A service with no Savior

Some people, though not a majority, seem to be looking for fulfillment in their lives with meetings that are similar to church services with the exception of one important aspect, God is not there. This is a false “church” meeting. Yes, it is in a building which may resemble a church and they have a service and songs and thoughtful meditation and they fellowship with each other because they have similar beliefs and yet there is nothing in the service that suggests that there is worship, of any kind, going on.

I am not against this at all really. I, in the climate and the culture in which we live, people need to be able to get together in a safe atmosphere with like-minded people and worship however they choose. I am not against religions or even no religion at all. I am a pastor and this blog is another service that I am doing for my Savior, it is something that I enjoy doing. I know that there are those who don’t agree with my religion or my views and opinions, which is fine too. You are entitled to your belief just as I am to mine.

A news article which I read over the weekend referred to these as atheist worship services and that is why I am writing this. In the New Testament, Paul writes of a town that he visited which had many shrines and altars to other gods and it also had one dedicated to “an unknown god”, and that is the God which Paul introduced them to. This article, in a way, reminded me of this because atheists claim to have no belief in anything but themselves. No God, no higher power, just natural man and humanistic thinking and ideas. This is a belief which is fine in our country because it is guaranteed by the law of the land.

Yet, it seems that the minority which follows this belief want to push their belief into the spotlight and shove everyone else to the side, especially Christians. What have we done to you to deserve this? If there is a cross or a billboard which offends you, take another route or just don’t pay attention to it. That is what I do when I see a billboard advertising some adult video or bookstore. Offenses seem to be taken over the least little incident and for what? Because you can see a cross from the road? Big deal.

There is a verse of scripture that I am going to put here so be warned:

Psalm 46:10: He says,Be still, and know that I am God.”

The person speaking is God and He is telling David as well as all of us to know that He is God. We have to stand in awe of a creator that can bring the whole of creation into being with His Words and yet care for us as His children, each one of us. “Be still” brings up an image of needing to slow down and listen, which is what we need, all of us, today.

There are so many things which are clamoring for our attention today, bills, the news, our Facebook friends, instant messages on our cell phones. We are constantly in contact with everyone through communication channels that were unheard of twenty years ago and we wonder why people have nervous breakdowns! Yet, we can be in contact with God, personally, every day and at any time through prayer. No bad signals, no dropped calls to Him because He is always there. Whether you have given your life to Him or not, He still sees you and knows what is going on.

“Know that I am God”— This part of the verse tells us that He is and always has been God, there is no time past, present or future that He is not God. Whether you choose to believe it or not cannot change that. Whether you choose to worship Him in a church or in your car or not at all, will not change the fact that He is there. Choose to believe or at least to really find out about the “God Who Sees me” as Hagar put it, because He is there and He is waiting for you.

 

Are you justified?

And if you are, by what or by whom did you come by this justification? You did not get through any work or anything on your own, so what makes you think that you are justified?

Romans 5:1
“Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:”

 

The great 16th Century German Reformer, Martin Luther, called it “the article upon which the church stands or falls.”

 

 

The article in question is that of justification by faith alone. To Luther, whether this doctrine was believed and preached or not was the basis by which we judge if it is a true church! A church ceases to be a church when it ceases to declare that sinners are reconciled to God by no other way than by faith.

 

 

It is our faith which defines us as Christians because without it, we have no hope in Christ nor are we justified in Him.

 

 

We live in a day of religious tolerance, when truth, it is said, should be sacrificed on the altar of relationships. May our voice sound with the noble martyrs of generations of the true church who say with the apostle Paul, “If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.’ (Galatians 1:9)

 

The doctrine of justification by faith alone is essential to the gospel. The gospel ceases to be ‘good news’ if it ceases to declare that Christ alone has accomplished our salvation. We are trying to mix our own brand of law with the Grace that comes from the belief that we are supposed to have in Christ. Theologians have always understood that when we say we are justified by faith alone, we are really saying we are justified by the work of Christ alone.

 

 

The work that Christ did on the cross was all that needed to be done, we cannot add anything to it. We are unable to add anything to the perfect sacrifice which Christ gave for us. That’s why this doctrine is so important. If we try to contribute anything more to our salvation than simply believing what Christ has already done, we cheapen His work of grace and declare it insufficient. We are calling Him a liar by trying to add to His work, because He said “It is finished!”, and with those words Christ proved that nothing else was needed except for us to accept it and believe in the saving grace that Christ provided for us through His sacrifice.

 

Paul himself was Saul at first, a Pharisee and a zealot for the Jewish faith. He tried to eradicate the Way as it was called at first but Jesus met him on the road to Damascus and it changed him forever. He became one of the most influential apostles of the first century. Our faith is the path, and it must be in Jesus and the work that He alone accomplished on the cross.

Our justification has always been in Him and through Him and what He did, it has never been based on anything that we can do because nothing that we do is holy or acceptable to God unless we have the holiness of Christ living in us and through us by faith in Him.

The only possible way that we have to be justified in our Christian walk if through faith in Christ and in His sacrifice for us on the cross. If we don’t believe in that, then we might as well decide to be an agnostic and not believe any of the Word of God. Because dis-belief in any part of God’s Word nullifies all of it. Just like not believing in any part of any contract, or disagreeing with any part of it  makes the entirety of the contract useless.

