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Over the past few years my blog has been visited by people from all over the world. Very few know me, or of me, they simply are looking information concerning the Bible and discover my blog. After many years of intense study and teaching, I've come to believe we are vulnerable to misguided and incorrect teaching if we don't understand for ourselves the teaching of God's Word. My 'hot buttons' are - grace, sovereignty, exhortations and sanctification. If you understand these basic principles of Scripture, and apply them to daily life, you will understand what it means to have peace, joy and absolute security in any circumstance.

Friday, November 11, 2011

ARE YOU RELIGIOUS OR RIGHTEOUS?

It’s a comfortable 70 degrees here today in the Southern California beach area, but it’s cloudy, no hint of the sun, and looking out my office window I would think that this is a cold winter day.  We are often deceived by how something looks, or by what we feel.  Sometimes, we even mistake acting ‘religious’ for being ‘righteous’! 

Most of my blog readers live in the United States, but I also have many readers who live in Russia, as well as Slovakia, China, Iran, Great Britain, Malaysia, etc.  I’m beginning to understand what that little ‘www’ really means – World Wide Web!  We may live in entirely different countries, have a different native language (I blog in English only), come from very different histories and cultures, but we are reading the same Bible, and love the same God.  John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  I find it very comforting that the Lord is searching for His sheep in every corner of the globe. 

The book of John, chapter 10, tells us about God searching for His sheep.  So often we think that somehow God isn’t powerful enough to bring those He’s chosen into a relationship with Him.  John 10 says He knows His own sheep by name and they follow Him because they know His voice.  At first the Jews believed they had exclusive rights to the God of the Universe, and the Gentiles were not a part of His flock.  The Gentiles were ‘heathens’, they didn’t know or follow ‘The Law’, had no concept of holiness, and didn’t conform to a list of religious practices.  God would reveal to the Jews that He wasn’t interested in their sacrifices and ‘religious’ ways; He wanted to have a personal relationship with them.  

Let’s look at a passage in Matthew 9 where Jesus is gathering together his disciples.  These men, after being empowered by the Holy Spirit, would spread the gospel throughout Jerusalem, all Judea and Samaria, Acts 1:8. What a picture of God’s sovereignty!  Jesus knew who had been chosen for this awesome privilege – no one declined the invitation to join Him, not one.  Jesus met the disciple Matthew sitting in a tax collector’s booth.  Tax collectors were considered to be the scum of the earth, an unsavory bunch of dishonest, self – serving people.  Jesus simply said, “Follow me”, and Matthew got up and followed Him.  Jesus then went to Matthew’s home and had dinner with “many tax collectors and sinners”.  The Pharisees, the religious people of the day, were upset and couldn’t understand why Jesus, a Jewish Rabbi, would sit down to a meal with these unworthy people.  Notice what Jesus told them “For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”  Matthew 9:13.

The ruling religious leaders, simply because of their ‘religious - ness’, thought of themselves as righteous, but Jesus wasn’t impressed or fooled, He could see their heart.  “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”   I Samuel 16:7.
The Bible tells us what Christianity is NOT, as well as what it is.  It is not…. 

 * A set of rules to follow
 * Impressing God with how 'good' we are
 * Attending weekly church services           
             * Going to Bible studies
             * Giving a portion of our income to the church
            * Taking the 'sacraments'
            * Wearing a little gold cross around your neck 
 
Most Christians do many of these things; however this isn’t what qualifies them to make the transition from sinner to saint.  Jesus did that for us.

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me”.  Galatians 2:20

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.”  II Corinthians 5: 17
“God made him who had no sin (Jesus) to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God”.  II Corinthians 5:21

The Bible tells us that a Christian…..
       * Has a personal relationship with God - John 10:14
       * Understands we have a 'sin nature', in other words, it's  natural to sin – Romans 3:23
       * Knows Jesus paid the penalty for our sin by dying in our place - Colossians 2:13-14
       * Believes our faith in Christ is credited to us as 'righteousness' – Romans 4:5

Lord we thank you that we who believe in you will someday receive the ‘crown of righteousness’, not because of being religious, not because of the good works we’ve done, but because you paid the penalty for our sins so we can live eternally with You!