“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’… This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” – Romans 1:16-17; 3:22
Walter Martin has done a real favor for us in writing Screwtape Writes Again. It’s a book with the same flavor as C.S. Lewis’s earlier book, Screwtape Letters. In this case, Screwtape writes his nephew, Wormwood, who is in training to be an emissary, an ambassador, of the Devil. Screwtape is writing Wormwood to tell him how to handle Satan’s strategic plans to confuse the world and keep people lost. Everything is opposite from Christianity. For example, the Enemy is Jesus and the Enemy’s spirit is the Holy Spirit, because from the perspective down under, that is, in Hell, everything is opposite. Good is evil and evil is good.
Screwtape says to Wormwood, “If you can obscure these facts, there’s a good chance that he (people) will embrace what hell considers to be the perfect synonym for true religion—churchianity.” In this marvelous imitation of the Enemy’s church everything looks and sounds right and good, but the Enemy’s Spirit is conspicuously absent. “You must arrange to make him a devout Methodist or Baptist or Presbyterian or Episcopalian or what have you. Make him that. He must come to accept the church as a type of religious social club where people congregate. Nothing more. In a word, Wormwood, help him to become more religious, but for hell’s sake, not more Christian!”
And so, here is the question one must consider: who really is a true Christian? Is it anyone who is a member of a particular church and says “I believe in God?” Is it someone who says they are very spiritual and that they are trying to be a good person? Who is the real Christian?
In Fritz Ridenhour’s book, “How to be a Christian without being Religious,” he begins by defining religion according to Webster. “According to Webster, a religion is a system of faith and of worship…Christianity is certainly that. According to Webster, a religion is the service to and adoration of God…Christianity is certainly that. According to Webster, religion is devotion, fidelity, conscientiousness, an awareness of the existence of a supreme being, which arouses reverence, love, gratitude and the will to obey and serve…Christianity is that and more.” It’s the “more” that is behind Ridenhour’s book.
Ridenhour goes on to explain how all of the religions of the world, with the exception of Christianity, have one basic characteristic: each one teaches that pleasing God is accomplished through human effort. Be a good person and God will be pleased with you! Ridenhour writes, “Religions reach up toward God. Christianity is God reaching down to man. Christianity claims that men have not found God, but that God has found them. To some this is a crushing blow. They prefer religious effort — dealing with God on their terms. This puts them in control. They feel good about being religious.”
In Romans 1:16-17, Paul explains that righteousness, which simply means being in a right relationship with God, actually comes from God, not from us. There is nothing we can do to earn God’s favor. The reason is because we are stained by sin. Therefore, God had to do something for us. The something that He did took place on the cross. He died for us to pay the price we could never pay ourselves. Thus, Christianity is not about what we do. It’s all about what God has already done on our behalf. All we have to do is place our trust in Him. At the moment one truly believes, God imputes righteousness to that individual. Thus, righteousness comes from Him. We must simply trust in the work God has already done for us, not in any of our own works. Aren’t you glad that it’s not up to us? Aren’t you glad that God paid the price for us?
You see, sitting in a church makes you no more of a Christian than sitting in a garage makes you a car. Being in right standing with God is not a matter of our effort, it’s a matter of our heart! God sees the heart. It’s in the heart that faith is born. And so, remember, being a Christian is not about being religious. It’s about having a relationship with Jesus that comes by faith. “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.”