Josh Harris: What is “rule-igion”?

We know the word “religion” is belief in and worship of God. “Rule-igion” is the idea that a right relationship with God is earned through rule-keeping. “Rule-igion” says that we have to climb our way up to God. In other words, it’s through our performance and obedience and good deeds that we earn God’s love and favor and blessing. We follow the rules, we live a good life and that puts God in our debt.

Rule-igion is the basis of almost every false religion in the world today. Sadly, it infects a lot of Christian churches.

But rule-igion is completely at odds with the good news of Jesus Christ. The Bible tells us that salvation is a free gift. We are not saved by our works we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus.

This good news–what we call the gospel– is the opposite of rule-igion.

The gospel tells us that we can’t climb up to God, but God in love has come down to save us. Jesus has fulfilled the law for us. Jesus has paid for our sins through his death on the cross. Jesus has been raised from dead so that we can have eternal life. True salvation and right standing before God is something only Jesus can win for us–it is not a result of our works so that no person can boast.

And this is such awesome news that you have to wonder why anyone would ever want rule-igion instead? Here’s the answer: because grace is scary and humbling. Earning God’s favor by following rules gives us a sense of control. Rules let us control other people. And rules feed our pride and our sense of worthiness.

The gospel is humbling. Being saved by grace tells us that we’re undeserving. Grace makes us dependent and indebted. Grace makes much of Jesus not us…

Listen to the full sermon titled “Rule-igion” from Matthew 12:1-14 here.

Peter serves as a pastor-teacher, at home and abroad, resourcing gospel-centred communities.

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