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Sunday, 19 August 2018

Gospel or Religion - a simple Test

The Default Religious Setting of the Human Heart
Before you sell your old mobile phone you normally reset the device to its "default" or "factory" settings. These are the settings of the phone when it came from the factory, where it was "born."

The default religious or spiritual settings of every human heart are the same - and we call it religion. Religion says in brief, "if you do this, God will do that." The fallen self-righteous human heart loves this kind of arrangement because it means that I am contributing to my "salvation" in some way.

The Gospel is radically different!
The Gospel is radically different from religion, because it says that we can contribute, not something, not a little, we can contribute zero to our salvation. If God is to save us it must be from first to last his doing, a gift from him with no strings attached - a gift, in other words, of Grace.

The Gospel teaches that so deep and wide is our sin and our sinful nature that we can do nothing to please God. And then it teaches that so deep and wide is the love of God for people like us that God, through the life and death and Resurrection of his Son has done everything for our salvation: all we must do is to receive the gift freely! And even that receiving (which is through simple believing) comes to us as a gift from God!

Out of this radical grace, we find ourselves responding in love and obedience.

True Christians all too easily revert to default!
If only it was that simple! The problem is that we so easily revert back to default mode. True believers, Gospel believers, easily and quickly revert back to salvation by works. So here is a test to see where we are today.

In what logical order would we place the following three items, WORKS, SALVATION and FAITH?

Religion -even evangelical religion - does this:
  1. FAITH in Christ first (of course!)
  2. WORKS
  3. SALVATION
Very subtle error. Yes we need faith in Christ, but then don't we have to do works after that in order to be saved?

True Gospel is this:
  1. FAITH in Christ
  2. SALVATION
  3. WORKS
True Gospel says that salvation full and free is the first consequence of faith in Christ, full stop, no ifs, no buts, no additions, no subtractions: "The vilest offender who truly believes, that moment from Jesus a pardon receives." Works are then a certain (and inevitable) outworking of salvation, but they in no way contribute or affect salvation.

This true Gospel is liberating in every way! My weaknesses and failures don't "ruin" my salvation, for safe in Christ there is now no condemnation.  I am a son or daughter no matter what. I do not need to look for identity or worth anywhere else but in the Gospel. Here I am unconditionally loved.

And this overwhelming mercy and love causes my heart and will to move out with love and obedience to Christ. It leads me to works, naturally.

We need to hear the Gospel again and again, for we all too easily drift from grace to religion.