This week in our Romans sermon series, Pastor Chris taught us how religion blinds us to our own sin and hardens our heart toward God. God created us to live in a relationship with Him that transforms us from the inside out. However, we sometimes find ourselves living in religion instead- an outward appearance of loving the Lord while inwardly our hearts are actually cold towards Him. God’s invitation is to recognize the religious forms in our lives, repent and walk in God’s grace and mercy.

“If a man understands it, he has a sure road open to him to the understanding of the whole of Scripture.” John Calvin

Romans is the “cathedral of the Christian faith.” Godet

“It is the most profound work in existence.” Coleridge

“I think it meet that every Christian man not only know Romans by rote and without the book but also exercise himself therein ever more continually as with the daily bread of the soul.” William Tyndale

2 Timothy 3:1–5
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.

Titus 1:16a
They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works.

Religious forms are blind spots in our Christian walk where the power of God is not functioning, and we have “lost our first love.” These are forms of godliness (principles, traditions, activities) that are not motivated by love of God but by fear of others, self-preservation, religious pride, or habit.

  1. Who was Paul speaking to?
    a. Religious people—either Jews or very moral Greeks and Romans
  2. Who would fit in this category today?
    a. Any unsaved person who is hiding behind religion or morality.
    b. The self-righteous—those who trust in ritual observances or anything other than Christ alone for their eternal safety.
    c. This person is moral, friendly, and charitable, but self-satisfied and unsaved.

Religious People Are Quick to Judge

Romans 1:32–2:2 (ESV)
32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. 1 Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. 2 We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things.

Two Errors of Self-Righteousness
1) Minimizing God’s moral standard.
2) Underestimating the depth of one’s own sinfulness.

Luke 18:9–14 (ESV)
9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Judgement is Rooted in Pride

  1. Pride is trusting in our strength, wisdom, and righteousness (Eph. 6:10, Prov. 16:18, Eph. 2:8-9).
  2. Pride is at the root of comparison (Luke 9:46-48, John 21:20-22).
  3. Pride covets the success of other people.
  4. Pride promotes self and what self wants.

“Pride is more than the first of the seven deadly sins; it is itself the essence of all sin.” John Stott

“Pride must die in you, or nothing of heaven can live in you.” ― Andrew Murray

  1. Religious pride is critical, opinionated, and convinced it is right.
    Religious People Are Hypocritical
    Romans 2:3 (ESV)
    3 Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God?

“What we are often doing is seeing our own faults in others and judging them vicariously. That way, we experience the pleasure of self-righteousness without the pain of penitence” John Stott

Romans 3:23 (ESV)
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

Hupokrites ~ an actor, stage player, a pretender, hypocrite.

Religious People Are Hard-Hearted

Romans 2:4-5 (ESV)
4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.

Hard-Hearted Critics
• Critics sit on the sidelines while evaluating other’s efforts.
• Critics place their identity in finding fault in others.
• Critics expect that things will turn out bad.
• Critics often skip genuine inquisition and think their way is the only way.
• Critics let their opinions become dogma. (Primary/Secondary)
• Critics feed on negativity and produce unbelief, suspicion, and fear.
• Critics don’t receive feedback or correction.
• Critics need to be right and do not apologize.

This kind of blindness—noticing others’ problems and failures without acknowledging your own—reveals a hard heart.

Mark 8:15 (ESV)
15 And he cautioned them, saying, “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.”

Religious People Are Self-Seeking

Romans 2:6 (ESV)
6 He will render to each one according to his works:

James 2:14–20, 26 (ESV)
14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

Romans 2:6–11 (ESV)
6 He will render to each one according to his works: 7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11 For God shows no partiality.


Discussion Questions:

  1. Pastor Chris said this sermon is an all-play, everyone has a heart check to do this week! In what areas of your life do you see religion, rather than relationship with the Lord? This can be principles, traditions, activities, ect. that are not motivated by love for God but by fear of others, self-preservation, religious pride, or habit.
  2. Religious people often think they are always right. How often do you repent before God and others? What are some specific ways you can grow in repentance?
  3. Hard-hearted people often become critical. In the “Hard-Hearted Critics” section listed above, which of these do you recognize in your own heart? How would you like to move away from hard-heartedness?
  4. Obedience follows salvation. Are there areas in your life that you are self-seeking rather than obeying the Lord?

Application Questions:

  1. Reread Luke 18:9-14. Pride was the root of the pharisee’s religion while humility was the root of tax collector’s repentance.
  2. This week, sit with the Lord and ask if you have been living a Christianity that has become riddled with religious forms. Ask Him to show you if you are living in the Lord’s mercy and grace and show it to others? Are you cold toward God, critical toward others or self-seeking? Spend some time repenting and thanking God for His forgiveness.


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