2007-12-29 - The Essence of True Religion
Ephesians 3:19, "To know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God."
What is the essence of true religion? For the Christian, this question is sort-of like the mildly philosophical query put forth in the world, asking, "What is the meaning of life?" Seeking to discover the essence of true religion, for the Christian, is important. Is it love? Some would say it is. Is it self-sacrifice? Some would say that is even more at the heart of true religion than love, because it assumes love. I would like to suggest that the essence of true religion is to have possession of Christ. The heart of the Christian's faith centers in the union that a believer has with the Lord Jesus Christ. That is the soul or core of true religion, and the deeper we plummet into the depths of being "into Christ," the more we know the quintessence of true religion.
Part of being in Christ is our understanding how far short we come, of being like Christ. We seek to be conformed unto the image of Christ in our persons, actions, thoughts and desires, but we don't measure up. So while we can say that the essence of true religion is being in Christ, a sub-part of this has to be the understanding of our need for repentance. In Christ, we have a perfect example to follow - but we don't follow it perfectly. "If we say that we have not sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us," 1 John 1:8. That verse is fairly clear, but if we modernized it a little in lock-down application, we might say, "If I deny I sin, I am dead to spiritual life." If we don't agree that we often need to fall before the throne of grace in repentance, then we need to repent of our non-repenting. Every contrite sinner is a critic of his/her own heart.
Another aspect of true repentance is that we see our sin as against God. We might have lied to so-and-so, and certainly that is a great evil. But we have sinned, first and foremost, against the Lord who gave us life, sustains us every moment, and shed His blood to secure forgiveness for that life. The sin is really against God. We may be very sorry for our sin, but only because it results in others seeing the imperfect nature of our character. This does not go nearly far enough, to qualify as true repentance. The deeper reality is that we have grieved a holy, loving God. "Holy, holy, holy, all the saints adore thee." The thrice-holy God suffered for our sin, is grieved because of our sin, and our fellowship with Him is harmed. "Against Thee, Thee only have I sinned and done what is evil in Thy sight," (Psalm 51:4). So said David, and so also must we. Think for a moment: The idea of sinning against God. He was pierced for our sins. He is glorious beyond comprehension. His majesty exceeds all kingdoms ever imagined. Shall we sin against so great a Savior, who died for sin?
This is only base treatment of One who has only showed us love and kindness. Our sins should break our hearts, and lead us into penitent repenting. If we understand that the essence of true religion is being in Christ, let us also see that part of the essence of being in Christ is admitting our failing, and repenting of our crimes of sinning against God.
Soli Deo Gloria,