It’s Hard To Save The Religious

Jesus often described people who think they are righteous by their works as difficult to save. In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus said: “I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent.” ~Luke 5:32

For some, the title of this essay is confusing. “Don’t all religious people think they are saved?” Jesus made it clear that being religious; going to church, praying, paying a tithe, even serving as a missionary, do not necessarily mean a person is saved.

In the illustration of the unshrunk cloth and the new wine in old wineskins, Jesus explained that people who are accustomed to their religion are often hard to save:

Then Jesus gave them this illustration: “No one tears a piece of cloth from a new garment and uses it to patch an old garment. For then the new garment would be ruined, and the new patch wouldn’t even match the old garment. “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the new wine would burst the wineskins, spilling the wine and ruining the skins. New wine must be stored in new wineskins. But no one who drinks the old wine seems to want the new wine. ‘The old is just fine,’ they say.” ~Luke 5:36-39

People who grew up in a particular religion, or who have been in church for a long time, often believe that simply by believing in God and going to church, this guarantees that they will go to heaven when they die. According to Jesus, this is not true.

When Nicodemus came to Jesus at night to ask Him questions, John chapter 3 explains that this esteemed Pharisee, though he was trained in all the scriptures, was not saved. Nicodemus had attended the correct schools, obtained a Doctorate in the scriptures, served as a member of the Pharisees, but he was still not saved and on his way to heaven.

Jesus told Nicodemus that “unless a person is Born Again” by the Spirit of God, they cannot enter heaven. Jesus explained that we are born by a natural birth, and we must also be born by a second birth of the Spirit, or we are not saved. This happens when anyone hears that Jesus has come to earth and died for our sins, believes the testimony written about Jesus in the New Testament, is willing to turn from their sins, and trust Jesus for their salvation for the rest of their life.

Paul detailed this event in the book of Romans when he said that it is by faith in what Jesus has done on the cross that saves us, and not by the keeping of the law.

But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. ~Romans 3:21-22

Nicodemus asked how this can happen. Jesus said it’s like the wind. We can’t see where the wind comes from or where it is going, but we can see the effects of its presence. Jesus said it is the same with a person who is born again. We can’t see it happen, but we can see what a person is like after it happens.

There was a man named Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader who was a Pharisee. After dark one evening, he came to speak with Jesus. “Rabbi,” he said, “we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you.” Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”

“What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?” Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.” “How are these things possible?” Nicodemus asked. Jesus replied, “You are a respected Jewish teacher, and yet you don’t understand these things? ~John 3:1-10

In the illustration of the new cloth sewn on the old garment, and the new wine in old wineskins, Jesus is saying that in order for anyone to obtain eternal life and the hope of heaven, they must forget all of the old things in their life. For the religious who believe their religion saves them, Jesus said no, it does not. Nicodemus is an example.

If we try to take a piece from the Good News that Jesus declared, and add it to the garment of our existing religion, it will cause a tear. If we try to place the new wine of salvation only in Jesus, and put it into the old wineskins of our former religious beliefs, it will burst the skins.

What Jesus came to earth to declare, is revolutionary. It changes every part of our former life and we become new and different people, starting on the inside. At first people cannot see anything different about us. As we continue to live for Jesus, read His words every day, and change our thought process by understanding God’s word, our entire life changes radically. People will hear different words from us, see different actions in our life.

A new life by the Spirit, makes us a new creation:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. ~2 Corinthians 5:17

There are some people who hear the Good News about Jesus, but reject it because they have a forethought that the New Testament is not true. People often believe the comments of critics of the Bible, and think they are telling the truth. As a scholar who began as an atheist 46 years ago, I can certify that the New Testament is true. We should read the New Testament for ourselves and see that it bears no evidence of fraud, or deceit. It is quite easy to see that the narratives in the New Testament about Jesus are really just personal letters written between persons.

In forensic examination of ancient documents, personal letters are never determined to be fraudulent in the context that the New Testament manuscripts have been found.

In these letters we are able to look over the shoulder of the writer and see what they said to people of the first century, recounting their personal experiences with Jesus. They say that they didn’t understand who Jesus was at first. They also had doubts about who He was. It was not until they saw Him crucified and then risen from the dead three days later, that they finally were convinced He is God and the Messiah the Old Testament prophets predicted.

