The Gospel vs Religion

“And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get.” (Matthew 6:16 NLT)

In our July 10th worship, Dr. Bryan Loritts shared a message based on Mark 2:18-22. The specific topic of these verses is fasting, but Dr. Loritts digs into what the real issues are. I invite you to click on the link and watch the entire message, but in my post today I’d just like to highlight a few of his points. 

Much of his message contrasted the differences between the Gospel of Jesus and religion.

Because there is so little emphasis placed on fasting, some may not even realize what it means. Dr. Loritts said: “Fasting is physically abstaining from food to experience the supremacy of the Giver over the gift. Be patient with yourself.” His intent here was to encourage someone who seldom if ever fasts to begin with a single meal or perhaps one day without eating, not start with a 40 day fast.

Dr. Loritts also said: “A very good thing becomes a very bad thing when it becomes an ultimate thing. The Gospel is not about Our Performance, But Our Pleasure.” This would be easy to misunderstand. He coupled this quote with Psalm 16:11 which says: “You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of Your presence and the pleasures of living with You forever.”

“An ultimate thing,” as used in the above quote, refers to a personal conviction that seeks to become an ultimatum for everyone. For example, prayer is a wonderful and essential part of anyone’s walk with the Lord, yet, let’s say for sake of illustration, that I always pray with my head bowed and my eyes closed. But my conviction is so strong that I begin to teach and demand that that’s the ONLY way God will hear our prayers. That’s when a very good thing becomes an ultimatum, thus dividing people, not uniting them.

And just to be sure no one misunderstands, that’s NOT how I always pray (with my eyes closed and my head bowed) and it’s not what I believe about prayer (that that’s the ONLY way God will hear us).

Then, lastly, let me make one comment regarding “The Gospel is not about Our Performance, But Our Pleasure.” Our performance, or, in other words, our efforts to be good enough for God to accept us, is the exact opposite of what God desires. Jesus has done everything that needs to be done on the Cross. He purchased our salvation by His blood. There’s nothing more that we can do to add to what He’s already done.

That’s what Dr. Loritts was addressing in the diagram when he wrote: “religion works for approval, the Gospel works from approval.” As Christ followers we do good works that the Lord has outlined in advance for us to do, but we do them because we’re saved, not in an effort to be saved.

And the “pleasure” of which Dr. Loritts speaks is the pleasure derived from our closeness to Christ, not from the sensual pleasures of the world. Although, there are numerous things I do in the course of my day – reading the Bible, praying, worshipping, serving, loving my wife and family, and on and on – all of these things give me great pleasure.

My walk with Jesus is not duty-bound, it’s love-bound. I do what I do because God loves me, and I love Him, not in an effort to win or deserve His love. There’s nothing any of us could ever do that would cause God to love us more and there’s nothing we could ever do so wrong to cause Him to love us less. Love is never at risk when we’re walking with Jesus.

Blessings, Ed 😊

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