A few weeks back we were privileged to have Chad Grigsby from the Church Planting Team of the Arkansas Southern Baptist Convention speak to our church. The message he brought from God’s Word penetrated our hearts and spoke directly to what the ministry of Vertical Community Church longs to be – Gospel-centered. In his message he referred to this excerpt from the book Center Church by Tim Keller. It is so powerful that I felt the need to make it available on this blog.
This is a side-by-side comparison between what “religion” says, verses what “The Gospel” says. As you read it, ask the Lord to reveal to you which one mostly describes your heart today. Open yourself up for inspection by the Holy Spirit (Psalm 139:23-24).
Religion says The Gospel says
|I obey, therefore I’m accepted.||I’m accepted, therefore I obey.|
|Motivation is based on fear and insecurity.||Motivation is base on grateful joy.|
|I obey God in order to get things from Him.||I obey God to get God – to delight and resemble Him.|
|When circumstances in my life go wrong, I am angry with God or myself, since I believe, like Job’s friends, that anyone who is good deserves a comfortable life.||When circumstances in my life go wrong, I struggle, but I know that while God may allow this for my training, He will exercise his Fatherly love within my trial.|
|When I am criticized, I am furious or devastated because it is essential for me to think of myself as a “good person”. Threats to that self-image must be destroyed at all cost.||When I am criticized, I struggle, but it is not essential for me to think of myself as a “good person”. My identity is not built on my performance but on God’s love for me in Christ.|
|My prayer life consists largely of petition and only heats up when I am in need. My main purpose is to control my circumstances.||My prayer life consists of generous stretches of praise and adoration. My main purpose is fellowship with Him.|
|My self-view swings between to poles. If and when I am living up to my standards, I feel confident, but then I am prone to be proud and unsympathetic to people who fail. If and when I am not living up to standards, I feel humble but not confident – I feel like a failure.||My self-view is not based on a view of myself as a moral achiever. In Christ I am at once sinful and lost, yet accepted. I am so bad he had to die for me. This leads me to deeper humility as well as deeper confidence, without either shriveling or swaggering.|
|My identity and self-worth are based mainly on how hard I work or how moral I am, so I must look down on those I perceive as lazy or immoral. I disdain and feel superior to others.||My identity and self-worth are centered on the one who died for His enemies, including me. Only by sheer grace I am what I am, so I can’t look down on those who believe or practice something different from me. I have no inner need to win arguments.|
|Since I look to my pedigree or performance for my spiritual acceptability, my heart manufactures idols – talents, moral record, personal discipline, social status, etc. I absolutely have to have them, so they are my main hope, meaning, happiness, security, and significance, whatever I say I believe about God.||I have many good things in my life – family, work, etc., but none of these good things are ultimate things to me. I don’t absolutely have to have them, so there’s is a limit to how much anxiety, bitterness, and despair they can inflict on me when they are threatened or lost.|
Lately, VCC has been walking through the exciting events of the book of Acts on Sunday mornings. Very soon we will be talking about the dramatic conversion of Saul’s life of religion to Paul’s life of living out the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In Acts 22, he has the opportunity to share the testimony of the dramatic heart change that took place when he went from being “zealous for God…persecuting the Way…” (Acts 22:3), and according to the Law, “…found blameless…” (Phil. 3:6) to “…counting everything as loss for the sake of Christ.” (Phil. 3:7)
Just like Saul, before he had a relationship with Jesus, we can often place more focus, importance, and priority on what we look like on the outside. Jesus called out people like Saul (and you and I) who was looking through lenses of religion in Matthew 23:27, saying, “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs – beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead peoples bones and all sorts of impurity.”
What a waste of life. To be focused on the exterior of things, oftentimes wearing ourselves out in order to look good and “please God”. When what He desires is a love relationship with us, from which flows our desire to please Him, because of love.
Where is your focus today? Are you looking through the distorted lenses of religion, or are you correctly seeing yourself as loved and accepted by Jesus, and allowing that to guide your heart into a closeness with Him that shapes the way you see everything?
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