coward. We're going to look at the moral failure.

But today, we're going to look at the religiously immunized. We're going to see how Jesus engaged seven different individuals who couldn't believe in the Gospel of John. Believing, you see, is a major theme in the Gospel of John. He uses the word over 99 times in the book, and he says toward the end of the book, this is why I wrote it, John 20 31, these things are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ and that he is the Son of God, and by believing, you would have life in his name.

So it's why he wrote the whole book. So if you feel like, for whatever reason, you can't believe, or you have trouble believing, or you know somebody that has trouble believing, then the book of John is written for you. My hope and my prayer summit, listen, in this series, is that for many of you who feel like you can't believe, God would use this stuff that's in these stories that are in the Gospel of John to open your eyes to the glory of who he is. Because John 1 14 says that is how you learn to believe is by seeing the glory of Jesus.

John 1 14, we beheld his glory, the glories of the only one begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. So my prayer is that he would open your eyes. My prayer is, secondly, that you would not only believe, but you would learn to adore him. That your heart would well up in worship. That if you were already a believer in Jesus, you would see him again, fresh, new. It's one of those things that sometimes you notice when you get familiar with something that's really beautiful, you forget how beautiful it is. I'm praying that through this series you will see again in these stories the beauty and the glory of Jesus, so that the eyes of your heart would again be opened to worship an adoration.

And then I'm praying that that adoration would send you out in confidence to face life and would send you out in boldness to tell the world about the glory of who he is. You see, ultimately it is a vision of Jesus that empowers everything in the Christian life. That's why one of the most frequent words that's repeated other than believe throughout the Gospel of John is look.

In Greek, it do. Behold, look. Look at him. Because when you see him for who he is, then you will see what he can do in your life. You will have courage because you see his finished work. You are lifted out of depression through a vision of Jesus. It is a vision of Jesus that empowers belief. It is a vision of Jesus that inspires courage. It is a vision of Jesus that empowers sacrifice. It is a vision of Jesus that is the source of everything in the Christian life. So what we pray is that you would see.

I'm not telling you a bunch of stuff to go do. I'm saying see. And when you see, you will do. So group number one of those who can't believe, here's our first group, the religiously immunized. The religiously immunized, verse 23 of chapter 2. Now when Jesus was in Jerusalem at the Passover feast, there were many who believed in his name.

See that? They believed when they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part did not entrust, if you have your Greek Bible open, you will see that the word entrust is the same word for believe. Jesus did not entrust himself to them because he knew all people and he needed no one to bear witness about man because he himself knew what was in man. Now here you've got a group of people who believed in Jesus, but it says that Jesus would not give himself to them because he could see that their faith was superficial. You could almost say that they believed in Jesus, but Jesus did not believe in them because he knew what was in them and he could see that their interest in him was just a fleeting interest. It was a convenient belief. They believed because they had seen the signs and they were temporarily impressed. They were curious as to what else Jesus could do for them.

But their belief, Jesus knew, would never withstand the test of time or temptation or trial. Jesus was for them the best of all the options. They're like, well, he's better than all the other religious leaders.

I don't know what else I would be. So yeah, I'm a fan of Jesus. Now in our day, this might refer to that large group of people in our culture who believe because it's what their parents believed, what their grandma believed, it's what a lot of their friends believe.

It's just kind of what is convenient. You ask most college students, are you a Christian? And they're like, well, I'm not a Muslim.

I'm not Jewish. So yeah, I guess I am a Christian. Jesus would not give himself to these people in John 2, even though they had a certain type of belief. Now in chapter 3, he's going to show you in contrast what real faith looks like. Remember that in the writing of these books, the original authors didn't put chapters and verses in there.

That's something we added in later. So what you see is that chapter 2 and chapter 3 are conjoined and that watch, the stories in chapter 3 are given as an answer to the problem that's raised in chapter 2. And the problem in chapter 2 is what kind of faith saves? If there is a kind of belief that Jesus does not give himself to, then what kind of belief does Jesus give himself to? That's what we're going to see in chapter 3.

But before we get into that, write this down if you take notes. Number 1, the dangers of superficial belief. That's what you're seeing at the end of John 2.

There is a kind of belief that immunizes you from the understanding that you need the real thing. John 2, by the way, is not the only place that we get this picture. Matthew chapter 7, a passage that used to scare me to death when I was in high school, talks about a group of people that are going to stand on the last day at the judgment and they're going to look at Jesus and they're going to say, Lord, Lord Jesus, it's good to see you. Man, we went to church. Man, we went on mission trips. We shared Christ with people. We read our Bibles.

We gave him the offerings. And Jesus is going to say the most terribly shocking words that have ever been uttered in the universe to them. He's going to say, depart from me because I never knew you.

