new life fellowship

serving jesus christ the king

Religion vs Gospel

Ireland is full of religion. North and South are bunged to the gills with it—so bunged with it that, like a post-Christmas-dinner nausea, we often don’t want to hear or see another bit of religion. We want to move on from the old ways. Or perhaps, in these days of financial uncertainty, people find themselves looking back to the old ways once more, seeking to find security and hope.

Whatever the case, we need to recognise a difference between religion and biblical Christianity—or to use another phrase ‘the Gospel’. The two are radically different, as different as credit and debt, or as different as hire-purchase and gift.

Let me illustrate it with a series of contrasts:

• Religion is based on my performance
• Gospel is based on Jesus’ performance—his life, death and resurrection.

o Religion says if I obey, God will love me.
o Gospel says because God loves me, so I will obey.

• Religion sees people as either good or bad depending on how they live.
• Gospel sees all people as sinners who need Jesus.

o Religion depends largely on the family you are born into.
o Gospel depends on a new birth into God’s family.

• Religion has no hope for the really wicked.
• Gospel says you can’t be too wicked for God to forgive.

o Religion claims that my behaviour makes me acceptable to God.
o Gospel claims that God’s acceptance makes me behave better.

• Religion is about getting something from God.
• Gospel is about getting God—it’s a relationship.

o Religion sees Heaven as something to be earned.
o Gospel sees Heaven as a gift to be accepted.

• Religion sees hardships as punishment for sin.
• Gospel sees hardship as a means to grow in godliness.

o Religion ends in pride or despair.
o Gospel ends in humble joy.

• Religion brings an uncertainty about our standing before God.
• Gospel brings certainty based upon Jesus’ work.

Over the next few Sunday mornings we’re going to be looking at St. Paul’s letter to the Romans—a group of Christians who lived in Rome. Paul, himself once a deeply religious man but now trusting in Jesus, illustrates and explains the difference between Christianity and religion.

In doing so, he reaches deep into the hearts and lives of people, revealing to us the truth that we know—namely, that we are much worse than we like to admit. His purpose in reaching deep and casting aside the layers is to bring a profound and lasting healing, forgiveness, peace and reconciliation with God.

Our studies of the first three chapters of Romans will take us right to the heart of the problem with us as individuals, but also deep into the heart of God, where the solution is found. Why not come along at 10.15 on Sunday for a look at this ancient but ever-relevant letter, which has been changing lives for 2000 years? Or feel free to listen on-line at once the sermons are uploaded.