The Perfect Oxymoron
Have you ever wandered around aimlessly—with a purpose? I know that seems like an oxymoron, but millions have done so, and still are. They are wandering around seeking after something. As the saying goes, “They don’t know where they are going, but they will know it when they get there.” They have a mission, but can’t seem to find the map to lead them to their treasured quest—finding God and the perfect religion.
It is in the nature of humans to seek after God. God put that nature in all of us. Then why can’t some people find God? Why can’t they find the perfect religion? Is there such a thing? Is it hiding? Then again you might be saying, “I have the perfect religion. I am happy and satisfied, so leave me alone.” That might be, and praise the Lord if you have found it. But many think they have it, only to find out religion is not just a place to visit, feel good, pay their dues, then go home satisfied.
I am reminded of a man who was a member of a church I attended and at which I preached many times. He was a fixture there. He attended every time the doors were open, he closed the services with the same prayer (literally the same words) every time he was asked, and he put the same dollar bill into the collection plate every time it was passed. He attended there his whole life. When he was on his deathbed, I went to minister to him. He cried because he was afraid to die. He was so secure in his religion that he was insecure in his destination. How sad! Maybe his focus was on the wrong thing—himself.
Stephen Covey, in his book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, states as one of the seven habits, begin with the end in mind. The end for any true worshiper of God, follower of Jesus, and seeker of the perfect religion is more than satisfying oneself. If all we are doing is going through the motions and thinking that we have done our duty and then God owes us, we will be sorely disappointed at the end. Works will make you weep on your deathbed because you will always wonder, “Did I do enough?”
The beginning and end of our religion is the grace of God and the understanding that as Romans 3:24 states, “Being justified freely [without cost] by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”
The story of the Pharisee and the publican illustrates the point very well. The Pharisee tried to justify himself by what he did, and the publican prayed for mercy, knowing that it would only be the grace of God that in the end would make him justified.
Another illustration is when the apostles asked Jesus to increase their faith. Jesus used the parable about faith, service, and influence in (Luke 17:5–10).
Jesus was illustrating the total submission we must have, which only comes from that faith that focuses on our Master not ourselves, that if truly possessed will allow God to perform unbelievable events in our lives. When the apostles approached Jesus and asked him to increase their faith, Jesus used two parables to illustrate pure faith pointing to true north—away from me and pointing to thee.
“And the apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith.’ So the Lord said, ‘If you had faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, “Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you’” (Luke 17:5–6).
If our faith is pure and unwavering, we will be able to ask God anything and He will respond. Jesus then goes into the parable about the servant laboring hard all day. Jesus said his master wouldn’t say to him as he came into the house at the end of the day, “Come sit down and eat at my table.” In other words, you didn’t earn this right just because you performed the services required of you. Then points out how our attitude should be about the service and worship we show to God: “Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not” (verse 9).
Then Jesus answers the question, “Can I earn or do works to be able to sit at my Father’s table in His kingdom?”
“So likewise you, when you have done all those things which are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty’” (verse 10).
Jesus laid the foundation for the perfect religion, “So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which were commanded you, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.’”
We begin and end with the attitude, “We are unprofitable servants doing our duty,” not “Look at what I have done to earn my reward.” Jesus points this out in the first, “Blessed art thou—poor in spirit.”