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Thought for the month

 

"I'm not religious..."


Perhaps someone has given you the Centrepoint newsletter, or you have picked it up, and as you look through, you are thinking to yourself that no doubt the contents would be helpful for some people but not for you, because "I'm not religious." It might surprise you to know that as I write this I too would say, "I'm not religious!" - at least in the way we usually use the term. Religion is all about what we need to do - what we need to do to satisfy a divine being - but the Christian faith of the Bible is all about what Jesus Christ has already done.

This is what one of the Bible writers (the apostle Paul) tells the Christians in Ephesus about how God has rescued them:

"For it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no-one can boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV)

We can only know God and be part of God's people by God's own work. It is by grace - an undeserved gift of God - not by anything we can do ourselves or anything in us. God rescues us; we do not and cannot rescue ourselves. All we can do is trust in what God has already done. We can receive God's gift by faith.

Another Bible writer tells us how a good and holy God could accept people like us. He explains it is because of what Jesus Christ did when he died on the Cross:

"He sacrificed for their sins once and for all when he offered himself." (Hebrews 7:27 NIV)

When Jesus died on the cross, it was not only an execution, it was also a sacrifice. For Jesus willingly died in order to deal with all that we have done wrong before God - all the ways in which we have failed him. We do not have to try to satisfy God ourselves because Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has already done all that is necessary. Indeed, we could never satisfy God ourselves by our good or religious works - but wonderfully we don't need to. All we can do is trust in what Jesus has done.

Religion is focused on what we have to do for God. The biblical Christian faith is all about what God has done for us through Jesus Christ.

At the moment we are remembering and celebrating 500 years since the start of the Reformation in Europe. In many ways, at the heart of the Reformation was the issue we have been considering, that of religion versus faith. In the Reformation the Bible's message was rediscovered: we cannot satisfy God through religion, instead we can only believe in Jesus and benefit from what he has already done.

You might say "I'm not religious" - well that's good, neither am I! Instead of religion, the Bible calls on us to trust in Jesus. What about you?


"Unlike the other high priests, [Jesus] does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once and for all when he offered himself."

 (Hebrews 7:27 NIV)