“I came into the world to testify to the truth,” said Jesus. “Everyone on the side of truth listens to me” (John 18:37).
Strong words, Jesus. Put them on your Facebook page and you’ll get flamed. “Jesus, how dare you claim to have the inside track on truth? Why must we take sides? How ungracious. How divisive. What gives you the right? Who do you think you are?”
Jesus testified to the truth because only the truth can set you free. Religion, on the other hand, keeps you bound with half-truths, bent-truths, and damnable lies. By religion I mean the universal quest for self-improvement. I am talking about the religion of the snake who said, “Do this and you will be like God.”
The lies of religion are contemptible because they throw doubt on the good news of Jesus. They keep enslaved those whom Jesus loves. Here are nine of the most diabolical lies ever preached:
1. God is keeping score
“He’s making a list and checking it twice. He’s gonna find out who’s naughty and nice.” The picture of God as a bookkeeper is at odds with the one Jesus gives of God as the forgiving father. Religion says, “God is recording your sins on video-tape.” But the good news declares, “Love keeps no record of wrongs” (1 Cor 13:5).
The gospel truth is that God is not recording your sins (2 Cor 5:19) and he does not treat us as our sins deserve (Psalm 103:10).
“But didn’t Jesus say he might blot our names from his book?” No, Jesus said he wouldn’t blot our names. The only thing God promises to blot out are your sins (Is 43:25), and he did that already. Why? Because he loves us and wants us to come home.
2. God is mad at you
“Sure, God loves you but he’s also mad at you. You have to balance his kindness with his sternness.” It sounds Biblical, but it isn’t.
The Bible proclaims, “God is love” (1 John 4:16). Everything he does is an expression of his love for you. If the wrath of God scares you, then you have the wrong picture of wrath because there is no fear in love (1 John 4:18).
The gospel truth is that God was angry with your sins but he poured out all his wrath on the cross (Rom 8:3), and he is angry no more. As the hymn says, because of Jesus the wrath of God has been satisfied.
3. God is punishing you
“God scourges his children and burns the rest.” How many people did Jesus scourge? How many people did Jesus punish? If it’s not true of the Son, it’s not true of the Father (Heb 1:3). The gospel truth is that God doesn’t scourge his children, but he trains and instructs them as a father trains the son in whom he delights.
Religion wields the big stick of punishment to compel proper behavior, but the gospel truth is that in Christ you are eternally unpunishable! “The punishment that brought us peace was on him…” (Isa 53:5). As Spurgeon said: “How shall the Lord punish twice for one offense? If Christ took my sins and stood as my substitute, then there is no wrath of God for me.”
4. God makes you sick to teach you things
“God gave you cancer to teach you character.” No he didn’t. God is certainly able to redeem our suffering, but he doesn’t give us sickness in the first place.
Under the old covenant, people got sick as a consequence of breaking the law. Under the law, sickness and disease were considered curses (Deu 28:15–28). But Jesus has redeemed us from the curse of the law that we might live healthy and abundant lives.
Religion says God teaches us with sickness, but Jesus says he teaches us through the Word and the Holy Spirit. The gospel truth is that Jesus took sickness off people; he didn’t give it to them.
5. God gives and takes away
“Your baby died because God needed another angel in heaven. God took your job because you were enjoying it too much. Your car was stolen because it was an idol.” Heed these damnable lies and you won’t resist the thief when he comes to plunder you.
Religion loves to quote Job because the man was self-righteousness (Job 32:1-2), but he was also bitter (Job 27:2), and suicidal (Job 7:15) and spoke a lot of rubbish (Job 42:3). “Job is an ignoramus. He talks utter nonsense” (Job 34:35, MSG). Why listen to Job when you can listen to Jesus?
The gospel truth is that Jesus came so that you may have life to the full. God gives good gifts and he never takes them back (Rom 11:29).
6. God might reject you
“Unfruitful branches are broken off and cast into the fire. Consider the Jewish branches that were broken off on and be afraid!” Jesus never said God breaks off unfruitful branches and nor did Paul. “God did not reject his people…” (Rom. 11:2). The Jews broke themselves off through unbelief (Rom 11:20).
Religion says, “You have to get on fire for God, or Jesus will vomit you out.” Not true. You are the body of Christ and Jesus doesn’t vomit out body parts.
Religion says work hard and God may accept you, but the gospel truth is that in Christ you are 100% acceptable. Nothing can make you more or less pleasing to God than you already are.
7. God can be bought
“Grace is free but you have to prove you were worth it. God wants your service, your sacrifice, and your money.” The endless appeals for sweat and coin are a hallmark of DIY religion. “Jesus died for you. What will you do for him?” It’s an anti-Christ message that prostitutes the love of God by putting price-tags on the priceless.
A holy God cannot be bribed; your Father’s love cannot be bought. You cannot pay for salvation, sanctification, or any of the blessings of God. But the gospel truth is that all the blessings of God are ours in Christ (Eph 1:3). We are not blessed because we give but because he gives.
8. God can’t be trusted
“You have to maintain your place in the kingdom by bearing fruit, pursuing holiness, and being a productive Christian.” Nothing will kill your faith faster than the lie that says, “It all depends on you.” This is serpent theology: “If you fast, pray, give, and do a hundred other things, you’ll claw your way into the throne room. You’ll be a self-made god.”
The gospel truth is that you are saved by grace and kept by grace. You can trust Jesus that the good work he began in you he will carry on unto completion (Php 1:6). You don’t stand on your promises to God, but on his awesome promises to you.
9. God doesn’t really love you
An angry God that keeps score, punishes you with hardships, makes you sick, and threatens to cast you aside, is not a God of love. He’s an idol made in our own fallen image, a perversion that reveals our fear and insecurity. Remove the religious mask and you will find it is Satan who is constantly accusing you and finding fault with you.
The God that Jesus revealed is nothing like this! “God is your Father in heaven who loves you and holds nothing against you! God doesn’t want to crush you, he wants to hug you and hold you and rejoice over you with singing, for you are the apple of his eye!
The gospel truth is that God loves you unconditionally, no strings attached. He doesn’t love you because you did good or kept the rules. He loves you because he is your Father. Period. Amen. The end.
What if I have bought into these lies?
Listen to the damnable lies of religion and you will bear the bad fruit of fear and doubt. You will lose your peace, joy, and freedom and end up anxious, insecure, and fallen from grace.
What’s the remedy?
Jesus said those who love truth recognize his voice. So fix your eyes on Jesus, get settled in his love, and let nothing move you.
Remain in your Father’s embrace and you will never be seduced by the lies of dead religion.