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Elaborating on the Gospel-Centered Church: Religion, the never-satisfied savage

January 6, 2009

Today is the second day of my J-term class, the Gospel-Centered Church. Yesterday I wrote this brief quote:

“We as Christians do not obey so that we are accepted by God, but rather obey because we’ve been accepted.”

I was asked in a comment in that post to elaborate on this, and I plan on doing so throughout the week because it has the wheels turning in my head as well, and writing is what will best help me digest this truth. I want to give thought to religion and its natural opposition to the Gospel, with this first post discussing religion.

The quote exposes the problem with religion, which has sadly found its home in many churches. Here is the same quote with some elaboration:

Religion says, “I obey, therefore I am accepted.” The Gospel says, “I am accepted, therefore I obey” (from class notes).

Religion says that God accepts me because I obey. Religion communicates the notion that if I do certain actions then God will approve of me. It implies tradition, action, ritual. It’s what my parents did. It’s what my race does. It’s what people in my neighborhood do. It’s what people who work in my profession do. It’s what I go and do a couple hours a week in a building.

In the church this is seen when a pastor makes it seem like if you tithe, read your Bible, come to church, and pray then you’re a good Christian. This is a dangerous works-based righteousness and promotes legalism. This mentality naturally points to one’s own efforts (“I spent an hour reading my Bible and gave 10% of my income to God!”) and a sense of self-righteousness. Spiritual arrogance is, of course, the consequence. If it’s my hard work that makes me accepted by God then the only consequence is to look at everyone who doesn’t do all that I do and feel superior (undoubtedly, I get to be the standard by which righteousness is measured). I look at the person who does less religious actions than I’ve done and feel superior.

Religion tells me to lift myself up by my bootstraps. It tells me to work as hard as I can to reach up to God and he’ll (hopefully) say I’ve done enough.

Why is the fruit of religion always so bitter? Why are the ultra-religious so frequently unable to live up to the standard that they put on others? Why does religion never seem to satisfy?

The central problem with religion is that it neglects who God is and where we stand in relation to Him. More on this to come in the next post.

Religion is a never-satisfied savage. The Gospel is beautiful.

One Comment leave one →
  1. matt thomas permalink
    January 6, 2009 9:42 pm

    home run dude…right on

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