When I became a Christian back in high school, several of my friends approached me and said – “I heard you got religion”. I politely smiled and acknowledged that I had indeed. It took me many years to find out that what had happened to me was not about religion at all – but about a relationship.
Being religious is me (man) trying to perform well in order to gain God’s approval or withhold His wrath. As long as I live life according to strict moral rules and regulations, God will surely accept me and not punish me. What great joy to find out that Christianity is not about my performance at all – but about the love and sacrifice of Christ. He did all the work, He took all the punishment – so that I could be adopted into His family and be declared righteous before a holy God. When God looks at me He doesn’t see my sinful past, or my inept performance – He sees Jesus.
What follows in a two part post is a very insightful comparison between “religion” and “the gospel” (aka – walking in relationship with Jesus) drawn from the sermons of Tim Keller. I hope it will speak to you and encourage you as it did me:
RELIGION: I obey-therefore I’m accepted.
THE GOSPEL: I’m accepted-therefore I obey.
RELIGION: Motivation is based on fear and insecurity.
THE GOSPEL: Motivation is based on grateful joy.
RELIGION: I obey God in order to get things from God.
THE GOSPEL: I obey God to get to God-to delight and resemble Him.
RELIGION: When circumstances in my life go wrong, I am angry at God or my self, since I believe, like Job’s friends that anyone who is good deserves a comfortable life.
THE GOSPEL: When circumstances in my life go wrong, I struggle but I know all my punishment fell on Jesus and that while he may allow this for my training, he will exercise his Fatherly love within my trial.
RELIGION: When I am criticized I am furious or devastated because it is critical that I think of myself as a ‘good person’. Threats to that self-image must be destroyed at all costs.
THE GOSPEL: When I am criticized I struggle, but it is not critical for me to think of myself as a ‘good person.’ My identity is not built on my record or my performance but on God’s love for me in Christ. I can take criticism.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be religious. I am thankful I don’t have to tap dance for God, and that His love, forgiveness and relationship with me is not predicated on my performance.