CHRIST versus RELIGION
by Maurice M Johnson
Said the robin to the sparrow: "I should really like to know
Why these anxious human beings rush about and worry so."
Said the sparrow to the robin: "Friend, I suppose it must be
They have no Heavenly Father such as cares for you and me."
Over in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas a little over a month ago, my nine-year-old girl, Helen, did something that reminds me of this beautiful verse I have just quoted. After a cold, freezing rain had covered the shrubs and woods with ice, we had a two-inch fall of sleet followed by about three of snow. Helen noticed the little snow birds and an occasional red bird flying and hopping around outside looking for food. She was touched by their fruitless search and decided to do something about it. With a hammer and nails, she fastened some small square boards on some longer slender ones and set up those tiny tables (three of them) out in the cold. Then she put some wheat and bread crumbs on her little banquet tables. I knew nothing of all this until she came back into the house and called me over to the nearest window to see the hungry and grateful birds hopping and chirping and eating. Now, I hope you "birds" will allow my little Helen's daddy to serve you with some of the "finest of the wheat" from God's unlimited storehouse. You understand, don't you, that I am not using slang when I refer to you as "birds?" Remember that David sang out, "Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowlers: the snare is broken, and we are escaped." Psa. 124:7. And while we are on the subject of birds as types or figures, let me remind you that the only way any one of us could have ever gotten loose from "the snare of the fowler" was for that frightful snare to be broken by one stronger than both the fowler and his snare. The most repugnant and utterly foolish thing you can tell a worldly-wise man or woman is that a dead sparrow is stronger than a raging lion, and yet that is exactly what I am joyously bound to tell you.
RAGING LION DEFEATED BY "SPARROW"
O wait a minute! Not every dead sparrow is stronger than a raging lion. There was only One that was stronger than the great and majestic being described in the Bible as "a roaring lion." Satan is thus described. If he is "the roaring lion," then who is the "dead sparrow?" Christ is typified in Lev. 14 by two birds, the one to be killed and the other freed to fly "into the open field" with the blood of the slain on its wings. Anti-typically speaking, "Christ crucified" is that dead sparrow and, as Paul says: "Christ crucified is a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks" but is "the wisdom and the power of God" because "the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men." Yes, in His apparent weakness, defeat, and shameful death—a death apparently as weak and useless the death of a "lonely sparrow on a housetop" (Psa. 102:7)—the Lord Jesus Christ defeated the "strong man of the house," that fierce fowler who had snared the souls of the whole human family. Indeed, it was for that very purpose that He Who is God came to this Satan-ensnared world in a human form. In Heb. 2:14, Paul tells us that Christ became a partaker of flesh and blood that He through death might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil. Now don't forget that the One Whom I am thrilled to represent was, as a "dead sparrow," more powerful than this world's god is as "a roaring lion." 1 Pet. 5:8. Then why shouldn't we be "more than conquerors through Him that loved us?"
WE DARE NOT SPELL JESUS THIS WAY — JE$U$
Oh please don't become frightened and fly away before you have given me the opportunity to prove that I am not offering you Bible food as a bait to catch you for some sectarian cage. Honestly, I don't desire to entangle any of you in a yoke of bondage, but I do passionately desire to show you how we have been freed from Satan's snares so that we can fly out in the open with our spiritual wings marked only by the redeeming blood of our Substitute. I have a message of nothing but liberty, the liberty wherewith Christ makes men free—free to fly out and up into the blue to "worship in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh." Phil. 3:3. Let me prove that I am offering Heaven's best to you with as unselfish and guileless a motive as my little girl, Helen, had in feeding those cold and hungry little birds over there in the Ozark Mountains.
I am keenly conscious of the fact that you have probably come to believe that, as the most beautiful symphony orchestra music is often followed by some such shockingly inharmonious appeal as "— AND DR. I .B. FIXIT'S CORN PLASTERS ARE AS SOOTHING AS A SYMPHONY," just so my most scriptural messages may be followed, so far as you now know, by my pleading with you to "send me every dollar you can scrape up" or "be sure to buy MY most outstanding books," et cetera.
No, I am not a merchant of the gospel. There is no more diabolical deception than for one to use our Lord Jesus Christ and His Word as mere enticement or advertising matter, or sectarian bait. There is nothing good with which you may supplement Christ and His Word. He is perfect and His Word FINAL. In Him dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, and all Christians are complete in Him. Col. 2:9-12.
