21 May Redemption vs. Religion
Galatians 1:13-14 – For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers.
A zealous devotion to any religion based upon human effort instead of God’s grace might get you cuts in the line to hell, but not a ticket to heaven.
Perhaps the most famous and towering religiously devout person in world history was a man named Saul whose name was changed to Paul. In Acts 9, Paul’s story is told. He had just murdered a church leader named Stephen and was on the hunt as a religious terrorist literally terrorizing Christians by going to their homes and even tying up women before dragging them to jail. Then, like a spotlight from heaven, God decided to redeem Paul from his religion. Acts 9:4-6 reports, “falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’And he said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.’”
Paul then spent three days likely in utter shock, blind, and without taking any food or drink. God then gave two visions. God told a man named Ananias to go minister to Paul. God also told Paul that Ananias was coming to see him. Laying hands upon Paul to pray, the Holy Spirit was imparted to Paul, who was made spiritually alive and physically healed. This experience helps explain why Paul speaks so much about God pursuing and saving sinners by grace. This experience also explains why Paul is so passionate in writing to the Galatians because, after meeting Jesus, some false teachers are trying to get the new Christians to become the same kind of religious zealots that Paul had been before he was saved by Jesus. Here’s a simple contrast between redemption and religion:
- Jesus Christ is the focus
- Jesus’ resume of sinless life, death, and resurrection, is our hope
- We must be humble to receive salvation as a gift from God
- The grace of God makes you a new person increasingly more like Jesus
- I am the focus
- My resume of suffering, good works, sacrifice, and obedience, is our hope
- We grow increasingly proud as we check off the list of our accomplishments
- The pride of religion makes you a worse person who becomes increasingly unlike Jesus
How has/is God seeking to redeem you from religious rules, mindsets, and attitudes?