June 2, 2002: Are You “Spiritual” or Are You a Christian?

Let us pray: Dear Savior, human pride is alive and well in 2002. And that pride continually tries to earn Your favor and earn heaven all on its own. Today we ask You to teach us again the folly of that approach to salvation. Teach us to trust in Your mercy and Your forgiveness earned on the cross which You freely give us through faith. Armed with Your gift of salvation we truly can live real spiritual lives which honor only You and which free us from guilt which is the step-child of our pride. Amen
TEXT: Romans 3: 21-25, 27,28

Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
Periodically I receive unsolicited religious information from people in the mail. I don’t know why they send it. But, I surmise they think they have a corner on the “God” market and genuinely want to expand their ideas about Godly truth. This past week I received such a piece of mail. It was sent and apparently also written by a man in West Boylston, MA and has as its title: “Spirituality.” I want to read a little of it to you.

“regardless of who you are, what you believe in, what religion you follow…it is important to know there is one true God, a God of love and spirituality, who may favor Islam over Christianity at this point (Muslims have done a better job of applying love, goodness, kindness, compassion to everyday life, being spiritual.) …living by the spirit, being spiritual, brings God’s favor. Living by the flesh (indifference to most things that don’t directly affect one’s physical or material well-being) brings God’s disfavor.” Then after fleshing out these ideas, the fellow concludes with this: “It is important to pray to Allah 5 times a day, but it shouldn’t have a compulsory or rigid tone (it doesn’t have to be in public, kneeling towards Mecca). It should be voluntary, from the heart…to yourself, out-loud, in your car, walking on the sidewalk, at the store, in a Mosque, etc….”

This sheet of paper is signed: Tim Ford/Mohamed.

Obviously this fellow follows Islam. Obviously he’s a Muslim as his second name indicates. What strikes me about all this is: 1. He’s not a very strict Muslim as he tries to Americanize the dictates of the Koran into a more palatable form for the average wishy-washy American—note the emphasis on that modern buzzword “spirituality” and 2. More importantly, he’s simply another example of that age-old human problem of trying to earn God’s favor by living under the law—or, you can save yourself by trying to live a good, moral life. Since today’s lesson directly addresses all this, I want to ask you this question:


Dr. Max Mueller, a professor of Sanskrit at Oxford about 100 years ago set out to disprove Christianity. He studied every major religion of the world and as a result he became a Christian! Why? Because he concluded that there are only 2 religions in the world: faith and works. We would call it: living under the Law or living under the Gospel. Either you must do something to save yourself—the Law, or God does it all for you and gives it to you as a gift—the Gospel. In short, Max Mueller came to the same realization that St. Paul clearly teaches in our lesson when he writes: “But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets (the Old Testament) testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. Where, then is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.”


Today the buzz-word is “spirituality.” People want the good things connected with Christianity—love, compassion, morality, etc. but they don’t want to be beholden to God for it. They want to approach heaven someday and say: “God, I deserve glory because I worked really hard to earn it. I was a better person than most of my coworkers. I actually practiced self-denial. I should be rewarded for that!” All the other major world religions from Muslims to Buddhists, to Judaism teach this. In each of them we humans have to work hard at being saved. These religions are popular because they stroke our egos. We like to feel useful. We like to feel important. We like to feel that we’re a cut above the masses. Earning your way to God’s favor puffs us up and feeds our sense of self-importance.

Of course, the whole problem with this approach is: sin. All the other world religions teach that man is basically good and chooses to follow either good or evil on his or her own. And certainly, if that were true we wouldn’t need a Savior, we actually could placate God’s justice and attune ourselves to His perfection. But, we’re not “good” by nature. We’re sinners. Left to our own devices we’ll never be good enough, pure enough, or holy enough to merit God’s love. For remember, by definition if you fail to be “good” just once, your attempt at perfection is destroyed. Scripture says it well: “Whoever keeps the whole law of God and yet breaks it at just one point, he guilty of breaking it all.”

Focusing on pious thoughts, having good intentions towards others, helping the less fortunate, building houses for the homeless, or working in a food pantry—all those things are fine examples of civic righteousness. But no matter how many of them you do sometimes your motives are tainted—either by pride or guilt. There are times you’d rather be somewhere else doing something else. Altruistic love is impossible to achieve on our own because we’re sinners from birth.


I’m not merely “spiritual” I’m a Christian! That makes me totally different from the rest of the world. Being a Christian means that God looked with compassion on me and decided to send me a Savior. He decided to send His perfect Son, Jesus Christ, to live a perfect live in my place and to die an innocent death on the cross in my place for my sins. Christ, God, earned by salvation. And through faith He gives me His righteousness. How can God not look upon me with favor when He has placed His righteousness upon me?

Armed with the truth that Jesus Christ alone has worked out my salvation and given this gift of forgiving love, I will try to do my best to thank Him. I will try to offer my body and my life as a living sacrifice to Him. I will try to be kind, compassionate, and caring—not because it earns me heaven but because it is the Godly way of showing thankfulness for what He has done for me. And every step of the way I take the blame when I fail and I give Him the glory when goodness and morality abound.
True spirituality is not a work of man it is a gift of God through faith in Jesus Christ. Mohamed from West Boylston along with most other Americans hasn’t grasped that fact as of yet. Let’s pray that both he and they do. Yes, “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved!” Amen