THE TEN COMMANDMENTS IN SHOES
If you are seeking for grace and truth, He is your divine destination, for, as John the beloved said, "He is full of grace and truth." If you are at last aware that all man's religions are but "broken cisterns that can hold no water" and you are really thirsty, you need wander no longer in your vain quest for some oasis in this desert, for He is "the fountain of living waters," and He lovingly entreats you and me to come to waters without money and without price. Nor will it be merely your present thirst that His water satisfies for He says: "The water that I shall give you will be in you a well springing up into everlasting life." Do you believe in "doing what is right," in living by "the golden rule" (so-called)? Well, what is "right" and who, alone, in all human history lived the golden life? Do you not know that Jesus of Nazareth was the Ten Commandments in shoes, as it were? The Ten Commandments called for a perfect life, and He presented His to be tested
by that perfect, Ten-Commandment standard. He fulfilled it or filled it full and thus proved that He was the One Whom Jeremiah foresaw and called "The Lord our Righteousness." Now, since He is Jesus Christ the Righteous, and none of us is righteous, no, not one (Rom. 3:10), does it not follow that we can neither be nor do what is right without Him?
NO GOOD MAN WILL REJECT CHRIST
It should require no argument to prove that no good man will reject Jesus Christ our Lord. What good motive or good reason could one have for refusing the claims of the only GOOD man that ever lived on this earth, the only one whose life defies all critics of all time? "He was in the world and the world was made by Him and the world knew Him not. He came unto His own and His own received Him not; but as many as received Him, to them gave He the power to become the sons (children) of God, even to as many as believe on His name. Which were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God." And thank God, "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth." In other words, when a sinner (and we are all sinners by natural birth)—when a sinner receives Christ as having been the perfect substitutionary Law-keeper for him and the substitutionary sin offering and conqueror of death, that sinner, thus receiving Christ by faith, is instantly made righteous in God's sight. "For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth." Rom. 10:4.
THE ONE REAL "WONDER"
Are you seeking for wonders? Well, His very name is Wonderful. You know His birth was foretold through the Prophet Isaiah hundreds of years before the star was seen over Bethlehem's manger bed. In Isaiah 9:5-6 we read: "For unto us a child is born, and unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulders: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." Nor is it a misnomer, this name "Wonderful," when applied to Jesus of Nazareth, for He, and He alone, was and is eternally truly WONDERFUL. The learned Rabbis were amazed at His wonderful questions and answers when they found Him, a twelve-year-old boy, in the temple. Years later out in the wilderness, the fallen archangel, Lucifer, used his most subtle efforts to ensnare and successfully tempt the lonely and hungry Man of Nazareth but was utterly bewildered by the wonderful use Christ made of the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. His satanic majesty was quickly reduced to a trailing and cringing servant by these three flashing Sword thrusts of the Wonderful Captain of our salvation. The tempter's three temptations were met with: "Get thee behind me, Satan. It is written: man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God and Him only shalt thou serve." Oh yes, in his utter confusion and defeat, the devil learned well that the apparently weak man of Galilee was indeed Wonderful, was the Almighty God in human form.
To the smirking slaves of custom and human tradition, those scribes and pharisees, Christ's trampling upon rabbinical ethics and religious precedents was so singular and strange. It was wonderful. To the hypocritical pretenders, whose long prayers preceded their schemes to devour widows' houses, the meek and lowly Nazarene, who ate with publicans and sinners, fed the multitudes and spent the night out in the lonely mountains praying—this Jesus—was peculiar, unearthly, WONDERFUL! Oh no, they didn't love and worship Him, but His life was so genuine, so sincere and holy, so devoid of guile and pretense, so disregardful of all artificial niceties, so consistently scornful of all hypocrisies, so meek and yet so mighty that they couldn't bear His presence. Therefore, they did all in their power to "tune Him out" of their lives.
"THE PURE BLOOD OF THE GRAPE"
Oh, don't do that today, my friends! Taste and see that the Lord is good. He alone has and is the bread that your inner man is hungry for. None of the "high-balls" or other concoctions of institutionalized "church-amity" can give you soul satisfaction and spiritual strength. Christ's perfect law-keeping life, like a great cluster of perfect purple grapes, He voluntarily placed in the winepress of God's wrath, God's holy and just wrath against our sins, and from that un-speakably sad winepress, there came out what is typically called in Deut. 32:14, "the pure blood of the grape." It almost sounds irreverent, but it is not. Indeed, it is thoroughly biblical for me to say: "0 taste, taste the pure blood of the grape." Taste and see that the sacrifice of Christ is good, is the only spiritual drink that can ever quench the burning thirst of the sinner's soul. "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not?" (Isa. 55:1, 2).
RELIGION IS THE OPIATE OF THE PEOPLE
Have you become more or less sick and disgusted with so much religion, with all of these warring, money-seeking sects? And have you about decided that Karl Marx was right when he said, "Religion is the opiate of the people?" Well, I have. Yes, strange as it may sound to you, I have come to honestly believe that religion is the opiate of the people. But oh, my friends, don't confuse Christ with religion. Christ came and died to save men from religion. Christianity is Christ the Crucified, Risen Christ of eternity living His life in and through regenerated people. "For me to live is Christ" for "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." Phil. 1:21; Gal. 2:20.
Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.
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