Sermon #1230[1]

          Title:           My Religion

          Text:           1 Peter 3:15-16

          Reading:    2 Peter 1:1-21

          Subject:     The Characteristics of True Religion

          Date:          Sunday Morning - April 28, 1996

          Tape #       S-47



[1 Peter 3:15-16]  But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: [16] Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.


What is your religion? That is a question men frequently ask one another. At one time, it was a question commonly asked on most any employment application. Sometimes people ask, “What are the tenets, traits, and traditions of your religion?” I have even had a few people to ask me, “What is the difference between your religion and the religion of other people?” These are questions I want to answer in this message. I am going to talk to you this morning about My Religion. Following Peter’s admonition in our text, I want to show you the distinguishing characteristics of My Religion. I hope that I may do so “having a good conscience” in Christ.


1. True religion is not outward, ceremonial, and ritualistic.


          There are certain outward, symbolic ordinances which we conscientiously observe. Those ordinances, believer’s baptism and the Lord’s Supper, are essential parts of all true worship.


·        Baptism is the believer’s confession of Christ.

·        The Lord’s Supper is the believer’s symbolic remembrance of Christ.


But these things are not the substance, or essence of true religion.


2. True religion is not merely doctrinal religion.


          Doctrine is important. It is essential to true religion. But you can believe all the right doctrines and still not know God. You may hold to sound, orthodox, biblical doctrine, your creed may be thoroughly true to the Scriptures, and yet your religion may be altogether false.


Illustration: Saul of Tarsus believed the same thing that Cornelius did. But Saul was lost and Cornelius was saved. Saul knew the doctrine, probably better than Cornelius. But Cornelius knew God. Saul trusted his works. Cornelius believed God.


3. True religion is not a mere outward, religious behavior.


          “The kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Rom. 14:17).


          For most people, their religion is no more than an outward conformity to social standards of righteousness. Their confession of faith is - “I don’t smoke, drink, cuss, or chew; and I don’t run with people who do.”


          Now listen to me - Whatever true godliness is, it is not something that a lost, unregenerate man can produce. Godliness never changes. It does not change...

·        With time.

·        With location.

·        With circumstances.

True religion is more than outward behavior.


4. True religion is an inward, spiritual knowledge of the living God, as he is revealed in Christ (John 17:3; Phil. 3:3).


          Any natural man can, if he so chooses, understand and accept all the outward aspects of religion. He can understand and believe either Calvinism or Arminianism as a system of doctrine. And it is easy enough for anyone to perform the outward works of any religion. But the real, inward, spiritual aspects of true religion are things which are both foreign and offensive to all men and women by nature. No one will ever submit to, delight in, and walk in true religion who is not born of God.


Proposition:         All true religion, all true christianity, comes by divine revelation. It is the supernatural revelation of Christ in the heart. True religion is something a person experiences (Present tense!) in his soul.


          Today, I want to share with you what I have experienced in my soul, what has been wrought in my heart by the Spirit of God. These are things I have learned, and am learning, over the past 28 years from the Word of God. I want to talk to you about and explain My Religion.


          I do not pretend to be a model of what a believer ought to be. I know that I am not. I do not claim to have a corner on the truth of God. There is much in the Bible that I do not understand. But here are seven things that I do know. They have been wrought in me by the gracious operations of God the Holy Spirit. These are the things that make me what I am. These are the things that make me do what I do. I readily confess, from the depths of my soul, “By the grace of God I am what I am.” I say, with John Newton, “I am not what I ought to be. I am not what I want to be. And I am not what I hope to be. But, thanks be to God, I am not what I once was.” And what I am today, I am by God’s grace alone. This is My Religion:




          It is not what I know and believe about God’s law. It is not what I do or do not do. My religion begins with God’s revelation of himself in his Word, in his Son, and in my heart.


