I want to take a second and talk about sand. Sand is curious isn’t it. Where does it even come from? We have a sandpit in our backyard and I walked out there and my oldest was pouring water on it. I asked her what she is doing, and she replied, “Daddy, I need the sand to grow. After playing in it, there isn’t much left.” I tried to explain to her that sand does not grow by watering it, because, of course, sand is not alive. The only way to increase the amount of sand in the sandbox is for Daddy to pour more sand in.
What’s your point Preacher? Pouring water on sand expecting it to grow is a picture of how religion tries to change you. Religions pours it on. It gives you a lot of stuff “to do”: Bible studies to go to; new habits to add to your life; things to say and not say, etc. That’s what some have called “mechanical” change in their lives, but that isn’t the goal of Christianity.
Now think with me of a tree – a tree is completely different than sand. A tree grows and bears fruit because it is alive. Fruit springs up naturally because of the life inside. This is how the gospel changes you. Your behavior changes because you change. This is what some have called “organic” change.
And thus, we see the difference between religion and the gospel. (These come from Timothy Keller):
RELIGION says: I obey-therefore I’m accepted.
THE GOSPEL says: I’m accepted-therefore I obey.
RELIGION says: 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.
THE GOSPEL says: My identity and self worth are centered on the one who died for me. I am saved by sheer grace and I can’t look down on those who believe or practices something different from me. Only by grace am I what I am.
There are many more we could add – but the point is that the gospel is so much better than religion. Religion believes that it can change you through changing your behavior – when in fact, only the gospel (that Jesus Christ suffered and was raised from the dead and the cancellation of sin is given through faith in Jesus for all people), are we able to produce and change like the tree, otherwise, we’re just sand.
Are you a tree, or sand?