It has been reported that Gallup, in its annual survey about the populace’s level of confidence in different types of institutions, has discovered that the level of confidence in organized religion has reached a new low of 41%.
I don’t find this shocking. Actually, I applaud this finding! I’m thrilled with this! Do you find it strange that a pastor would be thrilled by this news? You shouldn’t because it actually falls in line with why the good news of Jesus is truly the antithesis of religion, even though there are those within the Faith who seek to transform it into what is truly a religion.
You see, religion, with all of its requirements and regulations and codes of conduct and morality doesn’t truly work. And that’s why I believe there are many who are losing confidence in organized religion – they are realizing that religion doesn’t truly accomplish what it says it will accomplish.
Paul states quite clearly that religion is a failure. He writes to the Colossian believers, “If you died with Christ from the elements of the world, why, as if alive in the world, do you subject yourselves to ordinances? Do not handle nor taste nor touch, (regarding things which are all to perish when used) according to the commandments and teachings of men? Such things indeed have a reputation of wisdom in self-imposed piety and mock humility and severe treatment of the body but are not of any value against the indulgence of the flesh.” (Colossians 2:20-23 JHL)
All religion truly does is take a rotten piece of fruit, an apple, let’s say, and cover it with the skin of a good piece of fruit, a pear, let’s say. So, when someone now looks at that piece of fruit, what is seen is a pear which seems to be an edible piece of fruit, when truly it is a rotting apple. The new skin covering only appears to make a difference when in reality it has no impact on the nature of the fruit and eventually will succumb to the rotten interior.
Religion does not change a person’s nature; it only covers it up. The person looks good on the outside because of adherence to a code of conduct and morality, but on the inside, the person is still the same selfish, unloving individual. Religion seeks to change the nature of a person through a process of behavior modification, but it doesn’t work.
In contrast, the good news of Jesus starts with death. God is not in the business of behavior modification. God wanted nothing to do with “pastoring” the sinful nature because He knew it didn’t work. So, He came up with a different plan, one altogether different than that of religion. He decided to kill that old sinful nature.
So, He sent Jesus, His Son, to pave the way through dying though Jesus didn’t deserve it. When a person believes in Jesus, God immediately kills that person’s old nature and buries it in the tomb with Jesus. Then, just as that one was joined to and participated with Jesus in His death, that one also participates with Jesus in His resurrection to walk in newness of life, just as Jesus did. When that person walks out of the tomb resurrected, s/he needs another nature because the old one has stayed in the tomb. So, God places the nature of Jesus in that person. Therefore, that person’s nature is now changed.
And, now, that person’s understanding and realizing who s/he is in Christ begins. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, a person grows into whom God has already declared him/her to be. And that person God happily pastors because that person’s behavior emanates from a new nature and is on its way of becoming natural for the person.
And this is why I do not look at anyone who is a believer through the lens of the old nature; I look and approach him/her as the new creation s/he truly is! Paul clearly stated that those who believe are the righteousness of God in Christ. Therefore, since I will not call or view God’s righteousness as sinful in nature, I will not call a believer or view him/her as a sinner, not even a sinner saved by grace, because that’s not who s/he is today. Yes, s/he was a sinner who became a sinner saved by grace, but after receiving that grace, s/he immediately became a saint, a holy one of God. That is the way God sees and approaches him/her, and that is exactly the way I will also. That is my starting point with people as I pastor him/her.
Religion treats people as sinners whose behavior needs modification and control. And that’s truly a failed exercise. I’m thrilled more are realizing this all the time.