John 5:40 But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life. (NKJV)
Having life… isn’t pretty much the summary of what our existence is about? Even the terribly wicked, evil and unsaved are “having life” – it’s just a distorted and misguided version of it.
The typical person, saved or unsaved, is after the same things regardless of where they are looking: happiness, guiltlessness, peace, purpose and love. This is what “life” is all about. God instills in us an innate understanding that there is MORE to this life on earth, and so we also seek after “having life” beyond this temporal existence termed normally as “eternal life” (although some are so consumed and given over to this world, that the thought of eternal life never becomes an issue to them).
Tragically and unnecessarily,
most people will not find eternal life.
Sadly, tragically and unnecessarily, most people will never find or have this eternal life (Matt 7.13-14) despite the modern popular teaching that “all roads lead to heaven”, “if you are good, God will accept you” or “pick a religion and be faithful to it”. Why? “Why” can be expressed in many different ways but when they are all boiled down there is only simple reason: they were not willing to go to Jesus for eternal life.
It’s amazing and sad to witness. There are only three options: 1) you don’t care about eternal life; 2) you try to earn eternal life on your own terms; or 3) you receive eternal life on God’s terms by going to Jesus for it. That’s it. Every single human that has ever existed over the course of billions upon billions upon billions of individual lives has chosen one of those options. It has nothing to do with religion. Abraham was counted faithful long before the Ten Commandments and Noah was found pleasing to God even when the rest of the world was “continually evil”.
For the people who simply don’t care, it is the wicked pleasures, evil intentions and the pursuit of self interest that crowd out any thought of eternal consequence:
Genesis 6:5 Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. (NKJV)
How quickly we are avalanching towards this state of existence in our world today. Immorality, violence, wars, death by the millions in the name of religion… one thing history proves is that history will always be repeated and the just as in the days before Noah, how the Lord must look down on this earth today with déjà vu.
What of those people who are searching for eternal life, who do think about it, who do believe that there is more to this life? With disastrous eternal results, man has developed many ways of “earning” eternal life and it will be too late for them when they finally admit and understand (Phil 2.10-11) that it cannot be earned.
Moralism, the “religion of goodness” is very popular today. It is especially evil because it is dressed in such nice intentions, kind acts and clean living. There are several VERY popular TV and radio personalities, as well as a healthy supply of religious leaders, including “christians” who preach this religion of morality. It can be summed up with the idea that when you stand before God, he will take out his measuring scales and weigh your good versus your bad. If the good is more than that bad, you get a ticket to the party.
Moralism denies and erases
the need for Jesus Christ.
This not only ignores and completely disregards what sin is and God’s reaction to it, but it totally eliminates the need for a Savior. If man can simply earn his way to heaven by doing a few more good things than bad, then Jesus wasted his time. Even if moralism were true, what constitutes “good” vs. “bad”? Who gets to make that determination? Unless the standards are VERY low, then only the rarest of self-sacrificing people will ever even live a life where the “good” outweighs the “bad” (by any real standard).
If you ask most people, they will say they are a “good person”. The more you understand sin, the sin curse, sinful man and the sin nature, the more you come to realize what a false notion this is. In fact, the more we truly understand sin, the more it shrivels in us any sense of “goodness” we may have about ourselves. One of the greatest Christians who ever lived, the Apostle Paul, certainly understood this as he summed up his own inclination to sin:
Romans 7:24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? (NKJV)
Religion, as opposed to true faith in and worship of God, has always been a favorite refuge for those seeking eternal life on their own terms. To humans there is something evidently magical about making up a set of beliefs and declaring it a “religion”. Somehow in the infinite foolishness of mankind this somehow elevates that set of beliefs to the same level as every other set of beliefs. Of course this is nothing more than a hellish trick by Satan played on the weak and prideful minds of sinful men.
Think about it. How can there be more than ONE truth if the ideas of these “truths” are contradictory? If there is more than one genuine truth, then there is no truth. If something is yellow is cannot also be blue. One is true, the other false. Of course, ingenuis deluded humans will fancy up some smart sounding trickery and say “not if you are wearing two different colored contact lenses!”. That is the kind of self deceit that allows someone to believe that a religion which declares there is one God is equal to the another religion that declares there are many gods which is equal to another religion that says all things in total are God to another which says there is no god at all..
Truth by its nature is exclusive or it wouldn’t be truth. By default, there is ONE truth and all other is false. We understand this as a matter of fact in all things except religion.
Religion does not save. Simply picking a religion and being faithful to it means NOTHING in light of receiving eternal life. It might certainly mean some social good in this life, and it certainly has bearing on your eternal destination. But in light of being received into the presence of God to live with him eternally, it means nothing.. zero.. nada.
So if religion can’t get you eternal life, what about Christianity? Isn’t is a religion? I thought you’d never ask.