          It is not possible for man to know God, unless God is pleased to reveal himself and make himself known. “Canst thou by searching find out God?” The knowledge of God begins with God’s revelation, not man’s decision. When Adam was lost, God sought Adam. Adam did not seek God. God revealed himself, his purpose, and his grace to Adam. Adam did not discover God. I certainly do not know everything about God. He is great. I am puny. He is glorious. I am insignificant. He is infinite. I am finite. But I do know these four things about God. And I believe them with all my heart.


          A. God is sovereign.


Genesis 1:1  "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth."


Psalms 115:3  "But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased."


Psalms 135:6  "Whatsoever the LORD pleased, that did he in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places."


Isaiah 46:9-11  "Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, 10 Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure: 11 Calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel from a far country: yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it."


Daniel 4:34-37  "And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honoured him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation: 35 And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou? 36 At the same time my reason returned unto me; and for the glory of my kingdom, mine honour and brightness returned unto me; and my counsellors and my lords sought unto me; and I was established in my kingdom, and excellent majesty was added unto me. 37 Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase."


          Either God is in control of the universe, or he is controlled. Either God rules, or he is ruled. Either God is sovereign over all things, or something, or someone is sovereign over God. The Bible declares that God is totally sovereign over everything and everyone. And he exercises his sovereignty at all times. When you boil it all down to its essence, when I declare that God is sovereign, I am saying that God can either save me, or damn me. It is up to him. I am in his hands (Rom. 9:11-23).


Illustration: The Potter’s House (Jer. 18:2-6).


          B. GOD IS HOLY.


Psalms 111:9  "He sent redemption unto his people: he hath commanded his covenant for ever: holy and reverend is his name."


Isaiah 57:15  "For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones."


          He says, “Be ye holy, for I am holy.”


1.    All that God is is perfectly holy.

2.    All that God does is perfectly holy.

3.    All that God receives, accepts and rewards is perfect holiness


Psalms 24:3-5  "Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place? 4 He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. 5 He shall receive the blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation."


          Because God is perfectly holy, it is obvious that the only way a sinner can ever be received, accepted, and rewarded by him is in the Person of Christ, through the merits of the perfect Substitute.


          C. GOD IS JUST.


·        “Justice and judgment are the habitations of thy throne.”

·        “The righteous Lord loveth righteousness.”

·        “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?”


          The Almighty will not pervert justice. God will never do anything that is contrary to justice.


          Those are facts. They are true. Whether I like it or not, the one true and living God is absolutely sovereign, immaculately holy, and inflexibly just. These three facts would drive me to utter despair, were it not for the fact that I also know that...


          D. “GOD IS LOVE” (I John 4:8, 16).


          John does not say, God is a God of love. He says, “God is love.” Apart from God there is no love. All that God does is consistent with his sovereignty, his holiness, and his justice. And all that God does is consistent with his love. Because “God is love”...


1.    He is merciful - “He delighteth in mercy!”

2.    He is gracious.

3.    He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked.


          He found a way to ransom, redeem, and save his people (Job 33:24). And God’s way of salvation, the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ fully reveals his sovereignty, his holiness, his justice and his love (Rom. 3:23-26).


          My religion begins with what I know and believe about God.




A.   I am a sinner (Matt. 15:19).


B.   I stand before God’s holy law guilty and justly condemned by nature (Ezek. 18:20).


C.   I am, by nature, spiritually dead, totally depraved, utterly incapable of changing my heart, or ever performing a single thing that is truly good. “There is none that doeth good.”



·        John 1:1-3, 14, 18

·        Colossians  1:18

·        Colossians 2:9-10

·        Hebrews 1:1-3

·        Revelation 5:9-11).


          God the Father has given all pre-eminence to the Son. God the Spirit gives all pre-eminence to the Son. The Bible, the Book of God, gives all pre-eminence to the Son. And all the people of God give all pre-eminence to the Son. All the glory of the triune God, all the fulness of the eternal Godhead, and all the blessings of grace are in Christ alone. “In him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.”


