Canada is one big cultural mosaic. People from every conceivable ethnic and religious background have come together to form one nation. And each of these religions claims a path to God. When Christians make claims of exclusivity, they are often met with shock or anger. We are living in challenging days. One of the most pressing challenges of our times is the task of speaking rightly about true and living God.
Frequently, the filtered essence of religion is captured by the phrase “the universal fatherhood of God and the universal brotherhood of man.” It was seen that at the core, all religions were working for the same thing. The popular notion in the 21st century is… “All Religions Are Good. It Doesn’t Matter What You Believe.” Many think they can find God in different ways -one God, many paths. But the truth is that all roads lead to two mutually exclusive destinations––only one leading to the true and living God.
Two distinct groups
There are many roads but two destinations -heaven and hell. Only one path leads to heaven and all the other paths lead straight to hell. The Bible does not teach universal fatherhood of God and the universal brotherhood of man. And, we are not all children of God, but many are children of hell. Only the children of God enter the kingdom of heaven and the children of hell will end up in hell. Some people think that they are children of God but are sadly mistaken. Many are deceived about the reality of their spiritual condition. What path are you on? Which group do you belong to?
“Watch out for “dogs,” watch out for evil workers, watch out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the circumcision, the ones who serve by the Spirit of God, boast in Christ Jesus and do not put confidence in the flesh. – Philippians 3:2–3
Hell-bound group: (v2)
This group is identified as
- Evil workers
- self-righteousness (Mutilators)
This is the group who advocate for and believe in a damning system of works righteousness, which says to be right with God you have to do such things as light candles, go through ceremonies, recite prayers, join a specific denomination, participate in baptism, etc. It says we can make ourselves righteous before God by our merits, actions, obedience, or through any other means -human achievements. Grace is not enough, you must do some additional things or abstain from certain things to satisfy God -to earn the grace of God.
Paul in fact says, “watch out” three times in this text. When Scripture repeats something we know it is significant. Paul identified these people as false religionists who are on the path of destruction. They are not true Christians. They are scavengers, dangerous beasts, evil workers who pride themselves about their self-righteousness and consider Christ’s sacrifice is not enough.
Heaven-bound group: (v3)
This group contains
- True worshipers of God
- People who delight in Christ Jesus
- People who Deny self-righteousness
True Christians do not look to themselves, they look to someone greater. They bank their life on Christ’s righteousness. They admit their utter inadequacy and rejoice in what Christ has done for them. They acknowledge salvation is grace, a gift from God that cannot be earned through human achievement. Their worship of God is not external, it is rising from the depth of their hearts based on the truth revealed in Scripture. They live by faith in Christ Jesus who paid the penalty of sins on their behalf so they are no longer under the requirements of the works of the Law. Christ is enough for them.
True Christians are marked not by sinless perfectionism but by abiding in the Scripture, the teaching of Christ. They do not just confess Jesus with their mouths, but they trust in Him with their hearts and prove it by seeking to do His will, repenting where they fall short, and returning again and again to Him to learn His way.
Religion says, “I obey – therefore I’m accepted.” The Gospel says, “I’m accepted – therefore I obey. – Tim Keller
The Gospel of Grace
The Bible makes it clear that salvation comes through unmerited grace. It does not come because of our works, but because of the finished work of Jesus Christ on our behalf. God accepts us not on our merit, but on Christ’s merit. God is a God of justice, so He had to deal with sin. Once sin was taken care of in Christ, God could be gracious to sinners because the price had been paid. Grace is not something you have to pay back. It is a gift. You couldn’t do a single thing to earn saving grace, and you don’t have to pay Him back. God displayed His grace in the death of Jesus Christ to the praise of His glory (Ephesians 1:3-14; Ephesians 2:7; Romans 9:22–23; 2 Timothy 1:9).
It is one thing to think that you have to pay Him back because you owe Him something; it is something else to desire to love Him, worship Him with a heart full of gratitude, and obey Him. God is seeking true worshipers for Himself (John 4:23). God elects and saves the sinner so that they will worship Him. He redeemed the sinner and set him apart to do good works. Our obedience to God’s holy commandments is critically important. It flows out of our love and gratitude toward God for what he has done on our behalf through Christ. We are saved by faith in Christ alone, and faith that saves us will always be accompanied by good works (Titus 2:14).
A final word…
Did Christ die, or did He not die? Was His death worthwhile, or was it not? If His death was worthwhile, it follows that our salvation does not come by our achievements. It was all done to no purpose if our righteousness is to be achieved by works. To say that Christ died in vain is a deadly insult. To say that Christ died in vain is to make His resurrection, His victory, His glory, His kingdom, heaven, earth, God Himself, of no purpose and benefit whatever. But Christ did not suffer and die in vain.
Let us be warned. Everyone who seeks righteousness without Christ, either by works, merits, actions, satisfactions or by the Law, rejects the grace of God and despises the death of Christ. Every system of religion without relationship to Christ, every system of religion without Christ righteousness, every system of religion that assumes human achievement as the way to God is a false religious system. In Paul’s terms, they are the dogs, evil-workers, and mutilators of the flesh. They are on the path to hell.
It has always been the ploy of Satan to bring dangerous wolves to attack the flock and confuse them with false doctrine. It has always been the call of God on the life of the true minister to preach the Scripture, and sound doctrine in order to refute the heretics, and to warn the people of dangerous wolves who preach the gospel of works.
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