grace

RELIGION AND THE GOSPEL




Ephesians 2:7 ‘That in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of his grace, in his kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.’’

The revealing of Christ to us, in us and us in him, is a distinguishing token of God’s grace and a firm foundation on which we are built and established unto God as sons. This forms the entire context and inexhaustible content of the gospel and when taken out this context, there is no gospel. The gospel does not present us with a moral code and tell us ‘Live up to this, do this and do that, play your role and God will do same’’, nor does it set out a system of prefabricated religious doctrines which says ‘Think like this, say this or that’’ before you are admitted into the company of God. No! The gospel speaks exhaustively of how we are unconditionally loved and accepted by God. And that there’s no demand placed on us, no box to fit in but an open space to freely bask in his boundless love for us. 

Our opening text declares… ‘That he might show…’’, the word ‘show’ is from the Greek word meaning: to exhibit, to put on display like a work of art, to demonstrate. It’s God’s idea to put on display the riches of his grace, his kindness to us in Christ. That’s what the gospel is all about: a showcase of God’s grace in his kindness to humanity in Christ, not the showcase of humanity's faithfulness or ability to God. It is a relationship strictly initiated by God. It is not religion: one which man initiates!

‘Religion is man seeking God in the heat of the sun. The gospel is God seeking man in the cool of the day.’ Simeon Edigbe

Religion is a game of hide and seek in which God is sought and he was found, one in which man is primarily the wooer and God the wooed. Religion is a cage. It is about regulations not relationship. It places a demand on your ability towards God. It says: ‘Do this and God will love you, do that and earn his favour.’’ ‘If you want to see his hand upon your life sow a seed, seek his face in fasting and he’ll show up or rather might just show up’. Religion paints a picture of God that is not informed by Christ: a God that is needy, an Oliver Twist who is never satisfied no matter what you do as He’s always asking for more. Religion is a multi-million dollars hell insurance company with the message of ‘accept Jesus and avoid being burnt in hell.’ 

When Christ came in the flesh, he came into a world steeped in religion. He came into a condition brought about by centuries of teaching of the law, and the rites and sacrifice of the temple worship; into this had been woven the traditions of the elders, an accumulation over the centuries. It had come to include also even the washing of pots and cups together with ceremonies of washing of hands before eating and a multitude of other practices imposed upon the people by their leaders (Pharisees, Sadducees) as we have them today. He came to a world in which the people’s perception of God was completely distorted or flawed. This system of religion was embedded in the lives of the people, and had been for long centuries. It had become a part of their lives even as it is in our world today. 

But Jesus did not come to establish religion; he came to establish a relationship with the Father. Men do not need religion they need a revelation of the Father’s love: relationship. Men do not need to know doctrine, they need to know Him. They do not need to perform ritual; they simply need to experience Christ. He came to change men’s perception of God not God’s perception of men. He came to reveal the heart of God to humanity. That is the gospel and anything outside this is religion.

Religion inspires intimacy with fear, guilt and condemnation. But the gospel seeks intimacy with love and acceptance. Religion screams at you ‘love God! Love God with all your heart. The gospel whispers in your ear God loves you, He loves you unconditionally. Religion prepares you to evacuate or escape earth to heaven. The gospel empowers you to evade earth with heaven. Religion calls your sins to remembrance. The gospel calls your righteousness to remembrance and completely identifies you with Christ. Religion says God is pleased with you if you do this and that. The gospel says God is pleased with you irrespective of what you do or didn’t do. Religion says if you want to see the hand of God in your life you must give. The gospel says the hand of God has been moved in Christ and that he has given you all things freely.

Friends, do not let anyone place a demand on your ability to God: telling you there’s something you must do to be acceptable unto God. You are God’s beloved child accepted and unconditionally love in Christ.

Grace to you.

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