Christianity… The UN-Religion?

January 25, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

uncolaGlass4When I was a young lad (oh, so many years ago now), 7-Up  had an ad campaign that touted the soft drink as “the UN-cola”. Basically, they wanted to show there was an alternative beverage to Coke, Pepsi and RC (remember RC Cola?) of the day. They called it “refreshing”, “clean” and “new”. In fact, they even created a glass that was desined up-side-down to show that thier drink is completely opposite to what people were used to (check out the pictue).

I found myself thinking about that campaign this morning after the message in church yesterday. We’ve been in a sermon series on Abraham (or Abram)– and a couple of weeks ago we looked at Genesis 16 and the story of Abram, Sarai, and her maidservant Hagar (Abram fathered his first son, Ismael, with Hagar). Yesterday, we followed up our look at that story in Genesis 16 by looking at Paul’s sermon on the same passage. He preaches it in chapter 4 of his letter to the Galatians, and, basically, says that Hagar and Sarai represent two different covenants. Hagar represents religion— self-effort and reliance– which leads to slavery. Sarai represnts relationship— trusting in God and his promises– which leades to freedom.

Here in Galatians 4 and in many other places, Paul constantly presses the point that Christianity is the UN-religion. Obviously this issue hits close to home for Paul because before he became a follower of Jesus he was a big-time religious kingpin. Here’s how he describes himself before Jesus transformed him:

“If anyone else thinks he has reason to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eight day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee, as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless. (Phil. 3:4-6)

Basically Paul is saying, “I made it to the top of the religious ladder. I did everything I was told to do.”

And here is how he evaluates those efforts just two verses later in Philippians 3:8:

“I consider them rubbish…”

To fully understand Paul’s utter distain of his religious efforts it is helpful to see this comment from a Bible commentary on the word “rubbish”:

“Dung” (KJV) or “rubbish” (NIV, NASB, NRSV) usually meant either excrement or food to be thrown away, which dogs might enjoy (Phil. 3:2). (Ancient speakers valued skill in producing insolent insults.)

Wow. Tell us what you really think Paul…

I wanted to include a couple of things we talked about in yesterday’s message that highlight the idea that Christianity is the UN-religion.

The first comes from a book and curriculum put together by Willow Creek Community Church called Contagious Christian. It is an illustration that is focused on demonstrating the difference between Christianity and Religion and it is called “DO v. DONE”.

Do vs. Done

The difference between religion and Christianity is:

Religion is spelled “D-O”. It consists of trying to do enough good things to somehow please God, earn his forgiveness , and gain entrance into heaven. This self-effort plan can take on many forms, from trying to be a good, moral person, to becoming an active participant in an organized religion— Christian or otherwise.

The problem is, we can never know when we have done enough. Even worse, the Bible makes it clear that we can never do enough. In Romans 3:23 it says: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Simply put, the “D-O” plan cannot bring us peace with God, or even peace with ourselves.

Christianity, however, is spelled “D-O-N-E.” In other words, that which we could never do for ourselves, Jesus has already done for us. He lived the perfect life we could never live, and He died on the cross to pay for each of our wrongdoings. And now he freely offers us His gift of forgiveness and leadership for our lives.

But it’s not enough just to know this, we have to humbly receive what He has done for us. And we do that by asking for His forgiveness and leadership in our lives.

The second is from Tim Keller’s book The Prodigal God (which I highly recommend). I found this very interesting…

It is hard for us to realize this today, but when Christianity first arose in the world it was not called a religion. It was the non-religion. Imagine the neighbors of early Christians asking them about their faith. “Where’s your temple?” they’d ask. The Christians would reply that they didn’t have a temple. “But how could that be? Where do your priests labor?” The Christians would have replied that they didn’t have priests. “But… but,” the neighbors would have sputtered, “where are the sacrifices made to please your gods?” The Christians would have responded that they did not make sacrifices any more. Jesus himself was the temple to end all temples, the priest to end all priets, and the sacrifice to end all sacrifices. (pgs. 13-14)

The implications that Christianity is the UN-religion are many and far reaching– perhaps that’s why Paul talked about it so much.

What does it mean for you? What does it mean for followers of Christ today? What does it mean for the church?

About DougHaupt


One Response to “Christianity… The UN-Religion?”
  1. Mark says:

    I think Paul was a very brave man as you pointed out – a religious and very determined man who was touched by the Holy Spirit , taught by God with further Revelation and used by God to help the early church – and US !!!!

    Paul who said if a man does not work he does not eat, who would work with his own hands to feed himself and others on his own team so as not to burden any churches that he was helping to establish….wow. What a guy.

    and the same man who said that “Love” was the greatest and modeled it with his lifestyle and words…..
    For me it means I lay down and or prepare to lay down my life for others…..
    I believe I would have to be walking with God to do that – that would be the key motivation, power and paradigm.

    Jesus, thank you for putting others in our lives to be a church, group, body, team, family !

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