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Grace vs. Religion


Isn’t it interesting how as Christians we come to know Christ with total faith in what He accomplished on the cross, yet we try to mature ourselves by adding to His work on the cross? Many Christians fall into this trap; I have found myself in this trap’s grip countless times.

Paul said it this way, “Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?” Galatians 3:3

I am so thankful for the Lord’s patience and long-suffering. He indeed is a great Teacher. I want to share with you some truths that the Lord revealed to me concerning this matter.

Cain was Adam and Eve’s first-born son, while Abel was their second-born son. As adults, Cain and his brother Abel offered sacrifices unto God. Abel’s offering was accepted, while Cain’s was rejected. Why? Abel came to the Lord on God’s terms. He offered an innocent lamb as a blood sacrifice. The Bible says that without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins, Hebrews 9:22. Abel’s offering is a picture of Jesus’ sacrifice, the finished work of the cross. Abel submitted and put his trust and hopes in the righteousness of God alone. Abel’s offering was accepted. God was glorified in Abel’s offering.

Cain, the author of all religion, came to God on his own terms. He offered as a sacrifice, the fruit of the ground, which was cursed. He offered from the sweat of his own brow. This is a picture of self-righteousness and self-glorification. Cain’s offering was rejected.

Grace is God’s effort to reach me; I do not have to do anything. All religions are based on approaching God on man’s terms and in man’s righteousness. Grace submits and meets God on His terms. We have nothing to add to His finished work therefore cannot receive any glory. Fallen man’s nature is prideful and wants glory for his own self. This is why Jesus said, “Blessed are the humble, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” Matthew 5:3

What can we add to the cross? Nothing! Yet, since the very beginning, man has traveled this wide path of destruction. Even Christians, saved by grace, are found guilty of trying to add to the cross, myself included. Don’t believe me? Here are a few questions to illustrate my point.

Do you put your trust in your tithe, fearful that if you do not give, God will not provide for you? Or, do you put your trust in Jesus as your Provider and give your tithe cheerfully and confidently because you love Him and want to support His Body? As you give, do you have confidence in Him as Provider? I remember the day I put my trust in Jesus as my Provider. My husband and I had never skipped a tithe in all our years of marriage, but we struggled greatly. I do not know a harder worker than my husband. He is a wonderful provider. One day, I cried out to God in frustration. I told God what we had done and in so many words, told Him that His Word wasn’t working. In His grace, He opened my eyes to the truth I am sharing with you right now. I repented and prayed, “God, I thank You that our finances are covered by the blood of Christ and that You are our Provider. I offer this tithe to You in trust and thanksgiving for the sacrifice of Your Son.” Peace filled my heart followed by a restful faith in God that all would be well. Within a week, my husband was given a raise and over-time was reinstated. Praise the Lord!

Here is another question: Do you fast so you can ‘win’ points with God and get your prayers answered? The purpose of fasting is to put your flesh under subjection that you would be more sensitive to the finished work of the cross. It ultimately draws you closer to God through humility. Psalms 35:13 (HCSB) Yet when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth; I humbled myself with fasting, and my prayer was genuine.

If you skip church on Sunday, do you try to make it up by going on Wednesday night? The gathering of the brethren is for the edification and building up of the Body of Christ, not a ticket to heaven. It is a time for fellowships and joyful worship. It is a privilege, not a chore.

Grace is living from the inside out. Romans 5:5, says that the love of God has been shed abroad in your hearts. Religion perverts your ability to receive true love. Many people talk faith, but they are really saying, I have done this, now God will do that. This is ‘works’. Truthfully, faith feels like rest and peace. The love of God chases away all fear from our hearts. Religion says, I must do something to please God. Faith is not something you have to do to get a response from God. Anything we give to God should be a response of love and thanksgiving for what He has already done.

When I confess scripture, it is not because I am trying to make it come to pass. It is a response to the abundance of truth and life within me. I confess what I believe is true. Grace legally bought our salvation and empowers us to live godly lives. Grace is a revelation of truth that leads to a responsive faith. Grace always has purpose, which is the glory of God. Grace is totally dependant on the giver. Grace is not only unmerited favor; it is an empowerment to trust, believe, and to do, in love.

Here is a checklist to see if you are operating in Grace or Religion:

-Rules from men, puffs up
-Points out your weakness
-Condemnation and hopelessness
-Keeps you from meditating on God’s Word
-Work has to be done for God’s approval or love
-A heart full of fear
-Lack of peace…struggle
-Your glory
-Righteousness and sanctification comes from the outside in

-Governed by love
-Focused on giving God glory
-Centered on Jesus and His finished work
-Directs you to scripture
-Builds the church up
-Righteousness and sanctification comes from the inside out
-Peace and Rest
-Conviction that leads to repentance which leads to freedom