Religion always has something for you to do. Hoops to jump through, or endless rules to follow. All these To-Do Lists are the key to pleasing or appeasing God and getting God to do your bidding! In time religion becomes the game you play to manipulate the God you worship, so you end up with the life you want. This practice becomes self-serving. And, it rarely works! We fallible humans are not much good at keeping rules perfectly.
Religion was the name of the game for thousands of years, then Jesus arrived and introduced a big idea! We call it the New Covenant. A whole new approach to God. Jesus would pay the price (be the price) of mankind’s sin. We would receive a new spirit, the Holy Spirit, that would create a new mind and heart within us and we would become a new creation, a new species of humans with God’s own spirit inside of us.
So, Christianity is not a religion, but a relationship with God that becomes so deep the very spirit of God dwells inside of us, guiding us on a walk of love into eternity. Our humanness that sins are dealt with by Jesus himself. Our role is knowing and believing Jesus!
In the Gospel of Luke, chapter 23:41-43, we watch and hear a thrilling drama unfold in a few sentences. The story; the thief on the cross. “We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve (said, one thief). But this man has done nothing wrong.”
42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
The thief acknowledged Jesus for who he was, the Son of God. The thief stated Jesus had done no wrong. He appears to have a repentant attitude and confesses his own sins. In this attitude of brokenness, the thief asks Jesus to remember him in the Kingdom. The thief has never attended church, never written a tithe check, never cleaned up the kitchen after a church potluck, never visited a shut-in, never help finance summer camp. In fact, he has never jumped through a religious hoop in his lifetime! Oh my!
The grace of God is amazing and powerful. The thief confesses Jesus and his own failure and then asks for Jesus' help. Publicly the thief is stating in front of the crowd his only hope is in Jesus, and Jesus then shows him the love of Father freely given. Jesus promises this confessing sinner a place in Paradise!
Clearly, in a relationship walk into eternity, “who you know” is far more important than what great thing you did! We are saved by grace through faith - faith in Jesus, the Christ! What a big idea!
Kim Wenzel is a local Open Doors USA ministry representative who speaks in churches and groups about the big ideas found in the New Testament. For more information, persons interested may contact Wenzel at firstname.lastname@example.org or 918-919-1490. He pastors Faith Church of Grove on East Highway 10.