This Sunday I will be preaching from James 1:26-27. In verse 26 James says that some people seem to be "religious," but that their "faith" is actually empty. How do we know the difference between a merely external religion and genuine faith?
Religion: I obey; therefore I'm accepted.
Gospel: I'm accepted; therefore I obey.
Religion: Motivation is based on fear and insecurity.
Gospel: Motivation is based on grateful joy.
Religion: I obey God in order to get things from God.
Gospel: I obey to get God--to delight in and resemble Him.
Religion: When circumstances in my life go wrong, I am angry at God or myself, since I believe that anyone who is good deserves a comfortable life.
Gospel: When circumstances in my life go wrong, I struggle, but I know all my punishment fell on Jesus and that while God may allow this for my training, he will exercise his Fatherly love within my trial.
Religion: My prayer life consists largely of petition, and it only heats up when I am in time of need. My main purpose in prayer is control of the environment.
Gospel: My prayer life consists of generous stretches of praise and adoration. My main purpose is fellowship with God.
Religion: My self-view swings between two poles. If and when I am living up to my standards, I feel confident, but then I am prone to be proud and unsympathetic to failing people. If and when I am not living up to standards, I feel humble but not confident--I feel like a failure.
Gospel: My self-view is not based on my moral achievement. In Christ I am simul lustus et peccator--simultaneously sinful and lost, yet accepted in Christ. I am so bad that he had to die for me, and I am so loved that he was glad to die for me. This leads me to deep humility and confidence at the same time.
Religion: My identity and self-worth are based mainly on how hard I work, or how moral I am--and so I must look down on those I perceive as lazy or immoral.
Gospel: My identity and self-worth are centered on the one who died for me. I am saved by sheer grace, so I can't look down on those who believe or practice something different from me. Only by grace am I what I am.
From Tim Keller's "The Gospel in Life," p. 16.