I never gave myself to you. And they're going to be shocked to hear that because they thought that they knew Jesus because they believed in him and because they'd gone through some initial things at church. I don't know a lot about that group at the end, but I know that it says that they are many, which means many that think they're on the road to heaven who are actually on the road to hell. Thanks for listening to Summit Life with J.D. Greer. If you want to know more about this ministry, visit us online at jdgreer.com.

You know what? We appreciate you. Yes, you are listeners.

It's an honor for us to be able to be a source of encouragement for you each day. Did you know that these Summit Life broadcasts are only one of the ways that you can keep up with Pastor J.D. 's ministry?

Now, if you're like me, I spend a good amount of time on my phone. Did you know that you can follow Pastor J.D. on social media?

Why not get some biblical insight as you scroll? Just search for Pastor J.D. Greer on Facebook, at Pastor J.D. Greer on Instagram, and at J.D.

Greer on X. He's also on YouTube, where you can subscribe to his channel at j.d.greer. Follow along on all your favorite social media platforms and stay up to date with this ministry while filling up your timeline with encouragement from God's Word.

Now, let's get back to today's teaching here on Summit Life. Once again, here's Pastor J.D. Luke Chapter 8 is another place where Jesus warned about it. He talked about some seed that went into the ground, and it says that the seed sprang up quickly, that it brought fruit quickly.

It looked like a great plant, but then after the sun came out and the weeds grew out, these seeds died away. And I've often asked you, do these seeds, these quick plants, do they represent saved or unsaved people? The answer is they're unsaved people who, for a while, look like they're saved people. I mean, they come, they get baptized, they pray the prayer.

They start, they look good, but it doesn't pass the test of time. And Jesus warns that there's a lot of people who start that are not on the road to heaven. Now, again, listen, 50% of Americans say they pray the prayer asking Jesus into their heart, even though half of them never go to church, even though two-thirds of them have lifestyles that are not significantly different than people outside the Christian faith. Y'all, if the group that is being described in John 2 or Luke 8 or Matthew 7 are not talking about them, I don't know who they could be talking about. The question presented in John 2 is, what kind of belief saves? And that is an eternally important question, because most of you, most of us, 50% of Raleigh-Dorothy, probably higher in the South, says that they are okay, that they've done that. Is it possible, that's all I want you to think about, is it possible that your faith is what is described here in John 2, 23?

Is it possible that you would be in that group? So that leads to number two, a description of saving faith. We've got the description of the danger of superficial religion or superficial belief. Now we've got number two, a description of saving faith, chapter three. Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus. He was a ruler, a religious ruler of the Jews. This man, Nicodemus, came to Jesus by night. And this man said to him, Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God and no one can do these things that you do, unless God is with him. You see, he's tying it back to verse 23. Nicodemus saw the signs and believed, so that's why you connect these two stories. He's one of the people Jesus was talking about in verse 23. Verse three, Jesus answered him, I love that, answered him, did Nicodemus ask a question?

No, because Jesus had this way of answering the questions you should have been asking. So Jesus answered him, truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Now, born again is a phrase that's familiar to us. It's common in our culture.

President Jimmy Carter, I think, was the first one who kind of made it famous, but the Nicodemus was unfamiliar. And so it sounds absurd to him. And so he asked what we would have asked had we heard that for the first time. Verse four, how could a man be born when he's old? How could he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born? That sounds impossible.

And it sounds, even if it is possible, it sounds awkward. I mean, how do you do that? How are you born again? Verse five, Jesus answered, truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.

That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, you must be born again. Genuine saving faith turns on one phrase, one phrase. You must be born again. You must be born again. That is the answer to the problem in verse 23 of chapter two.

You've got to be born again. Jesus said, truly, truly. Now, here's the thing, Jesus was not one prone to exaggerate. And usually he did not qualify what he's saying by saying, oh, now I'm telling you the truth. He always told the truth.

He never exaggerated. He was himself the truth. So when Jesus, who was himself the truth, dropped a truly, truly, not just one truly, but truly, truly, when he drops that, it means you better pay attention. Because I, who am the truth in saying something, I feel the need to qualify twice. Truly, truly, you must be born again.

Do not miss the scandal of this. Nicodemus was a deeply religious man, a religious leader, a respected church person, in our terms, church person. He was a leader, get this, in the right religion. And Jesus was telling him that despite all of his good works, despite all of his learning, all of his church attendance, all of his religious rituals, he was dead in his sin. You see, the gospel is bad news before it is good news. And this is where most people miss the gospel because they'll never really grapple with the bad news. But see, it's where Jesus started his gospel presentation, and where we must start, too.

And I will, listen, let's be very clear with you. If this does not offend you, especially if you're kind of new to this whole thing, if it does not offend you, if it does not at some point in the next few minutes, as I unpack this, make you want to get up and leave, then you're probably not hearing it right. It was as offensive in Jesus' day. It was intended to be offensive as it is today, because what the Bible is doing is it is humbling you, because it is trying to say there's no possible way you will ever see the kingdom of God on your own strength, your own work, your own value.

