There is no book like the Bible.
We are in the middle of a sermon series called The Gospel Changes Everything. Throughout the series we’ve been laying out again and again how the various areas of our lives can come into obedience to Jesus and bring joy to our own hearts.
What we keep saying over and over again is that we don’t have the power to change, at least not for any sustainable length of time or with any lasting power. We are the problem. Our own hearts, our weaknesses, our insecurities–these are the things that lead us into the messes we’re in (Eph. 2.1-3), and more effort from us will only get us deeper into the pit. We need an outside agent to rescue us (Rom. 7.24).
We Need Jesus!
That agent is Jesus (Rom. 7.25), and he rescues us through the work of his death and resurrection. What we could never do, he has done for us, and we receive this not by working hard or earning his stamp of approval. We receive this simply by faith in him. That is the good news of the gospel!
So what we need is not more effort. What we need is to more fully understand and live in the forgiveness, redemption, and identity that God has freely offered us in Jesus. Only that can truly change us, and when that changes us, it changes everything about us.
How We Don’t Get It
So what we’re saying is that we need more of Jesus and we need more of the gospel. So how do we do that? Well, that answer is pretty varied and is more of a process, life on life with God’s people, than it is a simple plug-and-play answer.
We could also say that more religion isn’t it. We don’t simply need to read the Bible longer, pray harder, go to church more often, or get a different haircut. Again, we need Jesus, not religion.
But that statement is where a lot of people stumble. In saying, “We don’t need religion; we need Jesus,” they downplay things that seem like “religion:,” things like Bible reading, prayer, and church participation. But we’re not saying you don’t need those things. We’re saying you do need them, but you need them in a different way.
What We Really Need
You don’t need to earn any favor with God or others by doing religious things. But you need to do many of those same things with the goal of knowing Jesus and experiencing the freedom and grace offered in the gospel (Hos. 6.3). When you do them that way, they change from things done out of obligation to things done out of delight, because they lead you to the feet of Jesus, and there you find acceptance, joy, freedom, and hope.
Pursue Jesus Through His Word
One of the primary ways we’d say you have to pursue Jesus is through his word, the Bible. No, Bible reading doesn’t gain you merit with him, but it is impossible to know someone without listening to them and being with them. What a gift we have that God has given us his words in writing, and that they are living and active, speaking to us as we learn to listen (Heb. 4.12).