This is a great comparison between living for a “religion” or living for the Gospel and was taken from Tim Keller’s “Preaching to the Heart” series back on 2006. Let this be a challenge for all of us. When it comes to living our daily lives, where or who do we place our hope and trust in?
Religion: “I obey-therefore I’m accepted.”
Gospel: “I’m accepted-therefore I obey.”
Religion: Motivation is based on fear and insecurity. I obey God in order to get things from God.
Gospel: Motivation is based on grateful joy. I obey God to get God–to delight and resemble Him.
Religion: When circumstances in my life go wrong, I am angry at God or myself, since I believe, like Job’s friends, that anyone who is good deserves a comfortable life.
Gospel: When circumstances in my life go wrong I struggle, but I know all my punishment fell on Jesus and that while He may allow this for my training, He will exercise His Fatherly love within my trial.
Religion: When I am criticized I am furious or devastated because it is critical that I think of myself as a ‘good person.’ Threats to that self-image must be destroyed at all costs.
Gospel: When I am criticized I struggle, but it is not critical for me to think of myself as a ‘good person.’ My identity is not built on my record or my performance but on God’s love for me in Christ. I can take criticism. That’s how I became a Christian.
Religion: My prayer consists largely of petition and it only heats up when I am in a time of need. My main purpose in prayer is control of the environment.
Gospel: My prayer life consists of generous stretches of praise and adoration. My main purpose is fellowship with Him.
Religion: My self-view swings between two 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 failing people. If and when I am not living up to standards, I feel humble but not confident-I feel like a failure.
Gospel: My self-view is not based on a view of myself as a moral achiever. In Christ I am “simul iustus et peccator”—simultaneously sinful and yet accepted in Christ. I am so bad he had to die for me and I am so loved he was glad to die for me. This leads me to deeper and deeper humility and confidence at the same time, neither swaggering nor sniveling.
Religion: My identity and self-worth are based mainly on how hard I work, or how moral I am–and so I must look down on those I perceive as lazy or immoral. I disdain and feel superior to ‘the Other.’
Gospel: My identity and self-worth are centered on the one who died for his enemies and who was excluded from the city for me. I am saved by sheer grace, so I can’t look down on those who believe or practice something different from me. It is only by grace that I am what I am. I have no inner need to win arguments.
Religion: Since I look to my own pedigree or performance for my spiritual acceptability, my heart manufactures idols. It may be my talents, my moral record, my personal discipline, my social status, etc. I have to have them so they serve as my main hope, meaning, happiness, security, and significance, whatever I say I believe about God.
Gospel: I have many good things in my life–family, work, spiritual disciplines, etc. But none of these good things are ultimate things to me. None of them are things I absolutely have to have them, so there is a limit to how much anxiety, bitterness, and despondency they can inflict on me when they are threatened and lost.