30 Minute Radio Lesson - WAVG Radio 1450 AM
Clarksville church of Christ
January 14, 2001
Speaker: Richie Thetford
"Is Your Religion Yours, Or Someone Else's?"
Good morning and welcome to another presentation of "What Is Truth?" I'm Richie Thetford, evangelist for the Clarksville church of Christ, located at 407 W. Hwy 131 in Clarksville. I want to thank each and every one you for taking the time to listen this morning as we examine another truth of God's word. I have received some kind comments this past week concerning this radio program and I want to thank each of you listening this morning for allowing me once again, the opportunity to come into your home or automobile at this time to share with you the gospel message of Jesus. It is my hope and prayer that those of you that are listening today will honestly examine your heart to ensure that you are in fact doing only those things that are pleasing to our almighty God. As we discuss the topic of the hour, "Is Your Religion Yours, or Someone Else's?", I want to encourage you to have your Bible readily available so that you can examine the scriptures to make sure that what I am presenting is in fact God's will for you. Remember, the Bible clearly states that we must obey God rather than man (Acts 5:29). It is my hope that each one of you this morning will have the kind of heart that the Bereans did back in the first century. It was said of them that "These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so" (Acts 17:11). Also the apostle John warns us that we should "....not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1). By looking at the Bible passages, you can see for yourself that what I am teaching this morning can in fact be backed up by book, chapter, and verse in the Bible. This is so vitally important as we strive to do only that which is authorized by God and not what some man maysay about a given subject. Now I invite you to please have your Bible, pen and paper ready and let's study together another truth of God.
I am confident that I am speaking to religious people this morning, and that your religion is something that affects you: The way you live, what you do, how you act on a daily basis. Also, that your religion is based on certain principles. Such as: Faith in God, Love for God, Hope of eternal life; conviction regarding the Bible, certain moral standards, and many more related thoughts.
But, I raise a question. Is your religion really yours, or is it someone else's? Is that too presumptuous to ask? In other words: Upon whose faith does your (or my) religion really depend? When we view the religious world about us, this question is truly in order. How about each one of us? Let us examine ourselves.
I am persuaded that many people's religion is purely organizational. By this I mean that they act and believe as the church they are associated with would have to act and to believe. If they do not drink, it's because their church doesn't allow drinking. If they do not dance, it is because their church doesn't allow dancing. If they do not, _________ (fill in the blank), we could go on and on just about this point. Whatever moral standards that one holds, it is not because they themselves have thought it out; but rather, it is because their church holds those types of convictions.
The same is true of their doctrinal beliefs. It is whatever the church teaches and practices. If the church believes this, then they believe it; if the church practices that, then they practice it. If their church baptizes infants, then they hold to this practice. They never question why certain things are done or not done. They simply say, "Surely the church knows what to do" and they simply leave it at that. If they are shown something different, they say, "It's my church that believes this and if the church changes, then I'll change" There is no real personal conviction on their part. This is purely organizational thinking and not individual thinking of conviction. Those that hold to this type of religious conviction in their life has never spent much time in the Bible and really doesn't have time to be bothered with the Bible.
Jesus said, "If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into the pit"(Matthew 15:14). Christ is saying that one who follows has the same responsibility as the one who leads. Friends, it is so vitally important that we only follow those that are not blind. We must follow those that know and practice the truth. And of necessity, we must know the truth in order to know whether those leading are doing so correctly; that they are not blind.
This type of mentality is seen when we witness people changing churches and just adopting the standards of the group to which they have affiliated themselves with. If the church's standards are loose, then theirs are loose; if strict, then theirs are strict. Some churches are purely organizational in their efforts to convert people. Their efforts are to convert people to their church and not necessarily to the Lord. There are those who go about knocking on doors seeking to convert people to their beliefs and their doctrine for the furtherance of their Society. This is not to say that it is wrong to knock doors. But, we are talking about motives; Why do you knock doors? To meet a quota or to study and learn the truth of God's word, or simply to parrot some particular theory.
In the New Testament times, people were not converted to a particular doctrine or practice of an organization, but to the Lord. This required a personal faith in Christ. In John 20:30-31, we read, "Many other signs therefore did Jesus in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book: but these are written that ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye may have life in his name." In Romans 1:16, we read, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel; for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek." It required a personal acceptance of Christ's atonement for sin. "But God commendeth his own love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom 5:8).
