The ancient Egyptians believed that when a person died, his heart was weighed on a scale by the god of the underworld, Osiris. On one side of the scale was a feather. If the individual’s heart was lighter than the feather, it was considered good and would pass on to eternal blessing in the next life. But if the heart were heavier than the feather, it was considered bad, and would be eaten by a ravenous beast called, appropriately, the Devourer, a creature that was part lion, part crocodile and part hippopotamus. (Try wearing that getup at your next costume party!)
Except for images of the Devourer, religion still functions that way, teaching that the good are in and the bad are out. The goal of man-made religion is personal, moral performance driven by a resolve to keep the rules or follow the program. This is the way I lived for years, thinking that “God loves good boys and girls.” He was like a cosmic Santa, checking his list to see who would get gifts at Christmas. But that is religion, not Christianity .
Conversely, Christianity says that the humble are in and the proud are out, because it is the humble who will cry out for grace, who know that their heart is heavy, corrupt and bad. The humble know that they need a new heart.
Christianity says that the humble are in and the proud are out, because it is the humble who will cry out for grace.
However, most folks (Christian and non-Christian alike), assume that Christianity functions like ancient Egyptian style religion! This means that many professing Christians are not really Christians at all, having bought the lie of a substitute gospel, which poses in our culture as the read deal gospel. But it is not real. It is cubic zirconium. This also means that many nonChristians who think they have rejected Christianity, have not rejected the real thing after all. They have rejected the imitation.
You see, religion says that I am blessed, forgiven and accepted by God based on my obedience and sacrifice. But the Bible teaches that I am blessed, forgiven and accepted not by my obedience and sacrifice, but because of the obedience and sacrifice of someone else who obeys and sacrifices himself in my place. Human religion and Christianity are diametrically opposed. One is based on human works; the other is based on God’s grace, which sets Christianity apart from what we normally think of as religion.
Human religion and Christianity are diametrically opposed. One is based on human works; the other is based on God’s grace.
After all, Buddhism has the Eightfold Path. Hinduism has Karma. Islam has the Five Pillars. Modern, orthodox Judaism emphasizes the keeping of God’s law. But Christianity has a cross, which proclaims that God has come to do what we could not do for ourselves.
So, in a word, Christianity is grace , not religion.
Tomorrow we will continue working through our introduction to the gospel.
See you then for part 2.
Dr. McKay Caston
McKay Caston is a pastor, writer, and speaker whose passion is to see people live all of life in view of the cross.