The Differences between Religion and Gospel

The Differences between Religion and Gospel

What are some differences between Religion and the Gospel? Tim Keller observes in this chart from his book Center Church:

Religion Gospel
“I obey; therefore I’m accepted” “I’m accepted; therefore I obey”
Motivation is based on fear and insecurity Motivation is based on grateful joy
When circumstances in my life go wrong, I am angry at God or myself, since I believe, like Job’s friends, that anyone who is good deserves a comfortable life When circumstances in my life go wrong, I struggle, but I know that while God may allow this for my training, he will exercise his fatherly love within my trial
When I am criticized, I am furious or devastated because it is essential for me to think of myself as a “good person.” Threats to that self-image must be destroyed at all costs When I am criticized, I struggle, but it is not essential for me to think of myself as a “good person.” My identity is not built on my performance but on God’s love for me in Christ.
My prayer life consists largely of petition and only heats up when I am in need. My main purpose in prayer is to control circumstances My prayer life consists of generous stretches of praise and adoration. My main purpose is fellowship with him
My self-view swings between two poles. If and when I am living up to my standards, I feel confident, but then I am prone to be proud and unsympathetic to people who fail. If and when I am not living up to standards, I feel humble but not confident – I feel like a failure. My self-view is not based on a view of myself as a moral achiever. In Christ I am at once sinful and lost, yet accepted. I am so bad he had to die for me, and so loved he was glad to die for me. This leads me to a deeper humility as well as deeper confidence, without either sniveling or swaggering.
My identity and self-worth are based mainly on how hard I work or how moral I am, so I must look down on those I perceive as lazy or immoral. I disdain and feel superior to others. My identity and self-worth are centered on the One who died for his enemies, including me. Only by sheer grace am I what I am, so I cant look down on those who believe or practice something different from me. I have no inner need to win arguments.
Since I look to my pedigree or performance for my spiritual acceptability, my heart manufactures idols – talents, moral record, personal discipline, social status, etc. I absolutely have to have them, so they are my main hope, meaning, happiness, security, and significance, whatever I say I believe about God. I have many good things in my life – family, work, etc. but none of these things are ultimate things to me. I don’t absolutely have to have them, so there is a limit to how much anxiety, bitterness, and despair they can inflict on me when they are threatened and lost.

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[1] Keller, Timothy, Center Church, Zondervan: Grand Rapids, 2012

One Comment

    Leslie Ingram

    Thanks for getting me to understand why underprogram is much better than overprogram. so much to learn so little time. I love you JESUS

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