For this post to make sense you need to understand the definition of religion I am working with. For some people religion may simply mean caring for the needs of others as James puts it, or your personal connection with God. But religion often includes more than that.
When I use the word religion, I am talking about a commitment to systems of beliefs, rules, or rituals, and the institutions that maintain them.
If the idea that Jesus can save you from religion sounds shocking, take a minute to consider the life of Jesus. In the stories of the New Testament, if Jesus is the protagonist, who where the antagonists? The main opponents Jesus faced during His life, and death were the religious leaders of the day. The Jewish people were looking for a Messiah to save them from Roman political powers. But that is not what Jesus primarily delivered. At the end of the day what powers were broken when Jesus died on the cross? What was the significance of the temple curtain being torn in two?
Consider this quote in Bruxy Cavey's book "End of Religion":
"The Jesus described in the Bible never uses the word religion to refer to what he came to establish, nor does he invite people to join a particular institution or organization. When he speaks of "church", he is talking about people who gather in his name, not the structure they meet in or the organization they belong to (see Matthew 18:15-20). And when he talks about connecting with God, he consistently speaks not of religion but of "faith" (Luke 7:50; John 3:14-16). Jesus never commands his followers to embrace detailed creeds or codes of conduct, and he never instructs his followers to participate in exhaustive religious rituals. His life's work was about undoing the knots that bound people to ritual and empty tradition."
If you are still with me, here are some scripture passages to consider.
Galatians 2:15-21 (NET) - The context for the "I have been crucified with Christ" seams to be that the old self that was mastered by the old religious law is now put to death. If we continue to live under the control of religion, "Christ died for nothing!"
"We are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners, 16 yet we know that no one is justified by the works of the law but by the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by the faithfulness of Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified. 17 But if while seeking to be justified in Christ we ourselves have also been found to be sinners, is Christ then one who encourages sin? Absolutely not! 18 But if I build up again those things I once destroyed, I demonstrate that I am one who breaks God’s law. 19 For through the law I died to the law so that I may live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So the life I now live in the body, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not set aside God’s grace, because if righteousness could come through the law, then Christ died for nothing!"Galatians 3:11-14 (NET) - Jesus freed us from the old religious laws
"Now it is clear no one is justified before God by the law, because the righteous one will live by faith. 12 But the law is not based on faith, but the one who does the works of the law will live by them. 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us (because it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”) 14 in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham would come to the Gentiles, so that we could receive the promise of the Spirit by faith.Galatians 3:23 - 29 (NET) - We used to be in bondage to religion. Prisoners under the control of religion. Now we are 'in Christ Jesus' adopted as His sons. Our trust and submission is no longer directed towards religion, but towards the person of Jesus.
23 Now before faith came we were held in custody under the law, being kept as prisoners until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 Thus the law had become our guardian until Christ, so that we could be declared righteous by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian. 26 For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God through faith. 27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female—for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to the promise.
Galatians 4:5 (NET) "to redeem those who were under the law, so that we may be adopted as sons with full rights."
Galatians 5:1 (NET) "For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not be subject again to the yoke of slavery. "
Galatians 6:12-16 (NET) - The context of this passage is speaking about the old religious laws. When Paul says that the "world has been crucified to me" he is speaking about the hold that religion had on him is now dead.
12 Those who want to make a good showing in external matters are trying to force you to be circumcised. They do so only to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13 For those who are circumcised do not obey the law themselves, but they want you to be circumcised so that they can boast about your flesh. 14 But may I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that matters is a new creation! 16 And all who will behave in accordance with this rule, peace and mercy be on them, and on the Israel of God.1 Corinthians 15:50 - 57 - The power of sin is religious laws.
“Now this is what I am saying, brothers and sisters: Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I will tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a moment, in the blinking of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. Now when this perishable puts on the imperishable, and this mortal puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will happen, “Death has been swallowed up in victory. “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!Colossians 2:13-14 (NIV) - canceled the written code with it's regulations
"He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. "
So what has Jesus saved us from? I believe a case can be made that trusting in Jesus saves us from the control of religion. Life under God's rule free's us from bondage to our own selfish ways, as well as the grip of religion and other powers of the world.
"You were bought with a price. Do not become slaves of men." 1 Corinthians 7:23 (NET)
I'd love to hear your thoughts.
- Importance of The Cross
- Two Types of Legalism
- Following Jesus and Following Christianity
- End Of Religion