I can remember quite clearly a time in my life when I believed no "one religion" could be the truth. I was an atheist and I believed that there were "pieces of the truth" in all faiths; but that there could not be one that was THE ABSOLUTE TRUTH. I must state that my logic was flawed because the very claim I was making that, "There cannot be one religion that is the ABSOLUTE TRUTH" is me claiming an ABSOLUTE TRUTH that my claim says cannot exist. My fierce opposition to the existence of God that I expressed for the first 22 odd years of my life, played a very influential part in my coming to understand the Wonderful Grace of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. So this is what I want to explain today; the difference between "religion" and "the Gospel." Christianity today has taken on the form of a religion, despite the fact that this is the very thing Jesus came to destroy. I hope to clearly explain the only Absolute Truth that I know of in this world. Jesus Christ is Lord of All.
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Here are nine major differences between the Gospel and Religion
1. The mantra of religion is "I obey, therefore I am accepted."
What this means is that in every major religion, there is a code of ethics or a basic foundational set of behaviors or rules that one must ascribe to if they are to "please God" or "be accepted by God." Every religion including Christianity is based upon this principle; that as long as I can do whats rights, and avoid whats wrong, then God will be pleased with me, and I will be rewarded with eternal life, 13 virgins, or whatever the case may be. Now the mantra of the Gospel is the complete opposite of religion in that it says, "I am accepted, therefore I obey."
This is because at the center of the Christian faith is a blood splattered cross; a cross that MY sins have caused. Not others sins, but MY sins. The Gospel says that we are justified by the cross alone and that it is by no merit of our own. There is nothing we can "do" to be accepted; for it is only what Jesus "did" that gives us a right standing before God. That is why it is almost laughable that most evangelicals preach this works based religion that says, "If you don't go to church, or if you don't lead a bible study, or if you stumble and sin, God will turn you away." The Holy Bible from which these "wolves" in sheep's clothing preach states in Ephesians 2:8-9, "For by grace you have been saved a through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast."
2. The motivation behind religion is "fear and insecurity." The motivation behind the Gospel is "grace and mercy". Preachers in the Christian "religion" say things like, "You don't want to go to hell, so you better come to Jesus." This eternal damnation is a travesty and a lie and many of these wolves will be judged for it someday soon. The truth is, that "heaven is not a place for those who are afraid of hell, it is a place for those who love God."
The motivation behind the Gospel is not "hellfire and damnation: but rather "grateful joy." In Phillipians 3:12 the apostle Paul writes, "Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own." I praise God every day, not for what I have done to somehow earn the "free gift of grace" but rather, because of what Jesus Christ already did.
3. In religion, we obey so that we can receive something from God. In the Gospel, we obey so that we can be near to God. In doing so, we find that we are transformed by His love and sheer power. God does not look at the outward action but rather the "heart" behind the action. Jeremiah 17:10 says, “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind". God does this so that if he finds it pure, and its motivation true love, He will cause our sin to lose its power over us. This process then allows us to be conformed into the image of Christ. True Christians don't go to God to get things; they go to God to get God.
4. In religion, when things go wrong, one is forced to blame God or to get angry at his or her own failure. In this religious framework, either, you have messed up so you are forced to get angry at yourself for falling short of Gods expectations, or you are forced to get angry at God because you have done everything your supposed to and God has somehow betrayed you by not giving you what you wanted or what you thought you deserved. Instead, God "allows" hard times, struggles, and painful situations to come into our lives to reveal to us our need for Him, and how He will walk through the darkness with us like a loving Father. Not based on what we have or have not done.
" Romans 5:3-4 says, "More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us."
Without suffering we could not feel God's peace; a kind of peace that, "surpasses all understanding." Remember, any Christian who tells you he/she doesn't struggle is lying to you, themselves, and most importantly, to God..and they need our prayers desperately.
5. In religion, when you are criticized, you either become extremely angry or you enter into a state of self loathing. This criticism causes you to unravel because your self worth in your "religion" is defined by your ability to be a good person, and when someone points out that you are not a good person, your acceptability before God is destroyed and your world then begins to collapse around you. A "religion" is "works based" so if others point out that you somehow, "missed the mark" or have "fallen short" of the glory of God, your whole faith can be uprooted and blown away with the wind. The Good news is that the Gospel says in Romans 3:23-24, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,"
. In the Gospel when your criticized, you still struggle, but your grateful that someone else cares enough to point out what they see might be an issue. And in that criticism, your actually drawn closer to the cross of Christ because it was a "criticism or failure" in some area of your life that brought you to the cross in the first place. This happened by revealing to you your need for a savior. Mark 10:18 says, "And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.