Much of Christianity today has been perverted into “churchianity” which is no better than “religion” as described above. “I go to the right church, with the right name, and say the right things and I’m in with the right group of people.” There is no end to the number of “churches” that declare their way of worship, their practices, their teaching and their checklist of “correct christianity” is the only true way to heaven.
Matthew 15:8 ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. (NKJV)
Churchianity has become the perfecting of “church” as a production and business, as a way to “fulfill the needs” of those who attend and to professionally “staff” all the responsibilities of evangelism, ministry, benevolence and worship. The members of the “right church” feel the comfort and safety of attending the right service, going through the correct motions, and performing the excepted rituals and practices.
It is a misunderstanding that salvation can be found either by belonging to the correct group or living by the right checklist. “Went to church on Sunday, check. Went to the right church on Sunday, check. Sang the right songs, check. Gave a little money, check. Learned more about why we are right and they are wrong. Check.”
That’s one version of churchianity. Another flavor of this dangerous brand of religion is based on good feelings and a good experience. A nice comfortable building, great worship and praise music, a dynamic and relevant speaker and lots of programs and activities make up today’s “successful” church. It’s fun, comfortable and easy to be involved. Of course there is nothing inherently wrong with any of these things, and only becomes churchianity when these things become the purpose and the end – rather than being a means to the end which is the worship of God in obedient spirit and truth in the various ways that is Biblically manifested.
When the execution, perfection and professionalizing of “church” becomes the goal (often times subconsciously and incrementally like the proverbial frog in boiling water), then Christianity has become churchianity. Churchianity will never result in eternal life, but I believe there is one more thing that is even more dangerous and deceiving.
John 5:39-40 You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life. (NKJV)
Although Jesus was speaking directly to the Jews, it would be accurate to apply this to “His people” today who call themselves Christians. The Jews of his day were the religious folks who prided themselves in believing they were part of the right group (which of course they were but they had perverted it into a religion of man rather than faith in God). If we change Christianity into anything more or less than a singular faith in God then we become guilty of the same.
Notice the specific point that Jesus rebuked him for: he told them that they search the Scriptures to find eternal life but they did not have it because they did not come to Him. Is eternal life found in Gods Word? In a sense, of course it is. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God (Rom 10.17). So what was Jesus trying to say?
He was saying that the religious people of his time was substituting Bible knowledge for true faith. In short, they were guilty of “bibliolatry” or “Christian intellectualism” making Bible knowledge an idol (an idol is when your focus and faith is towards something other than God). Once again man is able to turn a Godly pursuit (learning God’s Word) and turn it into something prideful – then present that knowledge as the reason why God should give them eternal life.
Today we have an unparalleled and unprecedented access to Biblical knowledge. With books, the Internet, and all sorts of technology we have instant access to the teachings of many Godly and solid Bible teachers. Fortunately, we still live in a time where there are good solid churches and groups of Christians who meet together to genuinely worship in spirit and truth and learn God’s Word. We must be careful that the readily accessible nature of Biblical knowledge does not become a religion of works. When it does, we can search the Scriptures for eternal life and even read about Jesus in the Scriptures but we will not have eternal life unless we are willing to go to Him.
It is apparent that this situation exists today given the endless arguing, debating, bickering and theological quarreling that goes on between Christians while the hungry go unfed, the widows are neglected, the orphans are homeless and the unsaved are ignored. This is not to say that healthy debate and intense discussion over doctrine and the pursuit of truth is not important. It most certainly is. When it becomes the purpose, focus and reason behind our faith and our daily manifestation of Christianity, then it becomes the same as what Jesus warned about.
Knowing the Bible is essential. Searching the Scriptures is critical and worthwhile. Godly knowledge is invaluable. It will not however, save you. You must be willing to go to The One whom the Scriptures testify about. Only then will you have life.
– – – – – – – – – – – –
Being good will not save you although you must be good. Being religious will not save you although you must practice pure and undefiled religion (James 1.27). Attending the right church does not merit eternal life although we must not forsake the assembling of ourselves together (Hebrews 10.25). Knowing the Bible is not your ticket to heaven although knowing the Bible is something every Christian must strive for (2Timothy 3.16-17).
There is only one way to have life, eternal life. You must be willing to go to Jesus.
Lord God, help us to know the truth about eternal life: that only by going to Jesus Christ in obedient faith can it be found. Help us to not count on being good, not depend on religion, not put our faith in ‘church’ or stake our eternal future on our Bible knowledge. Help us to go to Jesus, go to Jesus, go to Jesus. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Application: Despite today’s popular teaching of endless ways to find God, please God and end up in heaven, the unchangeable reality is that there is only one way. It has nothing to do with being good, being faithful to a religion, attending the right church, participating in the right Christian worship or how much you know about the Bible. You can genuinely and intensely pursue all of these things and end up without the eternal life you were seeking. There is only one way and one person that leads to eternal life. No amount of man’s wisdom, religion, political correctness or social pressure can change that truth.
James 1:22 – But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (NKJV)
- What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
- What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
- What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?