Was Jesus religious?

Imagine if you sat in a church next Sunday and heard the preacher say these words:

Guys.  You have to love people so that you will be accepted by God.

Those of us who are ‘gospel-centered’ would flip out.  That sounds like the ‘religious’ heresy that’s being preached in churches across America.  It sounds like: if you are good enough, love people enough than you can earn your way to God.  I hate that.  Our status as sons of God cannot be bought by anything other than the blood of Christ.

There’s only one problem.  That heretical sentence is basically a direct quote from the Sermon on the Mount.

“I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.”

The same thing happens in the Lord’s Prayer.  Jesus seems to speak in conditional statements like this ALL the time.  What is up with that?

A year ago, I blogged about how dangerous it can be to think that the Gospel means we’re saved no matter what we do.

The Cross bought more for us than a one-time belief.  God sent Jesus to make a New Covenant with us: to set His Spirit inside of us and cause us  to walk in His statutes.   Evidence that we are a part of the New Covenant is that we walk in God’s ways.

Jesus isn’t kidding about the connection between loving your enemies and being sons of God anymore than He was kidding about the connection between the way you forgive others and the way He will forgive you.

love your enemies and so prove yourself to be what you are—a child of God. That is, show you are a child of God by acting the way your Father acts. If you are his, then his character is in you, and you will be inclined to do what he does. – John Piper

What we do will testify to whether or not we are truly redeemed by the blood of the New Covenant.  Children of God will forgive others and love their enemies.


I have wrestled and walked through the ‘big splashy’ sins.  I have nothing to gain from this perspective, and a lot to gain from the perspective that our obedience doesn’t really matter.

Lots of times I get discouraged when I write blogs like this because I ask myself: fabs, if someone looked at your life, would they conclude that you are a child of God?  Maybe not.  That’s scary.  So, I try to remember:

1. I’m not finished.  God’s plan is to bring me to completion at the day of Jesus.  Not today.

2. I see evidence of His Spirit.  I love God today and let me tell you – that’s not natural.  He’s doing that in me.  I don’t always see His Spirit in my success stats on avoiding sin, but I am encouraged by the fact that I repent from sin because that’s evidence of Him in me.

3. Verses like this will change me.  Warnings and conditions in Scripture are meant for Christians.  God will cause us to walk in His statues through verses like this one.  If we skip over them or ‘gospel-ourselves’ out of believing that they are true, we will deny the effect they are designed to have in our lives.

Part of the way that plays out is that when we read scary verses like the ones Jesus says in Matthew, we don’t turn the page and we don’t ignore them and we don’t try to fit them into our existing theology.  We trust that He’s telling the truth.  We trust that this verse doesn’t make all the other verses less true.

We trust His blood to cover our failure and we trust His blood to change us and cause us to love our enemies.

We trust Him alone to save and sanctify.

One thought on “Was Jesus religious?

  1. Yes, yes, yes! For years I’ve punished myself with self-loathing & that cycle of insanity of trying to be perfect even though it’s impossible. I’ve even admitted “it’s impossible to be perfect” but still find myself on the hamster wheel subconsciously. The goal: to be less sinful.

    I’ve just recently seen & confessed (thanks to Galatians!) that my line of thinking is out of whack. I will never be sinless on earth – I sin (action) because I’m a sinner. To twist it around the other way (i.e. I am a sinner because I sin) is to imply that somehow, sinning less could change my identity as a sinner.* WRONG!

    The “big splashy sins” may become less frequent (by His grace!) but my sinful nature will be with me until glory – if it’s not lust or money hunger or bitterness today, it could be pride or shame or jealousy in 50 years. Through sanctification, freedom from slavery to sin, and an increase of affection for Christ, sin will hopefully become less and less appealing but it won’t truly be gone from my flesh before Jesus comes back or He calls me home. All the more reason to constantly rely on mercy and pray “MARANATHA!”

    Thankfully, those three points you listed above have become part of my sermons to myself on a regular basis. And as of recently, the freedom of joy, peace, and trusting Him in my weakness as alluded me. I’m so grateful for that the Holy Spirit is teaching me and tearing down false gospel slavery. I’m brought down low by His patience with me.

    *I know I stand before God with Christ’s righteousness on me, now and forever – that is true. Here, I am talking more about the “identity” of being a sinner in the here and now. My sinful flesh still calls out, even in the freedom of forgiveness and grace.

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