Goodbye to Religion as Usual
Jesus makes things different. He tells us this himself: "Behold, I make all things new" (Revelation 21:5 NABRE). In fact, the word "holy" literally means "set apart" or "different." The life and teachings of Jesus eradicates any notion of "religion as usual."
"Religion as usual" without Jesus typically revolves around the idea of following God's laws so as to win God's approval. Religion with Jesus revolves around the truth that God's approval is a free and undeserved gift offered to all of us who have failed to follow God's laws perfectly. This free gift of love for the unchanged person struggling to follow God's law is, paradoxically, what then inspires the unchanged person to change as a loving response to a loving Creator!
Jesus makes it clear that we aren't loved by God because we have followed his law. However, Jesus also made it clear that he didn't come to destroy the law of God, but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17). It's not that the law is bad. It's that the law is good, too good for us fulfill its requirements ourselves. Therefore, on the cross, Jesus fulfilled the requirements for us as a gift for us to accept or dismiss. Living under grace is accepting this gift. Living under grace is a bold new way of relating to God which Jesus offers each of us personally.
A New Way of Living
Jesus' death on the cross truly can make all things new in you–if you let it. It can show you how to live under grace when you feel inevitably crushed by the law.
On the cross, Jesus turns the tables on sin and law, and he wants those tables turned in your life personally too. He steps into our broken relationship with God as sinners, so we can step into his relationship with God, the Father, as beloved children through this free undeserved gift called grace.
Believe in the Law
Yes, believe in the law. Accept God's impossibly high standards as the definition of truth and holiness. But also accept mercy and grace.
You weren't built for guilt, as much as it can grow to occupy so much of our lives. You were built for grace.
Believing there is a just God with righteous laws isn't the whole story. It's only the prologue. Believing in grace, believing God fulfilled those just laws himself as a gift, is what sets us apart and allows us to be his people even though we've made mistakes. Believing in grace eradicates any notion of "religion as usual." It is also the antidote to guilt. It breaks our hearts open wide to God's love and teaches us to love ourselves as he does. Believing in grace is what makes the whole world new even as our circumstances remain the same. And believing in grace is what eventually leads us into change in the most important circumstances, the circumstances of our relationship with God, ourselves, and our imperfect world.
The Bible is clear that "all people fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23 CEV) and that still "God wants everyone to be saved" (1 Timothy 2:4 CEV) through the gift of his grace. Understanding this paradox changes the way we practice our faith. It moves us from "religion as usual" into a personal relationship. So we need to ask ourselves:
Is my spiritual life merely "religion as usual" or have I accepted my need for grace and the free undeserved gift that it is?
Do I believe in the law in all its fullness? Do I believe that if God were fair, I couldn't be saved? Do I believe that God wants to save me anyway?
Do I believe that my salvation isn't based on fairness (as "religion as usual" would make it appear), but based on Jesus Christ and the gift of his grace?