Is your Gospel a religion or a good news? What is the difference? How are you living out the Gospel?
Religion - A Set of Standards to Earn Your Acceptance (salvation by work).
What is a religion? A religion is a set of rules for good behavior that you obey to earn your rights for acceptance and justification. It is salvation by work of the laws (the rules of good conduct). You start with nothing and do to get right. Your worth is defined by what you have done externally. You are very self-conscious and also insecure. Insecurity comes from having to obey the laws. If you think you have obey them, you feel proud. If you fail to obey them, you feel condemn. To make you feel better, you will be looking for others sins and be quick to condemn them to make yourself feel superior and better. This is exactly what the Pharisee did. Luke 18:9 ...trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others.
- 18v11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee,
While he addressed God, it is all about himself. He is telling God how good he is. He is thanking God not about how good God is but how good he is. He proudly stood in the center for all to see and hear his prayers of how good he is doing.
- that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican (tax collector)
He is saying he is better than others , they are sinners, especially the tax collector in the corner. A religious self-righteous person is quick to prejudge and condemn others to show his superiority. A loving person is sensitive to others needs and see if he can help. He/she see their sufferings and needs due to their bondage to sins.
- 18v12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.
While such acts are good, the motivations behind such acts are more important. God sees and judge by the hearts and intentions of man. Jesus said hatred and lustful thoughts towards others are already committing the sins of murder and adultery correspondingly. Religious people do good work not for the good of the work but for the show-off and the earning of good points for oneself.
- 13 And the publican(tax collector), standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.
We see the shame and repentant heart of the Tax collector. He acknowledged his sins (may be he cheated by over-collecting taxes from others and under-declaring on his submission to the higher authority.). He is asking God for forgiveness.
- 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
Jesus proclaimed the forgiveness for the tax-collector. Without Jesus' redemption on the cross, repentance is of no use. The OT sacrifices of animals for men's sins have no effect without Jesus' payment. The cross of Jesus in the NT actually rectifies the sacrifices of the OT.
- Believers are salts --- salts focus on making others taste better. They bring out the beauty and strengths of others rather than itself. Believers make others look better.
- Believers righteousness exceeds that of Pharisees --- How? Believers are internal driven whereas Religiosity is outward driven.
- Turning the other cheek is not about offering to be slapped again but rather expecting to have a kiss of friendship from animosity. (The Middle Eastern Customers of friendship is about touching of cheeks or kissing of cheeks). Believers go the extra mile to turn enemy into friends by the love of Christ. This is the real meaning of being more than conqueror.See The Meaning of "More than Conquerors.
- Don't go over to other extreme to neglect the Laws.
We are all quite aware of the danger of 'legalistic" Christianity. However, many, the seeker friendly and prosperity gospels preachers, preached it as if obeying the Laws of God is bad. On the contrary, " one of the ways you know you’re a Christian is that you love to study the law of God and obey it. Ps 1v2"