One non-Christian in the survey described his perception of conservative Christians as illogical empire-builders who are prone to violence and cannot generally live peacefully with those who don’t believe what they believe.
That’s harsh, but it’s not a totally inaccurate perception. Religion produces that—whether in religious Jews in the first century or conservative Christians in the 21st.
Do you realize how silly it is to boast in your religious record?
Apart from the gospel, your baptism does nothing for you. Baptism is supposed to be an outward picture of the inward covenant. Our body gets washed with water, picturing the cleansing of our heart. It’s like we are being buried and brought back to life, a symbol of what is happening inside us.
If you’ve been baptized, your body was dipped in water. But does your heart show signs of being cleansed?
Apart from the gospel, taking communion does nothing for you. In fact, as Paul says, it actually does something against you (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:29). You may take the bread and cup into your belly, but are you showing the effects of having grace in your inmost being? Does your life show evidence of Jesus living on the inside?
Apart from the gospel, whatever religious activity you boast in is complete garbage (cf. Philippians 3:8). As Paul says, “For a person is not a Jew who is one outwardly, and true circumcision is not something visible in the flesh…circumcision is of the heart—by the Spirit, not the letter” (Romans 2:28–29). Baptism, you see, is not about getting wet. Communion isn’t about getting some juice and bread in you. Joining a church, tithing your money, going on mission trips—unless it flows from a gospel-touched heart, it’s worthless.
And a worthless religion can never astound a watching world.
Tim Keller says,
It is possible to trust in Christianity, rather than Christ. And this can happen in conservative, evangelical churches. Paul is showing us a condition called ‘dead orthodoxy,’ where the basic doctrines of the Bible are accurately subscribed to, but do not make any internal difference. There is an intellectual grasp of the gospel, but no internal revolution.
Religion can’t transform you from a hypocrite to a true believer. Only the gospel can. But if you embrace the gospel, I can guarantee you, nothing will ever be the same.
This article originally appeared here.