Religion Obeys God For The Wrong Reasons

[Let me note that 'religion' is biblical if it flows from love for God and faith in Christ (i.e. James 1:27). However it is unbiblical, dangerous, and deadly when it is man's attempt to get to God through morality, good deeds, spirituality, etc.]

1. Jesus Hates Religion Because Religion Obeys God For The Wrong Reason

The problem with religion is not the behavior, but the motivation. It obeys God, but does so for the wrong reasons. Some have said it like this: Religion says, “I obey therefore I am loved.” The Gospel says, “I am loved therefore I obey.” Religion obeys to get God to love you, whereas the Gospel says you obey because He already does.
When we think of religion, we think of rules to obey or commandments to keep. In Exodus 20, you get the Ten Commandments – what we often think of when we think of religion. How does Exodus 20 begin? Most of us assume that it begins, “You shall have no other gods before me.” It doesn’t. That’s not how Exodus 20 and the Ten Commandments begin. It begins, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.“

Which comes first, law or grace? GRACE! Gospel precedes obedience. God doesn’t give the Ten Commandments and then tell the people, “If you obey me, then I will love you. If you keep my commands then I will rescue you.” No. God loves them. He rescues them. He delivers them. He liberates them. He frees them. He saves them. And then, He calls them to respond in obedience.

In religion, you obey to get God. In the Gospel, you obey because God got you. Theologically put, in religion, your sanctification is the basis for your justification. The Gospel says you have it backwards and your justification is the basis for your sanctification.

Religion starts off on the wrong foot. Religion builds a great house with a poor foundation. It is fundamentally flawed from the start and therefore cannot be tweaked or modified or altered or improved. It needs to be discarded altogether and exchanged for an entirely new paradigm, namely Jesus and His Gospel.

Religion Focuses On The Wrong Person

2. Jesus Hates Religion Because Religion Focuses On The Wrong Person

You know who’s at the center of religion? You are. You’re the focus. You’re the star. You’re in center stage and the spotlight is always on you. Religion deceives you into thinking you’re all about God, when in reality, you’re all about you.

When you’re in religion, your relationship with God is based entirely on you; on how many prayers you pray, how you do at reading the Scriptures, how you do in keeping the commands, how you do at going to church, and on and on the list goes. Religion is based on man’s continued work.

The Gospel is altogether different. The Gospel says your relationship with God is based on Jesus’ finished work. On the Cross, Jesus said, “It is finished.” The work of salvation is complete. There’s nothing left to add, nothing left to contribute, nothing left to accomplish. It’s done.

Since religion is based on man’s work it leads to man’s glory. You boast in your performance and your morality and your good deeds. You’re the hero. But the Gospel is based on Jesus’ work and so it leads to God’s glory. Our boasting is in Christ alone. He is the victor. It is His work that is celebrated, extolled, and applauded. He and He alone is the Hero.

Ultimately, religion makes much of you and little of Christ. The Gospel makes much of Christ and little of you.

Religion Seeks The Wrong Goal
3. Jesus Hates Religion Because Religion Seeks The Wrong Goal

God is not the goal of religion, but rather a means to an end. When you’re in religion, you use God to get what you’re really after.

I recently heard someone talk about idolatry and distinguish between “near idols” and “far idols”. Far idols are the things we’re really after, things we consider ultimate. Near idols are the things we consume and worship to get us to our far idol (what we’re really after). So an example might be that our far idol is comfort and the near idol we use to get us there is food. So a person might abuse food and eat in unhealthy ways to get comfort. Or our far idol might be pleasure or acceptance, and the near idol to get us there might be sex.

Here’s the twisted, perverted, disgusting thing about religion. Religion will actually take God and make Him a near idol to get what we’re really after. In Matthew 23, Jesus rails on the Pharisees because they’re using God to get human applause and human approval. Their goal is celebrity status, fame, and human recognition. God is just a means to get them there. It’s not too different for us either. Maybe it’s health or wealth or success or a relationship. But whatever our far idols are, religion uses God to get us there. And here’s the kicker. When life doesn’t work that way, when you don’t get your idol; when you get sickness instead of health or lose your job instead of wealth or failure instead of success or loneliness instead of a relationship, you bail on God because you were never in this for Him anyway. Suffering and sadness always kicks the feet out from under religion and leaves you disappointed and disillusioned.

The Gospel is altogether different. The Gospel says, God is your goal. Jesus is your treasure, your great reward, and your portion forever. The Gospel gives you Jesus. That’s it. And you’re as happy as can be cause He’s exactly what you want!

7 Mile Road Church