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  • Writer's pictureKent Chevalier

False Religion

I was on the sidelines at practice a while back having a conversation with a player in between periods when he said to me, “I’m not really into religion. My parents are super religious, but it’s just not my thing.” I responded, “I’m not into religion either.” He tilted his head, furrowed his brow, and shot me this perplexed look. He did not understand how a team chaplain was not a fan of religion.


In my line of work as a Chaplain in the National Football League, I try to explain that Christianity was never intended to be a RELIGION but a missional movement of reconciling people back into a right RELATIONSHIP with God through the person of Jesus Christ. I try my best to convey that Jesus was not the founder of some new religion that popped up 2,000+ years ago. However, Jesus is the centerpiece of God’s redemption plan for all mankind.


Christianity is considered a world religion, but it is not a religion. Christianity is a part of a bigger storyline of God’s desire to redeem and be reconciled to humanity.


Religion vs Christianity

What is religion? To simplify this for my brain, I’ll put it this way. Any world religion teaches that you and I must do something to reach God or be accepted by God. We purify ourselves. We pray in a certain way. We don’t eat certain foods. We achieve enlightenment. We make sure our good deeds outweigh our bad. Do these things and more, and we’ll be good with God.


On the other hand, Christianity alone teaches that Jesus has already done everything for you and me to reach God and be accepted by God. The reality is that there is nothing we can do that will make God love us more. There is nothing we can do that will make God love us less. God loves us. Period. And He wants a relationship with us. So much so, that he sent Jesus, His one and only son, to bridge the eternal sin-filled chasm between us and God. When Jesus cried out, “It is finished!” on the cross (recorded in John 19:30), he accomplished what we never could to restore us into a right relationship with God once again.


Religion says we must do. Jesus said it’s already done. Of course, there’s way more to it, but this is the starting point and a massive difference between all world religions and God’s movement, now called Christianity.


HIStory

To understand this, we have to know how we fit into God’s story. HIStory is recorded and preserved in the Bible. The sacred pages of Scripture reveal to us, from the beginning, why Jesus had to do what he did on that cross. If you don’t know this history, then Christianity will simply remain nothing more than a religion.


Everything Jesus did finds its way back to mankind’s beginning.


Genesis 1:27 states, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” God looked upon Adam and Eve and crowned them as father and mother of all mankind and encouraged them to steward all He had made and told them to multiply. God gave them complete dominion over all creation! You get the sense that God was very pleased with all of His creation(s). Genesis 1:31 says, “God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.”


Then, just like any loving father would, God put a boundary in place to protect His kids. He said (and I’m paraphrasing here), this is all yours to steward. Work the land. Name the animals. Get after it and find joy in it. But the Lord God also commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:16-17)


Adam and Eve had complete freedom within a loving and protective boundary, and then the enemy of their souls (and ours) slid up and whispered the world’s first recorded false version of the truth.

“Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened... (Genesis 3:1-7)

The perversion of perfection. The eternal chasm of divine connection between God and humanity. The ruining of relational trust between God and all mankind. The dawn of death. Choosing selfish desire over selfless dependence on a loving Creator. Adam and Eve severed humanity’s intimacy with God, and by doing so, sin and death entered the entire world.


This World is Broken…

I don’t have to convince you that, evil, sin, death, and brokenness exist in this world. Just check your news feed. Look back at the last month in the United States alone. The sin of racism was on full display with the mass shooting in a Buffalo, NY supermarket. Another awful tragedy took 5 lives at a Tulsa hospital. Evil reared its ugly head with a Texas school massacre. Precious children lost their lives for no other reason than the brokenness, evil, and sinfulness of humanity.


I’ve heard so many times in the last few years that something has to change. Something’s got to give. Something has to break. We fully recognize that something is broken in this world, but we need to know something else is broken.


God’s heart is broken over these kinds of awful tragedies ever since sin entered this world. His heart was broken over Adam and Eve’s decision which is still impacting the nature of mankind today. Ever since the day they chose to sever the relationship with God, God has desired to be back in a right relationship with every human being, and every human being has been in search of that soul-satisfying intimacy with God. But there is a massive problem!

Even if we wanted to make our way back to God, we can’t. The chasm is uncrossable. The Apostle Paul put it this way in Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” The word “all” in the original language of the Bible means all. Everyone. You and me.


Completely inclusive. All of humanity.


This means that you and I cannot do anything to get back into a right relationship with God. We cannot earn our way back to God with good deeds. We can’t pay money to secure a spot on God’s side. We cannot attend enough chapels or church services to get in good with God. We aren’t good enough, smart enough, or successful enough to bridge that eternal separation between us and God. We are dead in our sinfulness.


Enter Jesus.

John records an intimate conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus about religion (Nicodemus was a religious leader, a Pharisee). In that little chat, Jesus revealed a massive claim about who he was, recorded in John 3.

Jesus said, "No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him."

John goes on to write maybe the most well-known verse in the world,

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

God recognized the eternal chasm. Humanity’s connection to God and eternal life with Him has been severed by sin. God loved each of us too much to let that continue, so He made a way where there seemed to be no way. He sent Jesus. He sent His one and only son to die the death we all deserve in exchange for his eternal life.

1 Peter 3:18 says, “Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but he was raised to life in the Spirit.”
Romans 5:6-8 says, “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die — but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Here’s the point I’m trying to make…


Christianity is not a religion. Christianity is a rescue mission. Christianity is a God-initiated reconciliation movement. Reconciling the walking spiritually dead back to eternal life with God. Restoring those who believe in Jesus back into a right relationship with Him. Reconnecting us to God, in whose image we were created.


Blaise Pascal is quoted as saying, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of each man which cannot be satisfied by any created thing but only by God the Creator, made known through Jesus Christ.”


Let’s be honest. All of us try to quench the thirst for eternal life with the temporary and fading things that this sin-filled and broken world has to offer. Money. Pleasure. Success. Relationships. Vacations. Experiences. You name it ___________. What Pascal was saying is that we can try it all, but nothing will satisfy the soul’s search except for a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, the Son of God, our Savior.


The bottom line is this. God wants a relationship with all of us, and He went to the greatest length to secure it. You and I don’t deserve it, and we cannot earn it, but He did it for us anyway. That’s not religious. That’s all about relationship.


That is Christianity.


Before you go…

I have made it my life’s mission to partner with Jesus in this reconciliation movement. I don’t do it perfectly, but I long to see every person I cross paths with, come into a relationship with God through believing in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection and following him throughout their whole lives. My sincere hope with this newsletter is that you would consider placing your faith and trust in Jesus Christ today.


At the same time, I fully recognize that pastors like me and other Christians have participated in skewing the true Jesus from your eyes and ears. That’s why I always say, don’t take my word for it. Take God’s word for it. Read the Bible for yourself, and I hope that you’ll also recognize that this isn’t about a religious effort to earn our way back to God. This is all about God wanting a relationship with you.


If you think I could help you in any way along the journey, please reach out at teamchevalier.com.


Until next time. God bless.

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