 

Religion may not be good for you!

In Paul’s day and in our own time, people keep traditions alive and you hear “that’s the way it has always been done”, as proof of their Christian lives and their beliefs as well as the “proof” of their conversion. We see people in church as well as on the street that we know as “church people”, meaning that they are in church every time that there is something going on there. It could also mean that they volunteer in church to drive the bus or to help in the nursery or any number of duties. These people feel sanctified and saved because of their deeds or their work for the church and they may be, but what about the Person that they are serving? Are they working for Jesus or themselves?

In Paul’s day there were many who were “religious”, all of the priests, the Pharisees and Sadducees were religious and yet Jesus condemned them. They were convinced that they were right and everyone else was wrong and they would not listen to any “new” teaching. They were stuck in the past with all of their laws and rules and they had hardened their hearts against anything new.

Do you know people like that? I do, but what can you or I do about it? We can’t change them because they don’t listen or won’t listen just as those in Jesus’ time wouldn’t. So what can we do? Love them, and pray for them daily.

In reference to the title of today’s sermon, there will be many people in hell who are or were religious while they were here and they were that way their whole life. They were convinced that their way was right and that they were doing things right, so what happened? They weren’t shown the error of their ways? Maybe or maybe they just didn’t listen or really hear sermons which they attended. When your ears are closed to Christ and His way of living, your heart is too. So how do you get people like that to listen? By prayer and fasting. Even Jesus said that some problems can only be solved by prayer and fasting.

I am not speaking of fasting for forty days or even two weeks, but if there is someone that you love who hasn’t given their lives and their hearts to Jesus then pray for them and fast for one day! Drink water and juice during that time and pray.

Their life will be impacted and yours will too! God listens closely to those who combine fasting with prayer. The answer may not come immediately after the fast is over, but you can be sure that your prayer was heard!

When Paul wrote most of his letters to the different churches, he was usually in prison at the time. What does that say about his ministry? It says that it was effective for one thing because he was getting someone’s attention! He was striving for the prize, but what was that prize? The prize that Paul was striving for was to be more like Jesus and if it meant that he was stoned or imprisoned for the teaching that he was doing then so be it! The prize that Paul was seeking was also to be considered worthy of being a “good and faithful servant” to his Lord, which is something that we should also be striving for.

To live for Christ and with Him in your daily life is a conscious decision that has to be made daily. It doesn’t automatically happen when you accept Him as your savior. Many people think that once you have accepted Him into your heart, you have done your part. That is not where your part in your new life ends but where it begins! You have to decide every day to take Christ with you everywhere you go! And if you wouldn’t take Jesus there in person, then you shouldn’t be there either!

That is a radical concept for many people to accept even Christians who have been in church most of their lives. You can get up and have a bad day and from that point you may un-invite Christ or decide not to ask Him to be with you that day. Of course He will still be there but you may not know it because you choose not to recognize Him. We are supposed to know and come to know Him daily because of Who He is and what He did for us and yet we sometimes choose not to allow Him to be a presence in our daily life.

Why would you decide such a thing? The Creator of everything wants a relationship with you and everyone else in the world, doesn’t that sound cool?! We are enamored with all sorts of celebrities and sports figures and would enjoy spending time with them so why not be just as excited when the Creator wants to be in your life and share it with you? The disciples had that relationship for about three years and yet they didn’t fully comprehend it until He ascended to the Father. We have the Bible, God’s Word, to tell us all that we need to know about Him and about the Father and we have the Holy Spirit to guide us daily in our walk with Him, what more could you ask for?

Our world and the one who influences people everyday tries to tell us that the things of this world, right now are more important than anything we could have with Jesus in our lives. Money, power, and possessions are all temporary because when our life is over those things won’t mean anything. Some of them may have sentimental value to our family but other than that, nothing in this world makes the trip past death’s door only your soul and spirit do that.

The way that many people see being a Christian is that we live with lots of rules and regulations about what we can and cannot do. That is not the way this works! Following Christ and keeping our eyes on Him, spiritually and physically is the requirement that we should live with every day. It is not hard to follow Christ, once you get the hang of it. The hard part is the tug of war between your old self and the new one that now lives in your heart.

Until your faith in Christ can keep your new self in place and kick the old one out, you will be in turmoil because you can’t serve them both. It is a decision that you have to make every day. Get up with Christ on your mind, not what am I going to do today? But Who am I going to be with today? Am I going to go back to doing the things that I did before I met Jesus? Or am I going to read the Bible a few minutes and pray for strength and guidance from Him to carry me through the day?

We are living this life to get ready for the next but you have to make sure that you are going to have a life, a real life, after this one. Many people think that there is no life after this one and the Bible says just the opposite from beginning to end. Give yourself a chance to experience that life because the alternative is eternal separation from loved ones who are in heaven and from the love of God too. The only chance that you have to make this decision is during this life, now. Once this life ends, there are no “second chances”. Ask Jesus into your life, follow Him every day, learn about Him and the love that He has for you during the time that you have now.

The universe shows us every day the power and majesty of God so we are without excuse when someone asks if there is a God. Isn’t it wonderful that the Creator of everything wants to know you and have a relationship with you? Don’t you want to know Him too? All you have to do is ask Him into your life and your heart and you will have that relationship.