Can Religious People Be Saved?
Updated: Apr 14, 2022
For the last two weeks, I’ve blogged on this statement I once read;
It’s often the rich, the educated and the religious who miss the call to truly follow Jesus, because it’s an offense to their sensibilities.
If that statement is true, and I believe it is, why do even religious Christians get tripped up and miss the call to authentically and intentionally follow Jesus? Let’s start with trying to define a certain kind of religious person. When I think of a religious person it’s someone who attends church, believes what his/her church teaches but does not live a life devoted to pursuing personal holiness and serving others. Religious people will often complain about the leadership, music, the sermon, or other church members who appear to not be behaving like true Christians.
“Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: ‘The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.” Matthew 23:1-3
I’m not saying that religious Christians aren’t saved. I have no idea. I don’t have a faith-o-meter I can point at people that confirms a person’s salvation. But I find it interesting that there were only two kinds of people who Jesus was ever angry at – money changers in the Temple and the religious Jewish leaders.
“They love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others. The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Matthew 23:7, 11, 12 The religious people I’m talking about are rarely humble. They almost always know the right thing to do, or believe and are quick to tell you.
So, let’s examine some traits of religious Christians that actually weaken or hinder their faith.
Religious Christians like the religious leaders of Jesus make up rules for how people ought to live and worship that aren’t in the Bible but take on a “thus sayth the Lord” importance for them. I’ve heard older Christians complain what a shame nobody dresses up to go to church anymore. Less than 20 years ago, some older Christians in our church would get upset because our pastor didn’t wear a suit, or if women distributed communion. Their intent was reverence and order, but so were the religious leaders of Jesus day.
Some religious Christians “major on the minors” that distract from the most important things. The “music wars” in church is just one example. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard well meaning Christians complain after a wonderful service or message, “I can’t stand it when they sing those praise choruses 15 times or the drums are so loud!” Do I have a preference in my music style? Yes, of course. But they’re missing the point of worship music. Worship!
Religious Christians sometimes pay such careful attention to correct doctrine that rather than bringing unity, they bring division. I will be the first to say what Christians believe is incredibly important. But fighting and arguing over minor issues and disrespecting those who hold to them is a clear violation of Jesus’ call to unity. Christians can agree to disagree on lots of things if we believe we are saved by faith alone in Jesus Christ.
Religious Christians often neglect more important things. I find it sad that churches can raise millions for a new building, but struggle to raise that kind of money for the poor. They will give generously to support missionaries, but often fail to introduce their neighbors and co-workers to Jesus themselves. They’ll financially support campus ministries, but fail to teach or be an inspiration to their own grandchildren how to love God and others.
The point of this blog isn’t to find fault with others. The point is to remind each of us how easily we can substitute religious activities and attitudes for the Christian living. I know, because I’m a recovering religious Christian myself.
“The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Matthew 23:24