This all had a profound effect on my life. It did not make me a “good boy,” but it did speak to my conscience when I did wrong. And as I entered my teen years, I began to realize that I did not have the power to be good, nor to resist the temptations that are common to humanity: pride, selfishness, lust, envy, etc. The way to be saved was taught in the church I attended and I began to realize that I needed to repent of what I naturally was, and that I needed to be born again.
The Bible is God’s Word to us and gives us principles to live by. It gives us a history of God’s dealing with humanity from the beginning. It does not tell us everything but it tells us enough that we can gain an understanding of God. We can understand that God cares about His created world. He cares about the bondage that Satan brought upon man, and He designed a way for us to be delivered from the tyranny of Satan.
Religion does not deliver us from Satan’s bondage; only Jesus can do that. Religion represents a system of thinking about God and the Bible. Some of these systems are designed by the enemy of our souls: Satan. Other religious systems are greatly flawed by the weakness of men. But God sent Jesus into the world not only to teach us, but also to show us the way to be saved and how saved people live. Those who really want to follow Christ will find the truth, and will be led to others who practice that truth. The Bible says: “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” (James 1:27). Jesus said the distinguishing mark of the Christian is His love. “By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13:35).
Religion does not give us faith nor love. Every person saved is saved by his personal faith in the Blood of Jesus. He believes in his heart that he is not righteous and that he is a sinner in need of a Savior. He sees Jesus as that Savior. He recognizes the bondage of sin and repents — is very sorry for the fact that he has sinned. And he believes that Jesus’ blood satisfied God as the sacrifice for their sins. He opens his heart and asks God to give him His Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit comes into his heart he is born again and becomes a new creature — a new creation. It is the work of God’s grace and it is not our work, but God’s love at work in our heart. This work of God is very effective in making us very different from what we were in the past.
Some religious systems require disciplined living that may be impressive and make you think, “Here is godliness.” After you learn to know them, you discover some very human sinfulness. True religion leads us to Christ. He alone delivers us from our own sinful tendencies. A knowledge of the Scriptures is able to make us wise unto salvation. Read 2 Timothy 3:15. It does not say that it will but that it is able to do that for us. But it is very personal what we do with what we know.
In the realm of religion we can be a lost sheep that wondered away from the truth we know, or we can be a lost prodigal that makes a decided choice to ignore what we know, or we can be the elder brother lost because we do not forgive.
Jesus also included in His teaching that of a lost coin being found. The lost coin represents the multitudes that are lost, and may not even know it. They are born into homes that never teach their children about God. Their parents never take them to a Christian worship service. They only hear the words “God” and “Jesus” used in profanity. There is hope even for them; at some point they may have an encounter with God and be led to seek a Bible and begin to read. God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. God brings experiences into the lives of those “lost coins” to cause them to think about God. He can lead them to repentance of sin and to salvation.
God honors true faith wherever He finds it and we rejoice that; “the Lord knows them that are His. And let everyone that names the name of Christ, depart from iniquity.” (See 2 Timothy 3:19).