It’s one of the most common responses I hear when evangelizing to unbelievers. “I’m not religious, I don’t like religion.” The first couple of times I heard this, I feared the conversation was already over. But then I realized that Christianity actually isn’t a religion.
Now, when I hear someone’s disgust for religion, I simply agree with them. “Yeah, this may come as a surprise, but I’m actually not religious,” I reply. “Well, then what are you?” they ask. “I’m a Christian, a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. You see, Christianity is not a religion, but rather a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Religion says man can get to God through good works, prayers, rituals, etc. But Christianity is God reaching down to you through Jesus Christ.”
People are often bewildered once you tell them you’re a Christian, but not religious!
Unfortunately, society has a misconception that all religions are just deadbeat faiths where you go to church, say the prayers, and hopefully get into heaven. If you’re good enough, you’ll probably get in.
Christianity completely destroys this idea by stating man is sinful and cannot reach God on his own (Rom. 3:10, Eph.2:1). Instead of man doing the work, God completed the work on the cross. Let me explain this a little further so you can help others understand it too.
When I have engaged with secular people, they typically do not understand who the Messiah is, or what it means for Jesus to be the Son of God. I am all for explaining this, because it is crucial to understanding who Jesus is. However, I will usually introduce Jesus as God in the flesh, since that is not a very complicated term (and it’s biblical).
Then, I use the Ten Commandments to show how we have all broken God’s law. I will explain to them how we are liars, idolaters, coveters, adulterers, etc. If they object, I simply walk them through the Ten Commandments by asking them if they have kept each one. Once they have realized they are lawbreakers, I tell them God must punish us for our sins since He is holy and just. God cannot be in the presence of sinners, so we are doomed for hell because of our wrongdoings.
But, in God’s love, He became a man through the Person of Jesus Christ and lived the perfect life we never could. Jesus lived in perfect obedience to God’s law. Jesus then died on the cross for the sins of the world, taking on the punishment of death for sinners. On the cross, Jesus took on Himself all of our guilt, shame, sin, and was punished as a sinner, although He did no wrong. However, He rose after three days, defeating death. So, all those who repent of their sins and trust in Him as Lord will be forgiven of their trespasses and live with God forever in heaven. If one does not trust in Jesus, God must punish them in hell since He is just and they are unforgiven lawbreakers.
Also, for those who have heard the Gospel before but do not understand the marvelous work Jesus did on the cross, I like to use 2 Corinthians 5:21. The verse states: “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21, NASB).
Because of Jesus, God no longer looks at the Christian’s sinful, disgusting life. Rather, He sees Jesus’s perfect, sinless life. Jesus took on the nasty sinner’s life on the cross and put it to death. Through repentance and faith, the Christian receives Jesus’s perfect righteousness. Using this illustration seems to resonate well with those who may have a weak understanding of the Gospel.
Not only is Christianity a joyful relationship with God, but Jesus offers us both eternal and abundant life (John 3:16, 10:10). Once one becomes born again, they have been made a new creation with Christ and will never experience spiritual death ( 2 Cor. 5:17, John 11:26). They now possess an everlasting joy since they have received the greatest gift, Jesus Christ.