There are two distinct religions in the country. Both go under the name of Christianity. Both claim to follow Jesus. Both understand the importance of living a righteous life.
But they are two entirely different religions.
One can be summarized by the phrase, “Do these things, and you will live.”
Get married. Obey your husband. Control your wife. Discipline your kids. Homeschool them. Move to a homestead and grow your own food. Learn to shoot a gun and do self-defense. Get proper exercise. Eat right. Make the right choices. Vote the right way. Go to the right church. Attend the right conferences. Be manly men and feminine women. Become the best complementarian the world has ever seen. Go on pilgrimages to all the holy sites – Focus on the Family. The Giant Ark. Chick Fil-a. Search the scripture and find the formula. Apply it, and your life will be orderly, happy and blessed. You will live.
But things don’t always go to plan. Your husband turns out to be abusive. Your kids rebel and dye their hair green. You get sick anyway. Your body grows weaker by the day. You struggle with chronic pain. Your marriage falls apart. Your kids turn out differently than you expect. Violence still finds you and you are attacked by someone stronger than you are and there is nothing you can do about it. No matter how often you say, “I’m not a victim” you suddenly are a victim.
And you say to yourself: I did everything right, and God didn’t keep up his end.
And so perhaps you try different things.
Leave your husband. Leave your wife. Dye your hair blue with your kids. Exercise harder. Buy a bigger gun. Vote for the other guy this time. Go to another church. Choose different conferences. Quit listening to what others say and do your own thing. Send the kids to another school. Eat at Burger King because quite frankly they taste better than Chick Fil-a.
And you still feel empty inside. Abandoned by God. Lonely.
And worse than all, the same sins that you always struggled with are all still there.
I “did this” and I “didn’t live”. Death is still king. Chaos, war, illness, pain, suffering are all still with me.
So now you turn on the sinners. It has to be their fault you are losing the war. Attack the gay guys next door. Launch campaigns against the LGBTQ agenda. They are destroying the country, you know.
Those effeminate preachers who wear pink and refuse to get their women in line are destroying all of us. The feminist agenda will destroy the church. Preachers who speak to sinners. Guys who listen to women. Same sex attracted people coming to church. Black people getting uppity and not wanting to be shot by the police anymore…They’ll destroy us all.
And you look fondly back to the days when America was great. People knew their place. Men were men and women were women and we were God’s country…
(at least, if you were white, middle class, male and had the right haircut, didn’t grow a beard, like good Christians…now I guess the beard is the mark of righteousness…It’s hard to keep up).
And the result of this religion was death. It always was. And it still is. The legacy of this false religion is the wreckage of innocent lives, abuse, incest, destructive addictions, women and children crushed underfoot, “beta males” incessantly mocked and ridiculed, shame and disgrace…
The problem with “do this and live” is that if you look to ANY list of rules to find your righteousness, then you are on the hook to keep the WHOLE law, not just the parts that you like.
If you strongly denounce the “effeminate” then you also must denounce the revilers. The liars. The heretics. The adulterers.
The point of Romans 1 ISN’T just that men lying with men is a sin against God. Romans one builds to Romans three, and the conclusion is this: ALL have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. There is none righteous.
NO – Not one.
Not the manly hunter that lives next door. Nope. Not him.
Not the mother that has everything together and perfect kids that don’t ever ever wiggle on Sunday? Nope. Not her.
Not the pinnacle of the patriarchy – the guy on the cover of the books with the huge ministry and the well-coifed wife and happy faced children? Nope. Not him.
The homesteader? The liberal? The conservative? The anti-woke preacher? The woke preacher? – nope. Not him either.
The wife who never backtalks or ever has her own ideas? Nope. Not here.
No. Not one.
It is almost as if the Holy Spirit is anticipating our objections….
But I’m heterosexual and cisgender!! Nope. Not you either.
This is the problem with the first religion masquerading as Christianity. It isn’t Christianity at all. It is what Paul calls “The law”. It is the reason why the Jews of Paul’s day hated Jesus. They thought that righteousness would come by keeping the law. They thought that they could establish their own righteousness.
Do this, and you will live.