          Let me show you what the glory of Christ is - As the God-man, the only Mediator between God and men, he is able to do for sinners what neither God nor man alone could do. The God-man, our Mediator is able both to suffer the penalty of the law and to satisfy the demands of the law.


          A. The Lord Jesus Christ wrought out a perfect righteousness for us as our Representative (Rom. 5:19; Jer. 23:6).


          He fulfilled all the law of God on our behalf (Rom. 10;4). It is this righteousness of God in Christ that is freely imputed to every believer. There is no other righteousness in the world than Christ’s righteousness. And we must have it. Else we must forever die (Heb. 12:14).


          B. Having fulfilled all righteousness on our behalf, Christ Jesus suffered the just and exact penalty of God’s law against our sins (Gal. 3:13; Isa. 53:9-10).


          Whenever you think about the death of Christ, remember these four things:


1.    Christ’s death was an act of his own sovereignty.

2.    The death of Christ was an act of substitution.

3.    Christ’s death was a payment of full satisfaction to the law of God.

4.    The death of the Lord Jesus Christ was a complete success.


          C. Now, God, in perfect justice, saves every believing sinner by imputing to us the merits of Christ’s righteousness and shed blood.


          This is what it means to be saved. We are justified! We are, in Christ, made equal to the demands of God’s holy law.




          For most people, religion is like a wooden leg. There is neither warmth nor life in it. It may help you to hobble down the road, but it never becomes a part of you. It is just something you have strapped on. But true religion is a matter of the heart. It involves more than words and works. It is more than a way of life. It is our life!


          True religion produces that kind of faith that is revealed in the Scriptures. If my religion is true, I have the faith of God’s elect. Let me explain faith to you in Bible terms. To believe Christ is to...


          A. Trust him alone for my eternal salvation.


1.    I trust his blood alone for the atonement of my sins.

2.    I trust his righteousness alone for my acceptance with God.


          B. To commit myself to him.


          Faith in Christ involves consecration and dedication to him. To exercise faith in Christ is to be sold out to the Son of God.


          Illustration: Abraham - Isaac must be slain!


          C. To willingly submit to his sovereign dominion as my Lord.


          1. We submit to his revealed will.

          2. We submit to his providential will.

          3. We submit to his eternal will.


          Illustration: “Chief give himself to Jesus.”




          My religion is not a creed. My religion is not a system of theology. My religion is not a doctrinal position. My religion is not the ten commandments. My religion is not the Baptist church. My religion is a Person, a real, living Person (Gal. 2:20).


·        My religion is not what I say, but what I am.

·        My religion is not what I do, but what I am.

·        My religion is “Christ in me, the hope of glory.”

·        My religion is the ruling principle of my life.




          A. I have a sense and knowledge of God’s love for me shed abroad in my heart (Rom. 5:5).


          B. I have a principle of love for God which motivates, governs, and guides me (I John 4:19).


          This love for God is the law and rule of my life.


          C. I have reason to believe that my love for God is real and my religion is genuine because I love God’s people (I John 4:20; James 1:26-27; I Cor. 13:1-13).




          I know that these goals are not attainable by me, or anyone else, in this life. But these are the things I keep striving after, seeking, and pressing on to attain. These are the three great desires and ambitions of my heart.


Philippians 3:7-14  "But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. 8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, 9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: 10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; 11 If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. 12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. 13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." Here is the mark to which I press...


          A. Total commitment to Christ.

          B. Total communion with Christ.

          C. Total conformity to Christ.


Application:                   I am calling for...

1.    Faith in Christ.

2.    Commitment to Christ.


          I am, upon the authority of God’s Word, promising eternal life to all who do so commit themselves to Christ is faith.

[1]See Sermon #918 for a similar message preached at Danville 6-24-90 {PM}, Lawson NSW - Australia 4-15-91; American Ave. - Lexington, KY 7-18-90; and Wichita Falls, TX 4-11-96.