There are 134 citations in the New Testament where the writers say they saw Jesus with their own eyes and heard what He said. They tell us that what they are writing is the truth and the reason they wrote is that the whole world should know the truth about what happened.

See: “You Are My Witnesses: The Men Who Saw Jesus.”

The entire Old Testament predicted a Messiah exactly like Jesus. These prophets wrote 400 predictions that detailed every part of His life, death, and resurrection. Jesus perfectly fulfilled every one of these Old Testament Prophecies. In 2013 I wrote “The Prophecies of the Messiah,” and documented these 400 prophecies that Jesus fulfilled with great precision.

Jesus said some people are prohibited from finding God

Again, this seems like a strange statement. How could God not want every person to find Him, if He really exists? The answer to this question might surprise you.

On one occasion Jesus had just finished teached by parables to a great crowd of people. The disciples asked Him why He spoke to the crowds of people by parables instead of clearly teaching what He meant. Jesus’ answer is stunning:

Jesus’ disciples came and asked him, “Why do you use parables when you talk to the people?” He replied, “You are permitted to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven, but others are not. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an abundance of knowledge. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them. That is why I use these parables,

For they look, but they don’t really see.
They hear, but they don’t really listen or understand.
This fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah that says,
‘When you hear what I say,
you will not understand.
When you see what I do,
you will not comprehend.
For the hearts of these people are hardened,
and their ears cannot hear,
and they have closed their eyes—
so their eyes cannot see,
and their ears cannot hear,
and their hearts cannot understand,
and they cannot turn to me
and let me heal them.’

“But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. ~Matthew 13:10-16 

Every person either has a predisposition to hear what Jesus says, or to not hear. This depends upon the heart of the individual. Some people want to know the truth about God and the Bible, others do not. Jesus said that in the crowds of people, most of the population of earth, people are not really that interested in what He has to say. They like their lives as they are; they enjoy sin and doing what pleases them. These persons hear what Jesus says, but they don’t really care to understand or respond.

To a few people on earth, they understand that they are not right. They feel the conviction in their conscience that their words and actions are not right. They want to do something about the guilt they feel, and when they hear that Jesus forgives sinners, they listen carefully.

Jesus said that God hides Himself from people who claim that He doesn’t exist. God does not reveal Himself to critics, skoffers, or those who mock Him and His word. These people can never find God because their hearts are not right towards Him.

“For those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them.”

Just as we don’t reveal who we really are to people who don’t want to know us, God does the same. He only reveals who He is to people who genuinely want to know Him. God created the universe, earth, and all life on earth. He came to earth as Jesus, performed miracles to prove He is God; died for our sins and rose to life on the third day. He called men to write an eyewitness testimony about what they had seen and heard. This testimony is the New Testament.

Atheists, and scoffers say the New Testament is not true; the universe, and all life was caused by natural processes, not God.

God’s response to these persons is to leave them in their ignorance and hardened hearts, and let them remain lost. Only when a person comes to Jesus and decides He does exist and seeks a personal relationship, does God reveal Himself and His word.

And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him. ~Hebrews 11:6

From God’s perspective, He has done everything He can to make Himself known to the world. If people don’t want to know Him; if they persist in denying the evidence of the universe and the New Testament, then He will not reveal Himself to these persons.

People are lost for eternity, not because God doesn’t love them or doesn’t want us all to be saved; but because people will not come to Him and seek their salvation. First a person must feel the need to be saved. They must believe what the Bible says, that we are all sinners and we cannot save ourselves by good works, religions, or any other way. Then we come to Jesus and believe that His death on the cross has paid for our sins. If we believe in Him for our salvation, God will save us. It all starts with humility, and ends with our actions and desire to seek God and be saved.

Categories: Agnostics and Skeptics, Atheists, Errors of Jehovah's Witnesses, Errors of Mormon's, Following Jesus, Going to Church but unsaved, Leading People to Jesus, Living For Jesus, Messianic Prophecies, New Testament Criticism, Reasons For Unbelief, Robert Clifton Robinson, Studying the Word of God, The Condition of the Heart, The Historical Jesus

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