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SURPRISING POLL RESULTS
TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, I want to take you to two polls. One, a rather scientific poll out of Gallup, which says 55 percent of Americans still believe religion can answer today’s problems. According to the recent Gallup poll, 55 percent of Americans agree that religion can answer all or most problems in life. 71 percent of Republicans say so, 50 percent of Independents and 47 percent of Democrats share this sentiment.
The other poll, a little less scientific, out of Family Feud. In a recent episode of Family Feud, in the fast money segment, two individuals playing the game were asked, “How many of the Ten Commandments have you broken this month?” To the surprise of many people, the answer at the end of the day, after the survey of 100 people, came back was, “I have broken one of the Ten Commandments this past month.”
DR. REEDER: Well, clearly, there is a lack of theological refinement in the audience because Jesus has taught us that, if you break one, then you’ve broken them all; and then, if you break them all, you’re guilty of breaking them all, so the automatic answer is ten. And we violate God’s Word by what we omit as well as what we commit. Sins of omission and commission, we can do in thought, word and deed.
That’s pretty much an interesting dynamic of what they answered about the Ten Commandments, which I think is rather revealing. Here’s what it reveals: It reveals we have a church within our culture which is attempting to preach the Gospel of good news without communicating the reason of the glory of the Gospel, which is the bad news.
LACK OF SHAME FOR SIN
There was a time where, very clearly in this culture, people knew that they sinned and people knew that they had a sinful heart and they had a sinful record because pulpits communicated the reason the Gospel is precious, which is the bad news. The Gospel is like that beautiful diamond with all of its character, and color, and cut and content but that diamond is always presented on the backdrop of a black velvet, which is where you see its beauty.
Well, so it is with the Gospel. Before Paul develops the Good News of the Gospel in the Book of Romans, he gives for three chapters the bad news, ending up with, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God and the wages of sin is death.” Now he says, “Is there any solution for us who are helpless and hopeless?” I got good news, “When there was no way, God made a way and that way is His Son, Jesus, Who is the way, the truth and the life.”
Then he begins to develop the glorious message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior but he does so first by communicating the bad news. Well, it’s very clear today that the Gospel has become — this is very important and I want our listeners to listen to this — the prosperity Gospel that Jesus went to the cross so that you could be healthy, wealthy and wise. The Gospel has become a counseling therapy Gospel that, if you come to Jesus, you’re going to feel better about yourself.
NEW AGE NONSENSE
The other day, somebody said to me, “You know, my problem is I haven’t learned to forgive myself.” I said, “Well, I hope you never do,” and they said, “What? Why don’t I want to learn to forgive myself?” “Because you can’t forgive yourself. Here’s a fact: the day that you show me that you can make an atonement for your sins is the day that you can forgive yourself of your sins. You can’t make atonement for your sins, so you can’t forgive you. You’ve sinned against God. And here’s the good news: God has provided an atonement. You don’t need to forgive yourself — you need to accept the forgiveness that He gives. He is the one that forgives. You and I are the ones that need to be forgiven. Now, you have to believe that forgiveness and receive that forgiveness by faith and repentance.” Those are just the basic thoughts that are revealed in our communication today.
Therefore, Tom, the interesting thing in this survey about people believing that religion is important, that part of what you opened with, how do people see religion? They see religion as something that fixes things. Actually, Biblical religion is what God does to have a relationship with you and He, Who alone can do it, is the one who fixes us to have a relationship with Him and then fixes us out of that relationship with Him to make Him known, and love Him and serve Him. He doesn’t exist for us. God exists and He who made us is able to change us and save us so that we can enjoy Him and glorify Him forever.
RELIGION HAS SAVING POWER IF IT IS PURE RELIGION
Now, I am grateful that there’s still a sense that religion has a changing power, but not all religion has a changing power — there’s only one religion that has a changing power and it’s not a manmade religion, but a God-designed and God-revealed and God-communicating religion. And that is that there is a God who has come down to save us and to bring us up to be with Him and to serve Him now and into a new heavens and a new earth.
TOM LAMPRECHT: Well, I was going to ask, Harry, if Gallup had called Harry Reeder in this polling and asked you that question — do you still believe religion can answer today’s problems — how would you answer that?
DR. REEDER: I would have answered that it depends on the religion. Is it a manmade religion? That will not answer man’s problems; that will only exacerbate man’s problems. But then I would say to Mr. Gallup, do you have another category where I can talk to you not about a man-made religion, but a God-designed, God-delivered religion that begins with God establishing a relationship with us when we did not deserve it and a religion that delivers men and women from sin’s guilt and sin’s penalty and sin’s power and begins to eradicate sin’s practice? Now, that one fixes things because it fixes me and it gives me a life forever.
WHY HAS FAITH DECLINED IN THE PAST SEVERAL DECADES?
TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, what does it say about our society, when you look at these statistics going back to 1957 when 82 percent of Americans said that they believed that religion can answer today’s problems and, in 2015, that number dropped down to 51 percent?
DR. REEDER: Well, I think there’s a couple of things. First, they’re finding out that man-made religion can’t solve the problem so there’s some despair. Secondly, we live in a post-modern age in which religion is seen as an antiquated mythological system that needs to be jettisoned. Thirdly, we live in a day in which Christianity has not clearly dealt with the man-made religions of this world and where Christianity is not clearly communicated.
To use James’ language, what is pure religion? Religion is a way of sacred life. Pure religion is not a way of sacred life to get a relationship with God, but pure religion is a way of sacred life that is because of your relationship with God that He has accomplished for you.
In other words, to take the old Sunday school song, we are climbing up Jacob’s ladder. Actually, that’s a wonderful song with a catchy tune for children, but it’s terrible theology because the whole purpose of Jacob’s ladder is not to teach us that we’ve got a ladder to climb up to Heaven; Jacob’s ladder is actually Jesus, Who comes down from Heaven to take us up to be with Him.
WHAT CAN SOLVE PROBLEMS
And that’s what we need to do is teach this glorious Gospel of saving grace that comes to us relentlessly with unstoppable purpose to bring us from death into life and sin’s guilt is erased. There is, therefore, now no condemnation, sin’s power is broken — you’ve been born again — and sin’s practice is being eradicated as you pursue sanctification without which no man shall see the Lord.
And that’s what we need to again communicate with clarity so that Christianity, while a pure religion that is initiated by God, not a man-made religion that seeks to manipulate God, is now communicated no longer as a ritualistic way of life for self-therapy, but an invasive and glorious and undeserved way of life that comes from the Lord Who is the way, the truth and the life.
Dr. Harry L. Reeder III is the Senior Pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham.
This podcast was transcribed by Jessica Havin, editorial assistant for Yellowhammer News, who has transcribed some of the top podcasts in the country and whose work has been featured in a New York Times Bestseller.