“Why do John’s disciples fast, and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?”
I’m always amused when someone says to me something like this: “You know I have a Buddhist/Muslim/Jewish/Hindu/Atheist friend who is more devoted to his religion than any Christian is to theirs. This is intended to suggest that our religion must be less than, or the same as theirs. And I would agree on one level. All region is the same. It is all powerless to save. Let me just go ahead and offend everyone altogether. You cannot be saved by being a good Muslim. You cannot be saved by being a good Buddhist. You cannot be saved by being a good Jew. You cannot be saved by being a good Hindu. You cannot be saved by being an atheist or agnostic . Have I left anyone out? If I forgot your religion, go ahead and write it in the blank. “You cannot be saved by being a good______________. Oh I forgot one! You cannot be saved by being a good Christian. Now that should just about cover it. If I missed you somehow, feel free to offend yourself on my behalf. You see, the great fallacy is that heaven waits for those who are good enough to make it. This is why the world cannot understand why followers of Jesus don’t pursue religion the way they think we should. They are asking the same question that the people asked Jesus original disciples in our scripture today. “Why aren’t you guys pursuing God like we do?” Go back and read the story yourself and see how Jesus responded.
Those outside of Christ will always find it strange when we don’t approach God as they think we should. The world has a warped view of salvation. It goes against the gospel of our Lord Jesus. Every religion on earth tells you to come to “god” by some effort of virtue on your part. They tell you to fast right, pray right, eat right, and act right in order to get to whatever “heaven” they aim for. Every religion has a system for “making it”. Every religion has a Holy book full of rules. Every religion says, basically, “here’s the book, here’s the rules, now go for it. At the end of your life, if you were a good____________(insert religious preference here) you will go to ______________(insert destination here.)” Unfortunately many Christians approach their faith in the same way. They have bought into the false gospel of probation. They are trying to work off their past sins with good deeds and hope in the end they will have earned enough points to get to heaven. This is not better than any other religion. It will not save you.
This is why Jesus said, “New wine must be put in new wineskins (containers).” You can’t approach him like man’s religion requires. You must come by repentance and faith. You must deny all attempts to make it to heaven by your religious efforts (even if your religion is atheism…oh yes it is.) You must be made new in Christ.
Following Jesus is nothing at all like following religion. Yes we have a book. Yes we have traditions and rules. Yes we have heaven as our home. So what makes us different? We are the only faith on earth that says these two things: 1.You cannot get to God , so he has come to you. and 2. You don’t have to walk alone. God is not sitting in heaven watching to see if you make it. When you receive Christ, he comes to live with you and in you through the Holy Spirit. He is God with us. He walks the road with you, giving you his presence and power daily. This is not religion. This is relationship. While religion is still trying to reach God, the believer in Christ is already living in God.
In Christ all the futility of manmade religion was shown to be a farce. There is a reason we Christ followers are so narrow minded about this. We can afford to be, because we’re right. If you spend your life hoping your goodness or the goodness of your religion will make you right with God, even if calling yourself a Christian, you will perish in Hell. I care not how many good deeds you do, or long prayers you pray, or what you eat or don’t eat. You can be more noble than all the others in the world. You can be more prayerful than the Christians, and more devoted to your religion than we, but in the end without Christ’s payment for your sins you have no hope. Here it is in short form: You can spend your life doing one of three things; You can dismiss God altogether, as many do; You can try to work your way into his presence–any religion will do for that; or you can receive God’s gift of life by faith and live in freedom by turning from your sins and trusting what Jesus did for you when he died on the cross. On the cross your sin and your religion was killed so you could live in Him.