For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. 4 For Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
5 For Moses writes of the righteousness that is based on the Law, that the person who performs them will live by them. (Romans 10:3-5)
But there is a big problem with this way of thinking. You don’t have any righteousness of your own. If you want to establish your own righteousness, you have to keep EVERYTHING in the law, not just the parts you want to keep.
It isn’t enough to be against abortion. You have to love your neighbor as yourself, continually, every time, without one failure.
It isn’t enough to be anti-LGBTQ. You also have to never once, not ever, lusted after anyone – same or opposite sex. EVER. The law doesn’t give you a pass because you are heterosexual.
You get the point. It Paul’s day, the ultimate “righteousness” was circumcision. Get circumcised, and live. And he says this.
For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Galatians 5:3.
Then he goes on to warn the Galatians. He tells them that thinking that they will somehow establish their own righteousness is of the flesh. Really, it is the same thing that every human born of Adam tries to do. We inherited it from him.
It is why Cain got so angry. How dare God not keep up his end of the bargain!!
And God told him, “If you do well, will you not be accepted?” And that is true. If you do well.
That is the problem with the thinking of the flesh. “If you do well.”
Compare that with the other great truth. There is none righteous.
No. Not one.
And the results of this false religion are always the same thing.
Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: sexual immorality, impurity, indecent behavior, idolatry, witchcraft, hostilities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-20)
And doesn’t that pretty much sum up the results of what we are seeing in so many ministries that are rooted in the thinking of the flesh?
It isn’t a disagreement over an interpretation. It is another religion entirely.
Which leads us to the second distinct religion. True Christianity.
True Christianity is this (Go back to Romans 10). In contrast to “do this and live”, Paul shows the righteousness of God. Righteousness comes outside of ourselves, for we have none of our own. We have no righteousness, ever, not even after we are saved, that can stand before God’s righteous judgment.
But God has provided another way. He first announced it in Eden. Then foreshadowed it in the sacrifices and ceremonies of the law. It is the righteousness that is ours by faith. Jesus did it, and it is as if we have never had nor committed any sin, if only we accept it with a believing heart.
As the scripture says “Whosoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
This is the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, which is why Paul calls this “the spirit” as opposed to “the flesh”. The flesh is what we inherited from Adam. “Do this, and you will live.”
The Spirit drives us to mourning, true humility, and an overpowering sense that we are in desperate, desperate trouble unless God is merciful to us.
Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.
And does this have fruit? It certainly does! But it is a far different kind than the fruit that the flesh brings forth.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
So why do I do what I do? Why do I endure the continuous insults, ridicule, threats and abuse online? Why do I continue to critique the idols of this present age?
Because I hate the flesh in myself and know that I have no hope other than in Jesus Christ.
My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
Ask yourself, what is your view of someone who DOESN’T do things the way that you do things, and then you will know somewhat of where your idols are and where your hope is.
As for me, my hope is not in my view of gender roles, my control of my wife, the way I choose to raise my children. It isn’t in submission to your husband, in your ability to homestead and homeschool. It isn’t in your heterosexuality. All of those are the way of death if you are holding on to them as your righteousness before God. All of our sexuality is corrupted by sin. All of our works are corrupted by sin. All of our masculinity and femininity are corrupted by sin. The only one who was not, ever, corrupted by sin was Jesus.
And he took my filthy garments – including my self-righteousness, lusts, pride – and nailed them to the cross. And then he gave me his perfect, spotless righteousness.
If only I accept them with a believing heart.
And now is the time when one hears, “yeah, but also…”
That’s the beauty of Christianity. There is NO “Yeah, but also” in Christ. You add nothing. He already did it all. It is finished. It is yours without any “yeah, but also”, other wise it isn’t good news at all!
So why do I continue to stick my hand in that hornet’s nest?
Because I hope that at least one person will hear me, and come to know true freedom and joy, no matter who they are or where they are from or what they have suffered. No one is beyond the reach of God’s compassion.
But even more importantly than that, it is because God has called me to be a preacher of the gospel. Not a purveyor of the opinions of men. So I will continue to do so and I will continue to call out the false messiahs of this age, because it is what God has called me to do.