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Elaborating on the Gospel-Centered Church: What religion neglects

January 8, 2009

Yesterday’s post discussed religion. One of the central statements in the text was this:

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

I concluded with this statement:

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.

Where does man stand in relation to God? There’s much that could be said here, but I will brief. It’s critical to understand that we’re not separated from God in the way two friends who live across the globe from one another are separated. This is the way that people typically think of separation – If I make the effort, even if we’re very far apart, then we can be reunited.

This is common sense. In almost anything if I work really hard then I can get what I want and need. This is the American dream, and it’s difficult to turn off this way of thinking when it comes to God. Common sense theology runs rampant both in and out of the church. Religion prospers where common sense theology reigns and biblical theology is ignored.

Religion says that if I work hard enough then I can reach God and make Him love me and give me more, but it neglects that no amount of good works leads to righteousness. What’s the popular response when one is asked how they can go to Heaven? Be a good person, of course. But what’s the standard for goodness? How good do you have to be? Better than Hitler? Better than your neighbor who cusses too much? Better than the relative who doesn’t go to church as much as you? Most people can’t answer that question of how good we have to be, but they’re almost always certain that whatever the standard for goodness is, they’ve met it. Jesus very specifically answers the question though. He says to be perfect (Matt. 5:48). That means everyone falls short of the standard.

For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. There is no one who calls on Your name, Who arouses himself to take hold of You; For You have hidden Your face from us And have delivered us into the power of our iniquities. (Is. 64:6-7)

Religion depends on our efforts and thus renders us hopeless. Religion says “I obey, therefore I am accepted.” The problem is that no one really obeys, and no amount of good deeds can fix that problem. No matter how much money you give away, how many times you go to church, how many orphans you feed, how many causes you rally behind, it will never be good enough.

It’s the Gospel alone that offers hope. It’s the Gospel that leads the Christian to say, “I am accepted, therefore I obey.”

Religion is a never-satisfied savage. The Gospel is beautiful, and it will be discussed next.

One Comment leave one →
  1. January 8, 2009 2:13 am

    A man after my own heart. It’s the Gospel! Love the first quote. Love your blog byline too. Mine would read theology, missions and Big 12 football.

    Stay encouraged,
    David Zook
    A Physical for the Christian Soul

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