6. In religion, prayer is always about "petition." Religions ask God "for things", and when they do not see the prayer answered, they feel as though they've done something wrong or that God simply doesn't love them. The Bible teaches that prayer is not about receiving something from God, its about God, and building a personal relationship with Him. For the religious man, prayer is about controlling his environment. In the Gospel centered life, prayer is simply filled with long stretches of adoration. For example, the man who is living for the Gospel says, "hallowed be your name" in "whatever this is"; whether the situation is good or bad. The religious man says "fix this, do this, give me this..etc." 1 Peter 3:12 says, "For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
God does answer prayers; but He listens intently to the person whose prayers are made with a pure heart and whose desire is for God to be glorified, not the man whose only desire is a selfish want of something that He knows only God can give to him.
7. In religion, your self view swings wildly from two extremes. Either you are doing everything your supposed to and not struggling at all; or you cant seem to stay on track and you feel defeated that you are unable to please God. The problem with both of these views is that in the first case, if you aren't struggling at all, you are completely unable to sympathize with those who are struggling, and you become increasingly self righteous in your view of God and those around you. In the second, if you are struggling and having that dark time of the soul, you feel like you are worthless to God and those around you and you lose faith in Gods goodness. Now in the Gospel, my faith and my right standing before God is not predicated upon anything that "I can do" but simply on "what Jesus already did" on the cross. Therefore I do not become self righteous when things seem to be going well; and I am not "crushed and defeated" when I am struggling through the dark night of the soul. I simply know and believe in Gods promise to His children that he makes in Romans 8:28, "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose."
True believers understand that because they were bad enough that Jesus had to die for them, but He was willing and glad to do it creates a state of being that causes one to be sympathetic towards others, compassionate, understanding, and filled with grateful joy in the Lord.
8. In religion your self worth is built entirely on what you do, how hard you work, or how good you are; in the Gospel, you understand Ephesians 2: that says, "For by grace you have been saved a through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, e so that no one may boast.
In religion, we see people who lead bible studies, and go to sunday school, or sing in the choir, so that they can simply point out to others how they should be "working harder" or "doing more." This "religion" is one where the religious man "exalts himself" by doing "Christian things" so he can look down on those who do not do the same things. The problem with this mentality is actually the Bible... John 3:30 says speaking of Jesus, "He must increase, but I must decrease.” The true "Christian" always points to Jesus, and humbles himself by "taking the lower seat" so that Christ alone is exalted. The true Christian knows that he cannot judge anyone because to do so would be to negate the very grace he himself was given. I know that,as Galatians 2:20 says, "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
9. In religion, if there was something wicked going on in your family or in your life, you had to ignore it, keep quiet about it, and dress yourself up so that you could pretend that everything is just fine. You would go to church, wear a suit, and pretend.. In the Gospel, none of these things are ultimate so you know that if you are struggling, it is okay for you to speak openly about it, and confess to your brothers and sisters so that God might heal you. Unfortunately, in religion, the environment is one that it is a sign of weakness to be struggling so the pressure is to not "conform into the image of the son" but rather, "conform into the image of those in the church around you" who live in the lie that they never struggle or that they themselves have no sin worthy of confessing. This is a terrible lie that Jesus addressed quite clearly to the religious leaders of his day then he said in Matthew 23:27, "“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness."
To struggle, or to be weakened, is to allow Christ in you to be your strength. Religion says you must live up to a set of requirements that you know you can never truly make good on. The Bible teaches that through Christ and His Gospel, that "it is okay, not to be okay." For if you were made perfect Christ would not have had to die upon the cross.
In religion, nothing is based upon what you can or cannot do, but rather on simply what Jesus did on the cross. I implore you on behalf of God, be reconciled to him. He is faithful to reward those who seek him diligently and with all their hearts and minds. One must not look at the Christian alone if they are to discredit Jesus. This is what I did as an atheist. I saw the hypocrisy of Christians and came to the conclusion that Jesus could not have been God. Now, after getting into the Word and coming to know Christ personally, when I look at they hypocrisy of Christians, and feel bitterness begin to rise up in me for all those who these so called "Christians" are keeping from entering the kingdom, I find myself completely filled with love and adoration for the fact that Jesus died for them too. This makes him my Savior; their savior, and yours too if you invite him into your heart; by confessing your sins, and repenting of them. He is faithful to forgive. This is what Jesus died for; so that you and I might be able to stand before God; holy and blameless. I love you all and God bless.
(this blog is written with content from a sermon by the pastor of the Village Church in Highland Village, TX Matt Chandler. To listen to this sermon entitled 'The Great Gospel" please click on the following link;
Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
2 Corinthians 5:20-21