Gospel vs. Religion

I greatly appreciate Tim Keller’s comparison of the gospel vs. religion.  Available here are the bones of the morning session with slight modification by CHARITY RATTRAY  (all credit to Tim Keller’s Galatians study).


Religion: “I obey; therefore, I’m accepted.”

Gospel: “I’m accepted; therefore, I obey.”


Religion: Motivation is based on fear and insecurity.

Gospel: Motivation is based on grateful joy and responsive love towards God.


Religion: I obey God in order to get things from God.

Gospel: I obey God to get God – to delight in and resemble him.


Religion: When circumstances in my life go wrong, I am angry at God or myself, since I believe that anyone who is really following God things work out for.

Gospel: When circumstances in my life go wrong, I struggle, but I know my punishment fell on Jesus therefore the current circumstances have nothing to do with acceptance or rejection and that while God may allow this for my training, he will exercise his Fatherly love within my trial.  Trust is foundational to our trials.


Religion: When I am criticized, I am furious or devastated because it is critical that I think of myself as a “good person.” Threats to self-image must be destroyed at all costs.

Gospel: When I am criticized, I struggle, but it is not essential for me to think of myself as a “good person.” My identity is not built on my record or my performance but on God’s love for me in Christ.


Religion: My prayer life consists largely of petition, and it only heats up when I am in a time of need. My main purpose in prayer is control of the environment.

Gospel: My prayer life consists of generous stretches of praise and adoration. My main purpose is fellowship with God.


Religion: My self-view swings things between to poles. If and when I am living up to my standards, I feel confident, but then I am prone to be proud and unsympathetic to failing people. If and when I am not living up to standards, I feel humble but not confident – I feel like a failure.

Gospel: My self-view is not based on my moral achievement. In Christ I am simultaneously sinful and lost, yet accepted in Christ. I am so bad that he had to die for me, and I am so loved that he was glad to die for me. This leads me to deep humility and confidence at the same time.


Religion: My identity and self-worth are based mainly on how hard I work, or how moral I am – and so I must look down on those I perceive as lazy or immoral.

Gospel: My identity and self worth are centered on the one who died for me. I am saved by sheer grace and I can’t look down on those who believe or practices something different from me. Only by grace am I what I am.

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