Welcome back. To understand what this post is about, it might benefit you to read Bad Words #1. It lays the foundation for the Bad Words series. This post is the second in that series.
In my life, I am meeting new people on a regular basis. There are over 40 couples for whom I have had the privilege of performing weddings this year. I am a waiter so I daily am meeting new people. Even at church, there can be new people weekly. Getting to know people is usually a good experience for me. But when people find out that I am a pastor, the tone can quickly change.
Here is what I mean. This statement gets directed at me: “You are a pastor so you must be really religious.” That is a nice thing to say but it is totally opposite of what I believe and understand, but at least it opens the door!
And so Bad Words #2 is…Religion.
Bad Words are defined as everyday or common words that can have a bad or negative meaning attached to them.
Here is how I respond, “No. I am not religious. In fact, I don’t even try to be religious.” This usually shocks people.
In general, people equate being a Christian with someone who is religious. If you go to church/mass/service once a week, you are set. When the offering plate comes by, it is good to drop a $5 or $10 in once in a while. Giving my time in a soup kitchen? Good deeds…Great!
For this author, religion is defined as man’s attempts to get back to God.
And that is why it is a bad word. The bible is very clear on this point. My salvation (becoming a Christian, being born again, etc.) is not based on what I do, but rather what God has already done.
Here is what the scripture says about this: “For it is by grace 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
My favorite analogy involves the Grand Canyon. I’ve been there and it is really breathtaking. God really created an awesome spectacle. Now imagine that God is on one side and you are on the other side. You really want to get back to Him. He would also really enjoy that. So you decide that you will build a bridge. For every good work you do, you get one toothpick. There is no limit to how many toothpicks you can earn. These toothpicks are the only materials you can use. Everyone has their own “bridges” that they are working on. Do you see the problem? One person would have to live many, many lifetimes to be able to earn enough toothpicks to build a bridge. Actually, I don’t think that it would be possible. But that is the point!
We can’t earn our way back to God – that’s religion! (Bad Word!)
But there is hope and it has a name: Relationship. Relationship is God’s provision for us to get back to Him.
Back to the analogy. God sees your heart. He understands that you truly desire to get back to Him. So He makes a way. Jesus is sent from heaven to earth, lives His life, and is then crucified on a cross. God, in his power, raises Jesus from the dead! That cross now becomes a bridge. God places it over the gap that separates you from Him. So now you have a decision. You must let go of your own life and embrace the cross. God loves you so much that He gave His own son to die for our sins. We can’t earn that – it is a gift. What will you choose today?
Choose God today and you will find life. By the way, toothpicks are only good for picking food out of your teeth anyway. =-)
 That ‘gap’ exists because of sin. Sin is what separates us from God.
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