When Good Religion Goes Bad (or: Why “Good” Folks Need the Gospel Too)

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Don’t throw away the cross, Supes! For what does it benefit a man to gain the whole (Daily) Planet and yet lose his life?

We Christians may tend to think that there are other “faith systems” out there, other than biblical Christianity, that, while they may miss out on the whole truth, they still contain a lot of good in them, and maybe God will sorta smile and wink at their adherents at the end of the day, because after all, they were just trying to live a good life, and honor God, and what’s so bad about that? Maybe you have friends who are, in general, upstanding and moral people. And maybe you might, sometimes, possibly be tempted with the idea that you don’t really need to tell them about the Gospel–Because after all, you think, They might not know the full truth about Jesus, but they’re such good people! I’m sure they’ll be fine. The Gospel is “good news” for really bad sinners, not good folks like these… right? 

Not according to Jesus. According to Jesus, manmade religion (or “faith systems,” or lifestyles, or worldviews) that purport to show God great honor, while denying the necessity of the cross and resurrection of Jesus–those aren’t some kind of lesser piety. They’re not “Christianity Lite.”

According to Jesus, such systems amount to nothing less than cold, hard, condemnable satanism.
The Devil is fine with us ascribing all kinds of honor to the Lord, as long as we miss the cross, burial and resurrection of Jesus–and our need for the Savior who did all that for us.
“Good” religion goes bad when it substitutes “goodness” for the Gospel. Even Christ-likeness is no substitute for the crucifixion.

The Gospel is the good news, that Jesus came to die for sinners like you and me–so that we could die to our old life (which was really death) and receive His life. Get the Gospel, and you get God’s life. Reject the Gospel, and whatever else you may have–however “good,” you’ll lose your life and miss out on God’s life.

This is serious business–which it would have to be, to make Jesus call one of His top three disciples “Satan.” So if Jesus takes it that seriously, maybe we ought to reconsider how we think about those other “faith systems” (really they should be called works systems, since they deny salvation by grace alone through faith alone). Trying to show God honor, while denying God’s plan (by which He was more incredibly honored than He could have ever been by any scheme moral man could have come up with!) is from Satan.

In the immortal words of Admiral Ackbar, “It’s a trap!”
That’s what’s going on in Mark 8:31-38. It’s what Jesus has saved former moralists like me from, and it’s what we have to remember when we’re communicating the Gospel to our religious, well-intentioned, and moral friends. In so doing, we’re giving them the best “good news” we could give them.

Dear World

Dear World,

What is it about Jesus that makes his followers love Him so much? Followers of Christ today have so much joy and peace, even in the middle of life’s most intensely painful moments. Why is that? How is it possible that Christians are able to stand firm, even when the entire climate of the culture around them is quickly turning against them? There is more to Jesus than an ideology. There is more to Jesus than a legendary example.

What if what’s wrong with all of us really is sin? Not lack of education. Not economic disparity. Not our upbringings, but sin? And what if unending torment in hell is the very real consequence which our sin has earned for us?

Think about that. What if hell is real?

What if Jesus really has saved His followers from all of that? What if he can save you too?

What if Jesus really does make people “born again?” What if He really does give His followers the Holy Spirit–God Himself–as a gift to live inside them?

We Christians can’t change our beliefs to accommodate your changing beliefs, World. But we can still love you. And we can plead with you to be reconciled to God through Jesus.

When the “marriage equality” hangover sets in, and you realize that even that didn’t satisfy you like you thought it would, then we will still be here, still offering you the same Good News that brought us satisfaction and forgiveness–yes, even hypocritical sinners like us. We can’t change with you, but we can love you through this, and we can offer you what we have. And what we have is the truth. What we have is Jesus Christ.

And that is what you need, too.

Just like us.

With love,

Church