Religion vs. the Gospel

Josh Wootton

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:15

If you hang around Christians long enough, you might hear a phrase like this, “We don’t have religion, we have the gospel.” This statement (or some iteration of it) is often repeated by the church, but what does it really mean? Why do we insist that Christianity is not just a religion? Pastor Tim Keller put together a chart that sheds light on the differences between religion and the gospel:

Religion: I obey so God will love me.
Gospel: God loves me, so I obey.

Religion: I am motivated by fear and insecurity.
Gospel: I am motivated by gratitude and joy.

Religion: I desire what God can give me.
Gospel: I desire God.

Religion: I get angry at negative circumstances because I deserve a good life.
Gospel: I struggle with negative circumstances but I know God walks with me in Christ through every trial.

Religion: Criticism can be devastating because it threatens my self-image as a good person.
Gospel: Criticism is difficult but my identity is built not on my ability to be good, but on the goodness of Christ.

Religion: I pray mainly to get things from God and to try to control the world around me.
Gospel: I pray mainly to give praise and adoration to God while growing closer to Him in fellowship.

Religion: I tend to swing between arrogant pride in my abilities or insecurity in my failures.
Gospel: I know I am bad enough that Christ had to die for me but I am loved enough that He was glad to do it. This fact gives me both humility and confidence without either getting out of control.

Religion: I find my worth in hard work and good morals, so those who don’t work as hard or are less moral or are not worth as much as me.
Gospel: I find my worth in the work and morality of Christ. I realize I am in as much need of His grace as everyone else.

Let us go forth in the gospel and make our religion work for the good news of Christ!