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Are You Saved or Religious

Are you Saved or Religious?

There is more hope for an acknowledged sinner to be saved than for a religious person who deceives himself with the notion that he is saved.

Now, to gain anything at all from this message, you must decide to apply it personally. If you are saved, you will be encouraged. If you are currently deceived, the Holy Spirit will lovingly convict you and lead you to repent. But if you will not humbly examine yourself, you won’t like this message, and you will hear it in vain.

2 Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail to meet the test?

All unsaved people are selfish, even when they do good deeds. If anyone tries to evangelize unbelievers without pointing out their selfishness, he will convert a sinner into a deceived religious sinner. He will get baptized to be “saved” but still be lost, because he did not repent of his selfishness that prevents him from following Jesus.

The test of salvation is the fruit of the Holy Spirit because God is love. All the fruit of the Holy Spirit are different expressions of His love. Love, which is the opposite of selfishness, is what the law of God requires in the Old and New Covenants.

Matthew 22:37-40 And he (Jesus) said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

If we are truly saved, love will be the motive of our daily actions. If in our dealings with men we are selfish, we will also be selfish in our dealings with God.

1 John 4:20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he, who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.

For an example of unselfish love, we read in 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.

An individual who is saved is motivated by God’s love. I don't mean that no one is saved unless he is as purely and perfectly loving as God is, but if he is saved, he sincerely seeks the good of others for their own sake, and not because it will make him happy.

Erroneously, we judge our salvation by how well we follow rules in comparison to others. A religious person, who is deceived, can learn to look and act very much like he is saved. But, God judges the motives of our heart and He knows why we do what we do. That is what qualifies Him as Judge. So, let us examine our own hearts and ask God to show us the motives of our heart and the condition of our salvation. Are you ready?

1. Morality. The religious person conforms to morality as a means to an end, to stay out of trouble and bring about his own happiness. The saint (that’s what the Bible calls a saved person) leads a moral life simply because he loves God.

2. Prayer. The religious person prays because he expects to obtain some benefit from praying. He hopes to get what he asks for. The saint prays because he loves to communicate intimately and continuously with the One he loves.

3. Service. The saint sincerely desires to serve the Lord and do His will because He loves the Lord. The religious person may show equal zeal in service, but he does so because he is afraid of going to Hell if he does not work for the Lord. He serves God to quiet his conscience, and not because he truly loves the Lord or the people he serves.

4. Self-denial. Self-denial is not confined to saints. Look at the sacrifices and self-denials of the Muslims, Communists, and of those lost in the cults and eastern religions.

The true saint denies himself for the love of doing more good to others. His sacrifices are not centered around his own gratification or his own interests. The religious person may go to equal lengths of self-denial, but from purely selfish motives and to impress others with his piety.

5. Evangelism. They may both desire the conversion of souls - the saint because it will glorify God, the religious person to gain the favor of God and the praise of men, the same motives he has for donating money.

Furthermore, the saint rejoices when sinners are converted through the efforts of others. The religious will only rejoice in the conversion of sinners when he has a part in it, because he thinks he will gain a great reward in Heaven. That is why he will be envious when others lead someone to Christ.

6. Bible. They may both love the Bible - the saint because it is God's truth. He delights in it, and feasts his soul on it. The religious person loves the Bible because he sees it as the plan for fulfilling his own hopes. He likes the “name it and claim it” heresy.

7. Church. Both may love to attend church - the saint because his heart delights in acts of worship, prayer, praise, and in sharing the Word of God - the religious because he thinks a church meeting is a good place to gain a moral reputation and meet honest people who will help him reach his goals.

8. Sin. They may both hate sin - the saint because it is repulsive to God and he doesn’t want to be separated from Him, and the religious person because it hurts him personally. He hates his own sin, but not enough to forsake it, because he doesn’t think it is necessary to repent to go to Heaven.

9. Heaven. If you are religious, your joy will depend mainly on the strength of your hopes of Heaven. That is why you enjoy sermons and songs about going to Heaven more than those that speak about repentance and drawing closer to God. When you feel very certain of going to Heaven, then you enjoy being a Christian a great deal.

The saint already enjoys the peace of God and has the joy of Heaven in his soul. He doesn't have to wait until he dies to taste the joys of eternal life. His joy is in proportion to his nearness to God, and so he appreciates sermons and songs that help him grow closer to God now. He looks forward to Heaven as the utmost nearness to God, whom he loves.

10. Obedience. The religious person’s motivation for obedience is his hope for happiness and his fear of Hell. The saint desires to obey God because He loves God, and obedience keeps him in fellowship with God. When the saint disobeys, He quickly confesses his sin, repents, and makes restitution if necessary.

11. Faith. The religious person has only a partial faith, and only a partial submission; therefore, he is not saved, for there is no partial salvation. A person may believe that Christ came to save sinners, and on that ground may submit to baptism to be saved. But he does not repent, nor submit his life wholly to Christ, nor give Him control of his life. Therefore, he does not have an intimate relationship with Christ and will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then will I tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers.’