It's got to be a gift that's given to you from above. Our sin, you see, cut us off from God and left us spiritually dead. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve severed their connection with God. They wanted to be in charge, not God. They rejected God so they could have what they wanted. Where around here we call sin, the big I problem.

That's how you spell sin, S-I-N, middle letter. It's when I do what I want to do instead of what God wants me to do. I want to be in charge. I want to serve myself.

I want to have other people serve me as well. I want all the glory. I want to be the primary point of my and everybody else's life. That is the path that Adam and Eve started down in Genesis 3, and it is the path that all of us voluntarily have continued down ever since then. Our lives exist in a state of rebellion against God.

You might not think that you are all that bad, and relatively speaking, you probably aren't that bad. But as a race, we have committed cosmic treason. We have committed an unspeakable blasphemy. We have said to the Creator of the universe, I want to be in charge of my own life. I want the glory. I want the attention. I get to decide what's right for me, not you.

My agenda, my interests are much more important to me than yours. Our sinful rebellion is not our sinful rebellion because God was infinitely worse than most of us have ever imagined. Because if we imagined it, we would be on our face before God saying, God be merciful to me, a sinner. You see, that choice left us as a race condemned under a curse, death. That's what God said in Genesis 2, the soul that sins will die. So death is at work in us and around us.

You can see that, can't you? You can look around in our world and see the effects of death, famine, pain, disease, injustice, genocide. These are all aftershocks of the curse of death. We can feel it at work in ourselves, corruption, weariness, dysfunction in our relationships. We hurt those sometimes that we love the most.

This is all a symptom of death at work in us. You look down in chapter three toward the very last verse in the chapter. John 3, 36 says that we exist as a race under the condemnation. The wrath of God abides, it remains on us. Which means that what we need is not religious improvement.

We don't need a slight alteration or a mid-course correction. We need to be completely reborn from above. Jesus told Nicodemus that in his sinful flesh, he could not hope to even see the kingdom of God. In our sinfulness, we could no more hope to stand in the presence of God any more than a wilted dandelion could hope to withstand the blast of a nuclear bomb. Sin did not merely knock us down or put us on God's JV squad or put us on probation or put you on a slower track to get to your mansion in heaven.

Sin wiped you out completely. Now listen, you're not going to hear this verdict on humanity on Dr. Phil or Oprah, but that's where Jesus started the gospel, and it's where we must start too. Francis Schaeffer, who was kind of a philosopher, Christian thinker about 50 years ago, Francis Schaeffer was asked one time, if you had one hour with a modern person who'd never heard of Christianity, if you had one hour like, say, on a plane trip, what would you do with that hour? Francis Schaeffer says this, listen, I would spend the first 45 to 50 minutes on the negative to really show him his dilemma, that he really is morally dead.

Then I would take the last 10 or 15 minutes to preach the good news of the gospel to him. I believe that much of our evangelistic and personal work today is not clear simply because we're too anxious to get to the answer without ever having a man realize the real cause of his sickness, which is true moral guilt and not just psychological guilt feelings in the presence of God. We're presenting Jesus as the answer, but people don't know the question or the problem. It is not until you understand the problem and the question that you begin to adore and worship Jesus. Jesus said it's those who are forgiven much love much. The reason some of you are bored with Jesus, the reason some of you don't love Jesus is because you have no concept of the wickedness that is you and what he saved you from when he came to earth, because when you understand that, you either run away from him in hatred and anger, or you fall on his feet in adoration and worship and love. The choice is yours. Run away from Jesus or cling to him in faith and live. You're listening to Summit Life, and today was the first message in our new teaching series called Can't Believe from Pastor J.D.

Greer. J.D., we've just kicked off a new teaching series, but before that, we were studying the minor prophets in a series called Come Back to Me. We introduced a new resource that emphasizes seeking God through his word, specifically in these Old Testament books. So can you tell us how does it guide readers in achieving this goal?

So what we have here is it's a companion resource that will help you do four things. Read, study, pray, and apply. How do you actually just read the scripture? And then where are the questions you need to identify? What should you be asking?

Our goal in this is that you won't always need a resource like this, because you'll instinctively know the questions to ask. Well, this will help at least prime you to say, hey, this is what you ought to be asking in this passage. Then to pray. The first response to scripture always ought to be prayer.

And then to apply it. Apply it first to your life and then maybe to somebody that you know you can speak a word of encouragement. We'd love to be able to give you this resource. I think it would be helping your Bible study. You can take a look and receive it. And if you're interested in your Bible study, you can take a look and reserve your copy today at jdgrier.com. We'd be honored to receive your gift of $35 or more to this ministry. To give, simply call us at 866-335-5220.

Or you can always give online at jdgrier.com. I'm Molly Vidovitch inviting you to join us again next week as we continue our series called Can't Believe. Have a great weekend of worship and we'll see you next time right here on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by J.D. Greer Ministries.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-03-15 10:25:01 / 2024-03-15 10:35:53 / 11

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