Religion invariably sets up a performance scheme for worshipers to rate how devoted they are to their established idols. It is Satan’s enticement for people to focus on themselves. For this reason, religion is never a threat to the devil. In fact, every world religion and every cult have the father of lies as their inspiration.
The object of worship in Christianity is a Person — or rather, three Persons — the community Godhead known as the Trinity (Father, Son, Spirit). There are no rites or rituals in the true version of Christianity. Christians worship God in Spirit and in truth (Jn 4:23–24). We pray to our Trinitarian Godhead. We sing Psalms and spiritual songs. We listen to the revelation of our God being read and preached (the Bible). We remember the death of our Savior via two token sacraments: baptism and the Lord’s supper. That’s it.
Perversions of Christianity complicate the simple activities noted in the previous paragraph. They endeavor to turn Christianity into a method or a formula to be followed religiously. In addition, religion loves to separate the elite religionists from mere adherents. Complicating their religion is the work of the elitists. In this way, power is gathered and employed to control the more populated layer of adherents.
Christianity does not make life simple and easy, however. Life is very complicated and very difficult to manage. Complicated religion does not help with peoples’ complicated lives. It is simply another layer of bondage.
God’s chosen people in the world (Rom 11:5; 1 Pet 2:9), redeemed from the slave market of sin (Jn 8:34; Rom 6:6, 16–20), are given a Helper to guide and comfort them through every difficulty (Jn 14:26; 16:13, 33). Amazingly, this is no guardian angel. Rather, it is the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity. Even more amazing is the location of the Spirit, in relationship to those born again of God (1 Jn 3:9; 4:7). The Holy Spirit has taken up residence in the soul of each regenerated believer (Jn 14:17). The Christian testifies, “Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20).
The archenemy of Christianity is the devil, who does everything in his power to distort the truth (Jn 8:44). As the father of lies, the “god of this world” will do everything to distract the heart and mind of all people away from the Gospel of God (Rom 1:16; 2 Cor 4:4). The focus of the Gospel, which is the Christian message proclaimed to the world (Mt 24:14; Mk 16:15; 1 Cor 2:2), is the Person and work of Jesus Christ (Col 1:28).
The Spirit of truth has been sent into the world to showcase the truth as it is in Jesus (Jn 14:26; 15:26; Eph 4:21). It is the Spirit of Christ who is gathering God’s elect people into Christ’s church (1 Cor 12:13). It is the truth that sets captives free from the devil’s deception, whether that is religious or secular (Jn 8:32). Thus, Christ’s church is the pillar of truth (1 Tim 3:15).
The Gospel truth is the Word of truth in its entirety, but there is a central person, place, and thing to this mystery now revealed and proclaimed throughout the world. It is the cross of Christ.
At the cross of Calvary, where Jesus suffered and died, we discover more going on than a good man dying under injustice. There is that fact, but this was all part of God’s predetermined plan (Acts 2:23). God was in Christ reconciling His chosen people from all over the world to Himself (2 Cor 5:19; Rev 5:9; 7:9). Our sins separated us from God, and Satan’s work was to stimulate that separation. Christ died for our sins (1 Cor 15:3), so that we might receive forgiveness in full (Mt 26:28; Eph 1:7).
Christ’s death on the cross is also the Christian’s justification before God (Rom 3:24, 28; 5:1, 9). Other religions teach some version of justification by works, but the Bible denounces that idea (Is 64:6; Rom 3:20). In other words, those who have been declared righteous did not work for it (Rom 4:5). Having right standing before God is an exclusive work of God, so that no one can boast of himself before God (1 Cor 1:29–31; Gal 6:14).
God’s wrath was poured out on Jesus at the cross because God made Him who knew no sin to become sin for us (2 Cor 5:21). Jesus bore our sins in His body on the cross (1 Cor 2:24). In His death, His precious blood was shed for us (Mt 26:28; 1 Pet 1:19). Here was the propitiation for sins (Rom 3:25; Heb 2:17; 1 Jn 2:2; 4:10). God’s wrath toward His own people was appeased as it was re-directed on to the crucified Jesus. The reason God’s wrath remains on the reprobate, today, is that Christ did not die for them…only for His bride, His church (Jn 10:11, 15; Eph 5:25).
God’s justice demanded that sins be paid for by each Christian or his substitute, which was pictured in the Old Testament Temple sacrifices (Lev 16). Jesus was the substitute Lamb of God (Jn 1:29), our Passover sacrifice (1 Cor 5:7), our sin bearer (1 Pet 2:24). He was perfectly without sin (Heb 4:15), and He was acceptable to God, as He designed before the foundation of the world (Acts 2:23). Therefore, we do not believe in ourselves or put any confidence in the flesh (Phil 3:3).
All people will one day bow before the King of kings (1 Tim 6:15), who lives and reigns, forever (Dan 4:3). Those who do not repent of their sins and rebellion, as commanded (Acts 17:30), will appear before Jesus as Judge of the living and the dead (Acts 10:42; 17:31; 2 Tim 4:1; 1 Pet 4:5). One comes to Jesus to receive mercy (Rom 9:15–16), with humble gratitude for what He did on the cross for them; or one comes to Jesus’ just judgment on the last day (Gen 18:25; Rom 14:12; 2 Cor 5:10; Rev 20:11).
Jesus’ work on the cross perfectly satisfied the requirement of the Law for righteousness. With the dark clouds of God’s wrath removed, the Christian sees the love of God clearly displayed at Christ’s cross (Rom 5:8). Jesus’ motive for laying down His life (Jn 10:11, 15), for the benefit of God’s elect people, was love. Jesus loved us and gave himself for us (Eph 5:25).
Christians boast in the cross of Christ (Gal 6:14) for these reasons and for many others. All the attributes of God are in view when we survey the cross. We see Jesus for more than the world will ever see. On that dark day at Jerusalem, Jesus served as high priest and perfect sacrifice, so He could mediate for both God and man to be restored to right relationship (2 Cor 5:18–20; 1 Tim 2:5).
Friend, if you have not yet seen the beauty and the brilliance of Jesus’ death on the cross, then you must learn more about it from God’s revealed Word (the Bible). There is nothing more crucial for you in this busy, distracted life than to return to see Jesus on that cursed tree — doing more than you could ever think or imagine. The more we see and learn, the more we boast. Hallelujah! What a Savior!
Spokane Valley, Washington
July 20, 2022