Summary: What’s wrong with being religious? Nothing, as long as it does not become a substitute for knowing Jesus Christ.
You know America loves to take polls and surveys. It seems our nation’s leaders are more in tune with the polls and the surveys than they are in doing what is right and moral and just. Isn’t it interesting though that one recent survey determined 58% of Americans don’t believe the results of polls and surveys. I don’t know if you can believe that poll or survey either. In survey after survey after survey of Americans asked, “What’s the most important thing in life?” the number one answer is always, “How can I be happy?” You know worldly happiness is like a smoke bubble. It’s there for a moment…POP...and then it’s gone. It’s so hard to stay happy. Maybe you can relate to the person who prayed this prayer. He said, “Dear Lord. So far today I am doing pretty good. I haven’t lost my temper. I haven’t been grumpy, selfish or rude. But, in a few moments I am going to have to get out of bed and then I’m going to need your help for the rest of the day.” The number one most important question should not be “How can I be happy?” The utmost question in the mind of every person ought to be, “How can I be saved?” “How can I be saved?” In Romans 10, Paul tells us how to be saved. He tells us how not to be saved and how to be saved. Let’s look at the first 8 verses.
“Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.
Moses describes in this way the righteousness that is by the law: “The man who does these things will live by them.” But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ [to bring Christ down] or ‘Who will descend into the deep?’ [to bring Christ up from the dead] But, what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, that is the word of faith we are proclaiming…”
The title of this message today is “Religious, But Lost.” If you haven’t already figured it out, I believe very firmly it is possible for a person to be religious and still lost without Jesus Christ.
When I was a teenager I read a book, How to Be a Christian Without Being Religious. When I read that title, I thought, “Is that possible? Can you be a Christian without being religious? And, I am convinced that yes, it is very possible to be a Christian without being religious. It is also possible to be religious without being a Christian. Paul is writing about people here who were highly religious–his Jewish brothers and sisters. They had a zeal for God, but yet he said, “I am so burdened for them because they don’t know Jesus Christ.”
Let me tell you some things about religion this morning. There are three things religion can never do:
I. It is possible to be religious and not be saved
That’s what he is talking about there. He says, “My heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved.” You know, that word saved has come under really a lot of attack lately. People say, “I don’t like that word, saved.” Many times it conjures in our minds some poorly dressed guy who has a bad complexion and garlic breath invading our personal space with a big, black Bible looking us right in the face saying, “Brother, are you saved?” We think it is only the territory of religious fanatics. But the word saved is a good Bible word, and we ought not to avoid it. In Acts, chapter 16, the Phillipian jailor as he was getting ready to take his own life said to Paul, “What must I do to be saved?” Paul said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you can be saved and then your whole family can be saved. It’s the most important question you can ever ask. “How can I be saved?” It’s possible to be religious, but not be saved.
1. Universalism: Not everyone is saved
There are two terrible tragedies that are going around today in contemporary life. The first terrible tragedy is what I call “universalism”. Universalism teaches that basically everybody is automatically saved. That one day, God, in His goodness and his forgiveness is just going to say, “Well, forget about the blood atonement, forget about the cross, forget about Hell, forget about punishment and judgment–everybody just come on into heaven!” They think everybody is going to be saved. Universally, there is going to be salvation for everybody. That’s the tragedy, but here’s the truth. Not everyone is saved. You have to believe the Bible teaches that not everybody is saved. Why would Paul be praying for these Jewish brothers and sisters if everybody were saved. It would have been a useless prayer. No, not everybody is saved. In fact, Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount made this distinction. He said, “There are two kinds of people and there are two different pathways of life.” Look what he said in Matthew, 7. He said, “Enter through the narrow gate for wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction. And many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow is the road that leads to life and only a few find it.” Universalism is not true, and I am afraid it has given many people a false sense of hope and security. Jesus said there is a roadway that is an eight-lane super highway leading to destruction in Hell, and he said most of the people on earth are hell bound. They are going down that highway at breakneck speed. But there is another pathway and another gate leading to life eternal and there are only a few people who find it. If you claim to be a “universalist” you have to call Jesus Christ a liar because he said not everybody is saved.