The saint continually repents and wholly submits his life to Christ. He has crucified his own life, so the life of Christ can be lived through him. He dies daily to his flesh and picks up a cross to follow Jesus. He has an unreserved faith in God's whole character that leads him to say, "Not my will, but Thy will be done."

12. Responsibilities. If we are a saint, our spiritual responsibilities (prayer, reading the Bible, church attendance, service, etc.) will not be a chore to us, but a delight.

If we are religious, we will do these same things with the attitude that a sick man takes his medicine - because we desires its good effects. It is something that we would never do if we didn’t have to for our own good.

13. Sanctification. If we are a saint, we will seek the Holy Spirit’s sanctification process and desire to be in a sanctified church that loves God and each another. Whereas if we are religious, we want to be in a large church where there is little accountability and we can feel justified. This is why many churches are filled with deceived, religious, and carnal people instead of saints in love with God and one another.

14. Sympathy. If you are religious, you may want to see people saved, but not because sinner’s lives and deeds hurt and dishonor Christ, but because you feel sorry for the sinner and don't want to see them go to Hell. Notice, you are sympathetic with the sinner’s condition more than you sympathize with Christ’s honor.

True saints want to see people saved because sin dishonors Jesus, who suffered and died on account of their sin. They sympathize with Jesus, who is rejected by sinners. Saints are most distressed when they commit sin or see other Christians commit sin, because it dishonors Jesus even more. The love of God, causes saints to share the Gospel so sinners will not miss the opportunity for salvation and the blessings that come from an intimate relationship with Jesus.

15. The Gospel. If you are religious, you view the Gospel as a convenience to mankind, where God is not as strict as He was under the law. You think that you can be as worldly as you want to be, and still go to Heaven.

If you are a saint, you view the Gospel as a covenant with God, having as its main purpose the destruction of sin and the promotion of holiness by making us a new creation, born of the Holy Spirit, to be conformed to the likeness of Jesus Christ. Instead of making it acceptable for man to be less holy, the Gospel’s whole value for a saint consists in its power to make him righteous; whereas, he cannot be righteous any other way.

2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

If we are religious, we attempt to achieve God’s requirements for righteousness by obeying His laws (food, drink, etc.). We try to resist temptations. We make great efforts to do good, to avoid evil, and vow to do it right the next time.

If you are a saint, you put an end all your useless struggles for righteousness and submit your life to daily sanctification by the Holy Spirit. Sanctification is the Holy Spirit enabling us to become in practice—the righteousness that God has given us by faith. It is a lifestyle that includes daily dying to self and picking up our cross and following Jesus by listening to and obeying the Holy Spirit, who motives us to obey and do good works out of a love for God and others.

Therefore, if our “salvation” experience is not transforming us into the image of Jesus, then we are not saved nor a saint; we are religious and deceived by heresy.

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

If we are saved, we are a new creation in Christ. Our selfish hearts are transformed to serve God, because the Holy Spirit fills us with the love of God, causing us to love God, to love others, and to do good works as we obey the leading of the Holy Spirit, who writes God’s law on our hearts.

Romans 8:9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.

Therefore, it is God’s will that every saint be filled with the Holy Spirit in order to have His grace to obey and do good works. It is God’s will that we live a holy life, dedicated to His purpose, so He gives us the Holy Spirit to accomplish His will. The grace and power of the Holy Spirit turns us from all iniquity and enables us to live out the righteousness God has given to us.

In all of these comparisons between the religious and the saint, the outward appearance may be the same, but the motives of the religious go directly against the motives of the saint. The difference lies in the object of their affection. One loves his own life, the other loves God.

So, are you a saint or a self-deceived religious person?  

If you say a little of both, beware! That is the most dangerous position to be in!

1 Corinthians 5:6 Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?

Jesus said in Revelation 3:15-16, “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.”

That is why I began this message with the statement, “There is more hope for an acknowledged sinner to be saved than for a religious person who deceives himself with the notion that he is saved.”

Therefore, don’t disregard whatever the Holy Spirit has shown you in this message. Instead of selfishly seeking the favor of God and aiming at Heaven for your own benefit, love God first and foremost, and secondly, love others.

However, we cannot do this without Christ living in us by the Holy Spirit.

So, Jesus said in John 15:4-5, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine; you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”

Therefore, seek God with all your heart, repent, and allow the Holy Spirit to fill you with God’s love and make you a saint by conforming you to the image of Christ.

“The image of Christ”—what does that look like? Well, Jesus was not religious, although He is pure and holy. He was filled with the Holy Spirit, and overcame sin, flesh, and the devil. He saved us by His blood shed on the Cross, not by our religious works. After He ascended into Heaven, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to make us like Him by sanctifying us, purifying us, empowering us to be His witness, His ambassador, and giving us power to overcome sin, the flesh, and the devil.

If you believe that, don’t become religious. Become a saint by obeying the Gospel. Simply confess your sin to your Father in Heaven and ask for His forgiveness based on what Jesus has done for you. Then repent of your selfish sin and make a public profession of your faith in Jesus. Give your life to Jesus by taking your first step of obedience to make Him your Savior and Lord through death to self in water baptism. In this act of faith, you will be forgiven and born again of the Holy Spirit, who will transform you and make you a saint by conforming you to the image of Jesus.