If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations– “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)–according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.
> Colossians 2:20-23
In Christianity, God made man in His image, man sinned (telling God His glory was worthless), man was then cursed by not only temporal death, but eternal death, the deserved, earned wrath of God for sin; man was then so far in debt to God’s glory that he could never possibly recover by any efforts of his own; and man’s wickedness was so bad in fact that God had to send a perfect representative for him; He had to come to reconcile man back to Himself, putting him back in right relationship with Himself; and that ultimate man was Christ who died upon the cross and rose from the grave by the power of God who intercedes for His people, shedding His blood for wicked sinners who turned away from Him, enemies of God even.
However, in every other religion (and I feel I can say this with quite a bit of certainty), man attempts to make God in his own image, or attempts to suppress God from the picture altogether. All those in opposition to God’s favor, those apart from Christ that is, fabricate an image of God to suit what they want God to be. This is called idolatry. It is called exchanging the truth about God for a lie and worshipping the creature rather than the Creator. Even those with a belief in no God is itself a belief, a belief that logically should lead to despair and ultimately suicide (because what’s the point in existing if there’s nothing beyond us?). Regardless, every other religion, including atheism, evolution, Hinduism, Buddhism, Mormonism, Judaism (after Christ), Shintoism, “Aztecism,” and any other religion is a suppression of the truth of God. And as the scripture above says about all of man’s attempts to morally reform himself from the corruption that is in his flesh and soul due to sin, “These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.” All of these religions suppose they can stop the corruption that is within them by doing good deeds and living a “right” life, but they profit nothing for the person in restraining sin in any manner.
The core problem with all of us is an inward problem with our hearts. Out of our hearts comes vile and wickedness beyond what we suppose. If all of us were down-right honest, we are all awful people. We lie, we deceive, we attempt to make ourselves appear as something we’re not, we’re unkind, harsh, prideful, greedy, we look down on others poor estate, we envy the riches of others, and we have tongues that whip others hearts with the vile and bitter poison of words, like a bull whip on a person’s bare back, even whipping our best-friends and spouses with these words. We cannot even conceive of the ways in which we sin we’re so blind to it all. We are WICKED, thoroughly depraved. All of our faculties have been disabled by sin, and this sin has corrupted our ability to do anything right. Even when we attempt to do something right, we have so many other motives and competing affections that we don’t even do those right things with purity, cancelling out any goodness within the good work. How awful is our state in sin! We simply cannot reform ourselves by trying to fix the problem outwardly. Even you, believer, you cannot reform your habitually sinful ways in this manner. It’s akin to wrapping a rotten carcas in fresh, clean, white linens to cover up the stink. Jesus called the Pharisees, men supposing to be doing everything according to the law of God, “white-washed tombs”. And that is exactly what a moralist is. Trying to conform to some set of rules by our own strenth is useless, mainly because we have no strength, we’re dead spiritually. What can a dead man do? Can a dead man think, walk, talk, act, do anything at all? And yet spiritually this is our current state in sin, apart from being regenerated by a work of God. We cannot think spiritually, walk spiritually, talk spiritually, do anything at all in a right manner. We are in a desperate condition, a condition without hope in ourselves. Humanism says that man can make himself better and that he will. Christianity says you’re dead in sin, believe in the Lord Christ and you will be delivered from this sin and raised to new life with a new body on the Day of the Lord, reconciled to God Himself, that He is our great delight forever; this indeed is heaven.
Every single religion in the world puts the burden on you, the sinner. I mean your sinfulness is your own fault, so you need to fix it, right? Well you can’t fix it yourself; even believer’s can’t after being saved. It is only by the Spirit’s power in them they are able to do anything to the glory of God. Sure, they are regenerated to new life and there is an inkling of a dim light shining out of the their hearts by the Holy Spirit living in them (compared to the light that will shine once they are glorified that is). But even after the regeneration of their souls, they still need something outside of themselves working within their hearts to change them, addressing the source of the problem, in order that they conform to the Lord’s revealed decrees, out of desire instead of duty.
And what a tragedy it is that so many within the visible church profess Christianity to be no different than all of the other religions of the world. And yet it is totally different. Christianity is the anti-thesis of self-made/man-made religion. Christianity, through the scriptures, reveals the true God to all men. All men are without excuse, and are commanded to believe in Christ. Religion says, “Sinner, you make yourself perfect, the burden is on you.” Christianity says, “You cannot make yourself perfect by any means of your own. You are totally unable. Sin has disabled you, sinner. Instead, I, the LORD, have provided my perfect Son, who lived up to my standard of perfection to take your place. He did what you could not do. And in order to pay your debt to Me for all of your sinning and wickedness toward me, He offered Himself up to the cross where He shed His blood to turn away my wrath that you earned. And upon dying, I raised Him from the dead by my power that if you believe in Him, sinner, you will be saved, justified in my presence, all of His righteousness will be credited to your account; and after you physically die, I will raise you to new life with a perfect body.”
All other religions, with all of their regulations and “severity to the body” can in no way stop anyone from sinning and doing that which is evil. Try as you will, you will fail. The harder you try to conform to a standard, the greater you will see your imperfections. The core of the problem is not outward, but it is inward, within the heart. All of us need a heart transplant. But we cannot do this ourselves. It is a work of God alone as the great Surgeon. This is the reason Christ came in order to give life, real life, eternal life, to those who believe in Him for salvation. Apart from Christ, man has absolutely no hope. In Christ “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3). This is the true religion, salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. We have no other hope. All that came before him and all who come after him proclaiming to be the way are frauds and will be exposed for what they are. All other religions are a figment of nothingness and amount to idolatry, including moralistic Christianity.
And on a side note, how appropriate is the scripture I referenced at the top in this modern day of evangelicalism, where pastor after pastor preaches a moralistic, yet positive message? You see, it’s the positive aspect of those sermons that is so appealing to unbelievers. I mean what a better way to get people in the church than to not tell them to “repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ” for salvation. And yet these pastors are simply laying a heavier burden on people than before they heard it. Moralism is fatal to the soul. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees more than anyone He came in contact with. Why? Because they were moralists. Moralism is assuming you have the ability to do something you are unable to do, assume you’re doing it all right, and yet still be totally blind to the fact that you’re just as much, if not more of a sinner than you were before you started morally “reforming” yourself. Paul’s charge to the Colossians was that after having been reconciled to God by the blood of Christ, why did they still subject themselves to human (man-made) precepts and teachings? I cannot stress how much this still applies today! The church must be on its guard against destructive “positive” messages that actually preach no gospel at all. “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” (Colossians 2:8) These messages are rampant and spreading like a wild-fire. Satan is hard at work to put out the light of Christ in the West. And he’s getting a lot done. And what a better place to hit and change people’s mind about what Christianity actually says than in the church itself! O how I pray the church as a whole would return to the fundamental teachings of scripture and preach the gospel in every message, make the application the gospel itself, and cast off moralism and all human monergism like the dung that it is.