Religion vs. Jesus
“I couldn’t change because dead people can’t change. Only Jesus can bring dead things back to life, and only He could save me.”
936 straight Sundays. Plus 40 in the womb. No sick days. Not even a day off for vacation. Every Sunday morning of my entire life, I sat on an uncomfortable wooden pew near the back of a little Methodist church in a little Southern town. And every year I got a little medal for perfect attendance. Quite the streak.
Attending church wasn’t optional for me; it was simply what my family did on Sundays. Wake up. Wear shirts with buttons. Sunday school. Sing hymns. Listen to the sermon. Stand around talking to people we never saw the rest of the week. Eat lunch as a family. Wait a week. Repeat.
At 18, I began college, and it was a bit of a shock that first semester when my perfect attendance streak ended. It was more of a shock that it only took three weeks to kill.
I tried churches in the area. I went to campus ministries. I occasionally picked up my Bible to read a few Proverbs or Psalms. I half-heartedly prayed vague prayers for help with classes. But whatever was built in those 18 years of church attendance wasn’t enough to sustain authentic devotion in my new environment.
Some people are natural rule followers who can sustain religious posturing for long periods of time out of pure self-will. I lasted less than a month.
Years later, in His grace, God intervened and showed me the core problem—I was dead. “Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins…” (Ephesians 2:1 NLT).
As for me. As for you. As for all of us prior to salvation. Dead. And the main problem with being dead is that dead people can’t do anything about it. Dead people are helpless.
I’d been dead my whole life and just didn’t know it. “For I was born a sinner—yes, from the moment my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5 NLT). There hadn’t been a moment of my 18 years that I hadn’t been dead in my sins, separated from Him. I was hopeless.
At this point of realization, some people attempt to bridge the separation by trying harder, hurling religious efforts and good works at the sky in hopes that God will notice. Religion is a costume—dressing up in an attempt to convince ourselves and others we are okay.
Some people simply ignore that separation, pretending it doesn’t exist, like children ignoring things, hoping they will go away. I did both. “Look at how well I serve in your church, Lord!” (But don’t look at me sleeping with my girlfriend) “Look at all my Bible knowledge, God!” (Please don’t pay attention to how little of it I apply).
I was stuck, and all my church attendance couldn’t save me. My parents’ faith couldn’t save me. I couldn’t change because dead people can’t change. Only Jesus can bring dead things back to life and only He could save me. Jesus Christ died in my place to erase my sins and give me new life.
At the beginning of my senior year of college, I confessed my sins, my lack of ability to save myself and my complete need for a Savior. And I was reborn. I was made right with God through Jesus Christ. I didn’t just change costumes; I became a new creation! The old me was dead, but the new me had abundant, eternal life.
Understanding my salvation in a Biblical context changes everything. I know I’ve been made right with God through Jesus, through no effort of my own. Jesus paid a debt I could never afford to cover.
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