8.) Religion says if you follow God, he will bless your life. Jesus says if you follow God he will give you life.
Religion promises to prosper your life. Jesus promises to give you life
Religion says if you behave, God will give you prosperity, a new house, and the hot guy or girl across the street. And Americans love to get stuff. Look no further than the two most important days on the Christian calendar. Easter and Christmas. Ironically (not really) these are also the two most materialistic days on the calendar. Jesus is overshadowed by Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny? Why does the God of the universe have to share his birth, death, and resurrection with presents and candy? What the frick? How would you not conclude prosperity is dependent upon behavior?
Jesus came to bring you life, not stuff. And to follow Jesus for any other reason than new life is to belittle the cross. You see, all of humanity was dead before Jesus. No life. No hope. And this is what Jesus came to give. New life. This is the greatest gift you could receive.
Houses, cars, and bank accounts are never totally yours. Once you die, someone else gets them. But new life is a gift that lasts for eternity. I’ll take the latter. Every time.
9.) Religion says come to church and serve. Jesus says go into the world and serve.
Two things circulate over and over in my mind when it comes to the church. The first is Jeremiah 29:7. “Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” The second is this question first posed in a book I read several years ago. “If your church closed its doors today, would the community even know (or care)?”
Religion doesn’t care about either of these. Religion says come to church. Serve in church. Protect your house. Don’t worry about anything outside the walls. And certainly not those bad sinners outside the walls. While I think it’s great to serve in church, this isn’t where the church’s responsibility ends.
In Matthew 16:18, Jesus tells Peter the gates of hell will not prevail against the church. Now, I am just thinking out loud here. But it seems for gates not to prevail, something (or someone) must be in a position to knock them over. This is where God’s people come into the picture. Christians are to go into the darkness and push down the gates of hell wherever they are. This is why the Great Commission tells us to “Go.” There is a direct relationship between the church’s mission of going out and hell’s gates coming down.
This post is not an indictment on Christians. This post is an indictment on religion. Again, Christianity is a religion on paper. But in reality, Christianity and religion are polar opposites. Jesus didn’t go to the cross so we would follow some doctrines and commands.
Jesus didn’t die on a cross so we could escape the evils of the world and hopefully end up in heaven. Jesus died to give us life. Jesus died to put the scandal of grace and love on full display. And once we experience this scandal, our lives will never be the same.
I love you all. To God be the glory forever. Amen!