In what ways do you try to be on good terms with God? I used to think, “If I go to church, if I’m a good person, if I try really hard, God will be happy with me. If I make a mistake, hopefully my good may outweigh the bad.” For me it was about how I performed, which is what religion is all about. Thankfully I discovered something way different and much better! Today, I would like to share this with you. I’ll start with the normal view of trying to be right with God, and then I’ll share a Different view of forgiveness from God. Let’s start with normal.
Religion is our normal attempt to reach God.
Every world religion has its own set of external, man-made, religious rules of trying to please God. What is religion? It says, “If we behave this way, if we believe this way, if we do these things and not these things, then we can perform our way to God.”
Pick your rules. Yours might be, “I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, and I don’t chew, and I don’t run with girls who do! Therefore, I must be right with God!”
Or it could be, “I pray this way and kneel in this direction,” or “I go to church on this day,” or “I was baptized this way,” or “I don’t see this type of movies,” or “I do these religious behaviors.” And religion is externally focused, it’s if I behave the right way, then I might please God.
The problem with religion is that it always leads to one of two destinations, pride or despair.
I bet you know some prideful, holier than thou religious jerk? They would say, “I’m right, you’re wrong. I do it right, you do it wrong. I have these beliefs and you don’t.”
Unfortunately, I have been this way. While in seminary, learning the bible, the Greek and Hebrew I became prideful. I thought I should only listen to Christian music, avoid rated R movies and look down on others who did live in this way. I was so prideful that when I met Niki and she listened to country music, I didn’t think I should date her. How stupid I was!
Religion, also leads to despair. You think, “I’m not good enough. Other people get it right, but not me! I can’t even make it to church two weeks in a row. I’m not supposed to say a bad word, but every time I get in rush hour traffic in Austin, I let them fly! I tried to pray, I can’t even pray for 30 seconds and my mind wanders. I’m an ADD prayer. I’m obviously not good enough.” Despair.
When I was younger, I lived in despair. I often felt unworthy or ashamed. I lived in guilt from the things I thought and did. I couldn’t seem to do things right or measure up to others or the standards I had set in my own mind.
And that’s what religion does, it makes your proud or it makes you feel in despair. And that is man’s normal approach to God.
I want to share something very Different. It’s not religion, but it is Jesus the Christ.
Christ is God’s Different way to reach us.
The Apostle Paul contrasted religion verses something revolutionary, a relationship with Jesus Christ.
In Philippians 3: 4-6, he offered his own religious resume, and it was spotless. He said:
4 though I could have confidence in my own effort if anyone could. Indeed, if others have reason for confidence in their own efforts, I have even more! 5 I was circumcised when I was eight days old. I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin—a real Hebrew if there ever was one! I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law. 6 I was so zealous that I harshly persecuted the church. And as for righteousness, I obeyed the law without fault. Philippians 3:3-6
“What does all of that mean?” He was saying, ‘I was raised by the best, in the best religious lineage, with the best religious education, mentored by the best; and followed the best religious behavior.’
Translated to our world today, what he was saying is:
“I was born in a seminary presidents home, tutored by nuns. I went to a Christian school, graduated at the top of a Bible school. I only listen to K-love Christian radio. I was baptized by Billy Graham in the Jordan River, with the Pope doing things with his hands nearby.
Paul’s saying,I did it all! You can’t get more religious than what I did. I had it all. The he says something surprising in verse 7:
7 I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done Philippians 3:7
What? All that religion is worthless? And now he’s about to say the most Different thing ever:
8 Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Philippians 3:8a
.. He just switched gears. I’m not talking religion. I’m talking about a relationship with the Son of God.
…For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ. Philippians 3:8b
Now, what I’m about to tell you is going to be shocking. The Greek word translated as rubbish is the word, skubala.
Rubbish is a wuss way to translate skubala, it realy is. It can be translated as “rubbish” or “garbage.” But what it really is, “it’s human or animal waste”. The King James translates it accurately as “dung” but it’s not really dung in the English language. The English equivalent for the word skubala is a bad word or a cuss word. There could be a bumper sticker that says, “Skubala Happens!” All of this outward effort at religion, I call it skubala.
For a lot of people, they say, “I’ve got my religious beliefs. They’re neat, they’re organized!” Basically, what you have is a very organized pile of skubala.
Some would say, “I’ve got more religion than others.” I’m not so sure that’s a good thing, you just have a bigger pile!
Have you met someone that is so proud of their pile they put a little flag in it? It’s little flag in their pile to distinguish it from other piles. For some it’s a Baptist flag, a Pentecostal flag or a Methodist flag. They’re proud of their pile but it’s still a pile!
I know some people who claim to be more creative than others and make their own pile! They pick a little bit of Christianity, a little bit of Buddhism, a little bit of New Age and mix it all together. They say, “I’ve got my own religion!” Great! It’s a pile of combined poop!
Here’s the deal; take your pile, whatever it is, you can put sprinkles on it, you can baptize it, you can bronze it, it’s still a pile! That’s what religion is, it’s our external attempt to please God. And Paul says, it’s a pile of skubala.
Then he goes on to say this, he just calls it what it is:
“I consider all of this skubala, that I may gain Christ.” Philippians 3:8b
Not gain religion, gain Christ… Now, don’t miss this:
I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. Philippians 3:9
Being right with God through faith?! Being right with God through Christ?! What he just said turned the religious world from which he came upside down. They’d say, ‘That’s heresy, you can’t say that, that’s Different!”
You want to know the purpose of the law? The purpose of all the rules is to show you, you don’t measure up. You’re not good enough and you never will be. If you’re ever bored wonder, “Do I measure up?” Just go take a quiz on theTen Commandments and ask yourself; Have I ever put anything ahead of God? Commandment 1, I have. Have I ever told a lie? Yes. Have I ever stolen anything? Yes. What does that make me? A lying, thieving, idolater! Don’t you feel better about yourself?
But thankfully, there is another righteousness, and this is really Different!. Being right with God is about faith in Christ and Him alone. Not religion.
- Religion says it’s about what I do. God says it’s about what Christ did
- Religion said that if I work really hard he might love me; God says that because He loves you, you work really hard because he does love you.
- Religion says it’s about me; God says it’s about Christ.
I believe that and I have not been the same! Good bye despair, I don’t have to measure up. Good bye pride, it’s not about me. If you want to be on good terms with God and receive forgiveness, hope, peace, joy and eternal security. Place your faith in Christ and not in religion. Then you’ll be different!