How often do you hear those who knock doors seek to discuss what one must do to become the child of God? What one must do in their worship and service of our King, Jesus Christ? Usually they are concerned with hypothetical arguments and endless explanations of difficult passages, rather that the simple plan of salvation. Still in other cases, I know that all they are trying to do is to get someone to accept their particular doctrine and "join" their church.
Most people need to be reminded that when they worship Jehovah that they are present because of what the church wants them to do. That type of worship will never be acceptable to God, because it is not done out of Love; nor the willingness to obey the Word of God. If I attend worship only because this is what the church expects of me, I may as well stay at home. Our motive to worship God must go a lot deeper than that. This is not to say that worship is not important, for it surely is. Jehovah God has always demanded our homage, or worship; even public worship. But, what we are saying is that we need to look deep into our heart and be sure that we are present with the desire to please Him, and not present simply because it is the church's expectation. We must remember the words of Jesus as He said: "These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men" (Matt 15:8-9). Jesus also stated that: "But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth" (John 4:23-24). When we worship God in the proper Spirit and in Truth, that simply means with the right attitude and by His authority. Therefore, when we worship God we must ensure that we are doing so in accordance with His directions and not man's directions (Acts 5:29).
It seems also that many times one's religion is founded on family loyalty. All that they do and hold to in religious service toward God is based solely on family loyalty. This is somewhat similar to politics. Have you ever heard someone say, "Ever since the civil war my family has been democrat, therefore I am democrat." Or, "My family has always been republican, therefore I am republican." The same principle effects people's religion. Have you ever heard, "Ever since great, great, grandpappy joined the __________ church, my family's always been ____________, and if it was good enough for them, it's good enough for me." My friend, that may be all right in politics, but it certainly is not safe in religion.
I am reminded of the story about the newly wed young lady. She decided to bake a ham. So, she cut off the shank and put it in the oven to bake. Her new husband asked her, "Why did you cut off the shank?" The answer was, "mother always did that." When she asked her mother why she cut off the shank, the answer was, "Your grandmother always did that." When grandmother was asked why she cut off the shank, the answer was, "My pan was not large enough to hold it, so I cut off the shank."
How tragic it is that many are basing their eternal destiny upon what others before them have believed, rather than making their faith a matter of personal conviction. What others have done does not remove my responsibility of determining my own convictions. One cannot go to heaven upon the faith of someone else. This is not to say that we should not respect the lives and actions of others, but that we, each one, must look deeply into the word of God and determine what we believe and practice with reference to Jesus Christ. Surely, mothers and fathers have a responsibility to set examples for their children, to teach them the word of God. But mother`s faith cannot become her daughter's faith. Daughter must develop her own faith, and then move to obey that faith.
Jesus taught us a valuable lesson along these lines in Matthew, chapter 10. I would like to encourage you at this time to please open your Bible to the first book of the New Testament, Matthew, and let's read together chapter 10, verses 32-39: "Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven. "Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to 'set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law'; and 'a man's enemies will be those of his own household.' He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it." Friends, do you see it here? Consider again our question at the beginning of our program this morning: "Is your religion really yours, or someone else's?" Often times, if we would admit it, our religious belief is based upon family tradition. We practice our religion based upon the desires of our parents, rather than making sure that what they or we are doing religiously is in accordance with the teaching of God. It may be that our parents are practicing the correct religion, but we must ensure that is the case by what the word of God says, not what some man may say. If our parents are wrong, we must change and do what is right.
Let's never lose sight of who will judge us after we die. Jesus said: "He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him--the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day" (John 12:48). The inspired apostle Paul wrote: "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad" (2 Cor 5:10).
So often today we hear that society makes a difference, and religion must adjust to the society around us. Friends, this simply is not so! The majority has never been the standard to serving God. Jesus said that the majority was on the path that leads to destruction in Matthew 7:1314: "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it." Society has never been the criterion for deciding morals. It is the Word of God and it alone that determines what is right or what is wrong.
The fact that "everybody is doing it," does not make it right. If the whole world decides to reject the teachings of God's Word, it still stands as the standard of righteousness and by it we shall all be judged. Friends, it all comes down to this all important point and that is "attitude."
