“Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.” Colossians 2:8
The gospel of Jesus Christ, while it is glorious good news, is not as appealing to many as you would think it would be. While the reasons people will give for not responding to the gospel might be varied, for most I would suspect that we would find this thought lurking somewhere in their minds – I don’t want a religion that requires anything of me.
Multitudes are happy to settle for a meeting once a week where they are told how to tame their flesh and make it act more like a Christian. The heart of this message is “Try harder to be a good person”. This is empty deceit, not the gospel. But to those who want a religion that makes them feel good without requiring anything, this is good enough news.
Does Jesus Christ make any requirements of us? Absolutely. Mark 8:34-35 says “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote “Christ bids a man to come and die.” Thinking that in death we lose all freedom and happiness, many refuse this requirement of the gospel as being unreasonable and find a more palatable message, complete with stories of how truly good humans can be – stories that inspire them to be good as well. And for them, this is good enough.
But how good would I have to be, to be good enough? Better than a serial killer? Better than my co-worker? Better than you? How would I ever know when I am good enough? The correct answer would be – Never.
The apostle Paul tells us plainly that “in my flesh nothing good dwells” and that “the flesh profits nothing.” Anyone who has seriously attempted to live by “good person religion” has found that no matter how sincere our efforts or diligent our attempts, there is never any assurance that we are finally good enough. We cheat ourselves and sentence ourselves to a life of frustration when we try to reform the flesh instead of putting it to death by the Spirit. The abundant life that Christ offers is truly glorious, but it will never be earned by our own good works. There is only one work that can ever make us righteous, and Jesus did it 2,000 years ago.
Don’t be cheated. Don’t be deceived. Don’t settle for worldly religion when Christ offers joy unspeakable and full of glory. Refuse to look to your own works, and look instead to the One who “is able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him.”