Religion: It’s Worse Than You Think

I wish I could say, “I surrender all.”
I wish I could say, “I do all things to the glory of God.”
I wish I could say, “I’ll give everything up for Jesus.”
I wish I could say, “I’ve never broken a promise to God.”
I wish I could say, “I’ve overcome [this sin] and [that sin] in my life.”

I can’t honestly say any of those things. I still say and sing these types of lines in anticipation of the day my life will reflect their reality, but as of today my life falls desperately short.

I am a hypocrite.

As a pastor, people often tell me they don’t go to a church gathering because Christians are hypocrites. At that point I heartily agree, and then I affirm their belief by giving them a glimpse into my life.

I’m a pastor. I sing, “I surrender all,” but I really mean, “I surrender a some.” I valiantly proclaim, “Do all things for the glory of God,” and then I struggle to do a few things solely for the glory of God. This list only gets worse. I stopped making promises to God because I grew tired of breaking them.

And then there’s sin, it’s so deep and intertwined in my life that even the “good things” I do are merged with self-centered self-glorifying motives. My heart resonates with Paul in Romans 7:15, “I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.”

Even now, as I write this, my sinful inclination to appear morally upstanding and religious is squirming on the inside. My religious moralism wants you to think more highly of me. My religious ego wants attention and praise not criticism. That’s what religion does.

Religion creates a system that builds up your external spiritual appearance while leaving you dead and weary within. Religion tricks you into thinking you are good because of what you do rather than what Jesus did. Religion sets up a spiritual ladder for you to climb with good works and external behavior, but the ladder never ends, it never gets to God. Religion says, “do more, earn more, work harder, or else.”

Be done with the burden of moralistic religion, and embrace the free gift of grace. True Christianity calls out to the streets, “Come and live. You’re life has been bought with the blood Jesus, come, repent and believe in the good news of Jesus”

Christianity is not about how good I am. It’s not about how good you are. It’s about how good Jesus is.

Tweet: Christianity is not about how good you are. It’s about how good Jesus is. #grace

Christians may sing, “I surrender all,” but Jesus actually surrendered all on our behalf. Christians may intellectually know that all things should be done for the glory of God. Jesus actually did all things for the glory of God. Are you getting the picture? Jesus gave up everything… Jesus kept his word… Jesus overcame sin.

Jesus did all these things to perfectly satisfy God’s law because he knew we could never satisfy God’s law on our own. Remember, He left heaven, was born in human form, lived a perfect life in the midst of a broken world, and was subjected to punishment and death for something he didn’t even do. In fact, it was something we did. Something I did.

I failed to live up to God’s perfect standard. I am still failing. I will continue to fail.

That’s why I needed Jesus to save me from the penalty of sin. [Past]
That’s why I need to keep saving from the power of sin. [Present]
That’s why I look forward to the day he saves me from the presence of sin in my life. [Future]
And it’s all a gift of grace.

Why did Jesus do this?

He didn’t die on the cross so that we could pretend our life is okay. He died because our life is anything but okay. We are all broken and sinful people in need of complete rescue and restoration. We can all stop pretending now.

He didn’t go to the cross so that we could live morally constricted lives under the burden of religious rules. He to went to the cross to rescue us from the heavy burden of external religion, and to set us free in the ocean of God’s grace where the burden is light and the yoke is easy. We call all rest in him now.

He didn’t pay for our sin and give us his perfect standing before God so that we could go around attacking others with an, “I’m better than you,” attitude. He took our sin and He gave us his perfect standing before God so that our tendency toward self-righteous religion would crumble under the realization we did nothing by our–self. We can stop pointing fingers now.

So How A Person Get Right With God?

Nothing we bring to the table counts toward our forgiveness. Rule keeping doesn’t count. Being more upstanding than your neighbor doesn’t count. Raising good kids doesn’t count. Giving to a church doesn’t count. Abstaining from “bad things” doesn’t count.

We bring nothing to our salvation. Jesus brings everything. Position your life under the waterfall of God’s grace and ask him to save you, to rescue you, to transform you, to adopt you into His family. This is called being born… again! Spiritual birth. We all start life dead in our sin, but God’s mercy that flows from his great love has the power to make anyone alive in Christ.

Your Turn

Do you have a story of grace to share? Have you had a rocky journey in a graceless religion?

3 thoughts on “Religion: It’s Worse Than You Think

  1. But we also have to follow in Jesus’s footsteps. To say it’s not about how good I am as a student in school, it’s about how good the teacher is, will not suffices to pass the exams or graduate. We must endeavour to be as good as, shouldn’t we?
    An eye-opening conversation with father Emmanuel Jungclaussen: http://www.vedabase.com/en/ssr/4

    1. Thanks for your response. It seems that you’re still equating Christianity with other religions. Your metaphor of a student earning good grades by being as good as possible is perfectly aligned with moralistic religion, but contrary to Christian teaching. Christianity teaches that we can never do enough to merit salvation. Our good works are like filthy rags [Isaiah 64:6]. All have gone astray [Isaiah 53:6]. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God [Romans 3:23]. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. [Ephesians 2:8-9]

      The article you linked rests on the premise that we can somehow follow the rules perfectly. I’ve had spiritual conversations with people around the globe, and I have never met a person who, when pressed, can claim absolute perfection/obedience to their set of rules.

      Pastor Tim Keller has a great summary to highlight the differences.

      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.

      I hope this helps clarify what I meant in the original post.

      1. My pleasure. Yes, I understand what you are saying. It doesn’t matter what religious path one adopts, it is simply not a matter of just following rules and regulations and then one is saved. At least we agree on that point.

        I grew up in a Christian home and had to pass Bible as a subject before I could graduate high school. In fact, my father is still a deacon in Church and was a teacher in school. So, believe me when I tell you that I know the Bible in and out, but, I found it was insufficient in understanding God and our relationship with Him. So I ventured towards the East to the ancient, yet timeless Vedic shastras.

        The personality in the article has written many texts you will find on this link and has translated many of these ancient texts from Sanskrit to English, which are more than 5000 years old. Only in relatively, recent times, they’ve been made available to the West.
        http://www.vedabase.com/en

        Śrī Bhagavān (the Supreme Personality of Godhead) and His non-different manifestation, śrī gurudeva, (bona-fide guru) are not under the control of material time. The potency of time (kāla-śakti) in the form of the cycle of material birth and death can have no influence over them. The pastime of Śrī Bhagavān – the transcendental visaya- vigraha (object of worship) – in which He descends from the transcendental world to this material world is termed avirbhāva, or divine appearance, and the pastime in which He abandons this material world to return back to the transcendental abode, Goloka, is termed as tirobhāva.

        Śrī Bhagavān/Sri Krsna spoke the Bhagavad-Gita As It Is 5000 years ago, which you will find on the link above. In there, you will see how He wishes for us jivas (living entities) to serve Him and what pleases Him most. One can argue or speculate to thy kingdom about spiritual life and how to progress, but only the Lord and His eternal associates has gotten it right.

        There are personalities (albeit rare) that are perfectly situated on the transcendental platform. I was fortunate to have met such a great soul, like the one in the article.

        Here the Lord states how to approach spiritual life: http://vedabase.net/bg/4/34/en

        Blessings to you

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