Perhaps the first or basic attitude needed is that of SUBMISSION TO GOD'S WILL. Unless we are willing to submit to every principle found in God's Word, we approach it with the wrong attitude. We MUST have the disposition of Cornelius as found in Acts 10:33, "So I sent to you immediately, and you have done well to come. Now therefore, we are all present before God, to hear all the things commanded you by God." You will notice, this man, Cornelius, was not interested in hearing part of what God commanded; nor just what he wanted to hear; But he was desirous of hearing ALL THINGS. Tell us what God wants us to do. Tell us everything God wants us to do. So often today, mankind is ready to accept that part of God's Word which he approves, but willing to overlook the things that he does not like, often times because it is based not on their religion, but the religion of others, handed down through tradition. But this is not so with one who has the proper attitude toward God's Word. As we scan the Word of God and call to our attention various examples of men of faith as found therein, we find this attitude prevalent. Look at Noah, who, "by faith, being warned of God concerning things not seen as yet, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; through which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith" (Hebrews 11:7). Look at Abraham, who, "by faith when he was called, obeyed to go out unto a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he went" (Hebrews 11:8). View the example of Moses, who, "by faith refused to be called the son of Pharoah's daughter; choosing rather to share ill treatment with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season" (Hebrews 11:24, 25). One cannot imagine any of these men of faith arguing with God and what He asked of them, but wholly accepting His word, without quibbling, did what Jehovah asked of them. So often today we hear people speak of their great faith in God--and then they turn right around and refuse to do what God commands of them.
And while we are on this point just here, may we point out that faith moves people to DO SOMETHING. Faith has never saved a single person until that faith motivated the person to arise and DO what is commanded. Sometimes people today leave the impression that all that is needed is just to be religious, just call on the name of the Lord. But listen to the words of Christ, "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy by thy name, and by thy name cast out demons, and by thy name do many mighty works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity" (Matthew 7:21-23). He then follows these words with the examples of the two builders, one who heard, but did not do, he likened unto the man who built on the sand and great was the fall; but the one who built on the rock stood victorious when the test came. This man had heard, but he likewise did what was commanded.
Must man accomplish any works to be saved? Listen to Christ in John 9:4: "We must work the works of him that sent me, while it isday: the night cometh, when no man can work." And again in John 6:28-29, "They said therefore unto him, What must we do, that we may work the works of God" Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent." Even Faith is a work, for it is something that each person must do. Truly, man cannot of his own good morality, nor of his own devised schemes, work his way into salvation; but to say that man has nothing to do in his own salvation is a flagrant transgression of the words of Christ and His apostles. Yes, man has something to do, he must DO ALL THAT GOD COMMANDS OF HIM. And unless he does, he simply does not have the faith that will save him.
Jesus showed us this principle by the very life that He lived. The Hebrew writer in Hebrews 5:8-9 states, "though he was a son (the context shows clearly the writer is talking about Christ Jesus), yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation to all those who obey him." Salvation is offered to whom? TO ALL THOSE WHO OBEY HIM! The only way one can truly obey Christ is by doing the things which He commands, nothing more, nor nothing less. consequently, if man is to be saved, he cannot add to, nor subtract from a single thing that Christ Jesus commands for us to do.
Where God has spoken, then, man must respond in obedience. Where God has not spoken; where He has remained silent; man has no right to infringe. Man cannot presume to speak for God. Man needs to speak where the Bible speaks and remain silent where the Bible is silent; doing what our God expects of us. Christ in John 4:34 states,"My meat (my food, my sustenance, my desire, my enjoyment, my very life itself) ...My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me, and to accomplish his work." Surely, this must be our attitude toward Godand His Word. What is your attitude toward the Bible? Do you have the attitude of submission and obedience to all that is found therein? Is it your feeling to show me what God requires of men and I am ready to respond? Anything short of this is not the proper attitude toward the Word of God.
Friends, remember that I began this morning with the question: "Is your religion really yours, or someone else's?" And, I ask it again: "Is your religion really yours or someone else's?" Do you do what you do in religion because of a deep conviction in your heart that it is founded upon a "thus sayeth the Lord?" Regardless of what mother, father, aunt, uncle, grandmother, grandfather, may have or may not have done? It will take a personal faith in Christ Jesus. A faith coupled with the right attitude of heart that leads you to ask what must I do to be saved? The answer is given in Acts 2:38; "Repent and be baptized everyone of you for the remission of your sins." And if the whole world refuses to obey that command, it is still the requirement of Heaven. I urge you to obey the word of God today before it is everlastingly too late. This may be the very last opportunity that you have to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, so that you can be ready to be with Jesus forever more. What is your attitude this morning? Is your religion really yours, or is it someone else's?
This is Richie Thetford, evangelist for the Clarksville church of Christ thanking each of you for listening to this morning's broadcast and invite you to listen again next Sunday morning at 8:30 A.M. for another presentation of "What Is Truth?"