The very nature of being deceived is that you don’t know it; it isn’t something that you wrestle with or think about. The very deception, the lie, the falsehood is what you embrace as true. Scary.
Think about this carefully. What makes you certain of what you believe? How is it that false religion is what everyone else has and not you?
If you are reading this, be sure of my motive; it is to call you to consider the Truth. It is to remind you that Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life… there is no other true religion. No man, not you or I, can come to God but through Jesus Christ and the receiving of his Life in exchange for your own.
True religion is not an accessory for this life, it is not something accumulated for some high or low purpose… it is an exchange, a repentance, a believing in one true religion. It is, as Henry Scougal writes, a Divine Life.
“It is Christ formed within us.”—Briefly, I know not how the nature of religion can be more fully expressed, than by calling it a Divine Life: and under these terms I shall discourse of it, showing first, how it is called a life; and then, how it is termed divine.
As I began to read this letter, and Scougal’s careful instruction on what is not true religion, I realized the deception I was under for so many years in the church would have led me straight to eternal death, Hell, were it not for Jesus Christ giving me, a dead man, Life. I would know nothing different than the deception I embraced as true religion. Glory to God for not leaving me there! Salvation is from God alone; man cannot even free himself to think right thoughts apart from the Gospel.
And so it is my hope that you press on here to consider these few paragraphs of a letter and then to read and consider the entire letter as a whole. It will not be easy or quick, but I would argue and encourage that it will be an effort that bears fruit… much fruit.
And, if you are a younger friend of mine who has pressed on this far, let me encourage you strongly to keep pressing on after Christ. Mining for silver and gold is a hard work in this life and so it is also in the life of the Spirit, take courage in the counsel of God’s word to fight, to run, to press on, to gird up your loins like a man! Let the partygoers attend to their parties and let the runners take their mark.
Set your gaze on Jesus Christ, and set your pace to one of learning and meditation and letting the overflow of Love do its work in and through you. Now is a much better time than later, of which there is no guarantee…
I cannot speak of religion, but I must lament, that among so many pretenders to it, so few understand what it means: some placing it in the understanding, in orthodox notions and opinions; and all the account they can give of their religion is, that they are of this and the other persuasion, and have joined themselves to one of those many sects whereinto Christendom is most unhappily divided. Others place it in the outward man, in a constant course of external duties, and a model of performances. If they live peaceably with their neighbours, keep a temperate diet, observe the returns of worship, frequenting the church, or their closet, and sometimes extend their hands to the relief of the poor, they think they have sufficiently acquitted themselves. Others again put all religion in the affections, in rapturous hearts, and ecstatic devotion; and all they aim at is, to pray with passion, and think of heaven with pleasure, and to be affected with those kind and melting expressions wherewith they court their Saviour, till they persuade themselves they are mightily in love with him, and from thence assume a great confidence of their salvation, which they esteem the chief of Christian graces. Thus are these things which have any resemblance of piety, and at the best are but means of obtaining it, or particular exercises of it, frequently mistaken for the whole of religion: nay, sometimes wickedness and vice pretend to that name. I speak not now of those gross impieties wherewith the Heathens were wont to worship their gods. There are but too many Christians who would consecrate their vices, and follow their corrupt affections, whose ragged humour and sullen pride must pass for Christian severity; whose fierce wrath, and bitter rage against their enemies, must be called holy zeal; whose petulancy towards their superiors, or rebellion against their governors, must have the name of Christian courage and resolution.But certainly religion is quite another thing, and they who are acquainted with it will entertain far different thoughts, and disdain all those shadows and false imitations of it.
They know by experience that true religion is a union of the soul with God, a real participation of the divine nature, the very image of God drawn upon the soul, or, in the apostle’s phrase, “It is Christ formed within us.”—Briefly, I know not how the nature of religion can be more fully expressed, than by calling it a Divine Life: and under these terms I shall discourse of it, showing first, how it is called a life; and then, how it is termed divine.
(Henry Scougal, http://www.ccel.org/ccel/scougal/life.pdf)
You have a letter here before you to continue on in reading and considering. I hope that you do. I hope that the young fighters, the runners, the faithful will press on. May God strengthen you and give you a singular steadfast heart for True Religion.
Blessings multiplied…in Christ Jesus.