In this lesson, you might more easily react to the thoughts than think about the thoughts. You are encouraged to think and reflect rather than emotionally react without thought.
It is very simple for all religious people who regard themselves to be Christians to substitute another form of confidence for faith in Jesus Christ. It is simple to become a devoutly religious person who has enormous faith in something, but does not focus that faith in Jesus Christ. For instance, it is simple to replace confidence in the crucified, resurrected Jesus Christ with faith in scripture, or faith in a church, or faith in a heritage, or faith in a system, or faith in procedures and processes, or faith in an appreciated group, or faith in a respected person.
A study of scripture that does not nurture faith in Jesus Christ will not lead a person to God. Mere knowledge of scripture is not the way to God. Faith in Jesus is the way to God. A church that does not build its heart by using faith in Jesus Christ is not a church that leads to God. A heritage that does not have faith in Jesus Christ as its core cannot lead a person to God. A group of people or an individual who is not linked to God by faith in Jesus Christ cannot influence us toward God. Never has God presented faith in Jesus Christ as a system, a process, or a procedure.
In the last few lessons, we focused on Jesus' definitive declaration in John 14:6. Note carefully the last statement in that verse: "No one comes to the Father but through me." Rather than applying that statement to all the religious people with whom you disagree, apply it to yourself. How? Make this statement to yourself: "The only way that I can come to God is through Jesus Christ." It is much too easy to be convinced within ourselves that the essential key for coming to God is by "having faith in what I regard to be essential scriptures," or "placing my faith in a church," or "putting faith in a heritage," or "knowing my system/procedure/process is correct."
Is that a rejection of scripture, church, Christ-centered heritage, or Christ-centered understandings of God's will? NO! It is a rejection of substituting faith in scripture, or the church, or heritage, or personalized understandings of God's will for faith in Jesus Christ. It is the declaration that it is not sufficient for anyone, including self, just to be devoutly religious.
Reading the Bible is not enough. Only faith in Jesus Christ is sufficient. Please read the Bible, but let those readings deepen faith in Jesus! "Going to church" is not enough. Only faith in Jesus Christ is sufficient. Please assemble with Christians in worship, but learn to worship so that worship leads us closer to Jesus Christ. Honoring our religious heritage is not enough. Only faith in Jesus Christ is sufficient. Give thanks to God for everything in your past that led to conversion, but let those influences firmly anchor your life to Jesus Christ.
Why? Jesus himself said, "No one comes to the Father but through me." No one, including us, will come to the Father by some route other than Jesus Christ. Faith in anything other than Jesus Christ is insufficient to bring the person to God.
Consider a statement Jesus made in John 5:39-47. Begin by noting the situation. It was a Jewish Sabbath day (Saturday). Jesus met and talked to a man at the pool of Bethesda who had been sick for 38 years. Jesus healed the man of his sickness and instructed him to get up, take his pallet, and go.
The Jewish leaders regarded the act of carrying a pallet on the Sabbath day to be a violation of the Sabbath day (see Exodus 20:8-10). By their definition, carrying a pallet was an act of work. Therefore, it violated the Sabbath injunction given to Israel.
Not only did they condemn the healed man, but they also demanded that he tell them who instructed him to violate the Sabbath. At first he did not know the person who gave him the instruction. Later, after learning Jesus' identity, he told those people that Jesus healed him.
Verses 16-18 gives three reactions of these people to Jesus. (1) They persecuted him because Jesus "worked" on the Sabbath. [In fact, they despised him so much they wanted to kill him.] (2) From their perspective, Jesus violated the Sabbath. (3) From their perspective, when he called God his Father, he made himself equal to God.
Verses 19-38 contains part of Jesus' discussion with these opponents. Note especially verses 39-47. Scripture occupied a central place of religious/spiritual importance to Jesus' opponents. (1) They understood that searching the scriptures should result in obtaining eternal life. (2) They would have agreed that searching the scriptures would reveal the "identifying factors" that revealed the Messiah [Christ]. (3) They believed searching the scriptures would reveal God's love.
Consider Jesus' declarations about searching the scripture. (1) Scripture pointed to him as the Messiah. (2) Scripture confirmed (a) his mission to bring life and (b) his relationship with God.
Consider the consequences that fell on his scripture searching opponents. (1) They refused to realize that Jesus was the Messiah [he was not what they expected/wanted in the Messiah]. (2) In refusing to see his relationship with God, they confirmed they had no relationship with God. (3) They derived their sense of "correctness" from each other rather than from God. (4) Moses, God's spokesman on whom they relied, would condemn them because they failed to see ALL he declared in scripture.
Note: Jesus' opponents searched the scripture. Yet, they failed to see that Jesus did what scripture said he would do. They did not come to God through Jesus. That failure meant that they did not come to God at all. Notice these people could not substitute a search of scripture for Jesus. Notice their failure to come to God through Jesus meant they did not come to God.
We can see how others might search the scripture and fail to recognize God's will. Yet, we do not see how we can search the scripture and fail to come to God. If a search of scripture does not (a) result in recognizing who Jesus is as the Christ and (b) deepen one's faith in Jesus Christ, the search of scripture produces consequences, not blessings.
Thought and discussion question:
Discuss how and why religious people too often substitute religious practices [of all types] for faith in Jesus Christ.
Link to Teacher's Guide Lesson 13
previous page | table of contents | final lesson