Romans 3:22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
At the end of the day this verse puts the religious and the non religious alike on the same plain, we all need God’s mercy. No matter who you are or how you were raised, or what your background is, God’s gracious gift is there for anyone who calls on him in faith. The cross of Christ is the great equalizer and if being super religious or moral could save a man or woman than Christ suffered in vain.
Religion and Morality, AKA trying to be a better person is only skin deep if it is not truly motivated by deep love for God that results from a changed heart. Heck, I’ve been down the religion road before I knew Jesus personally and it had no ability to really deal with my heart and what was going on deep inside, it only curbed my behavior.
Galatians 2:19 For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God.
20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”
We “died to the law to live for God,” but what does this really mean? Let us use an analogy, suppose a man marries a woman named “Law” and she nags him, she demands him to do this and that, and she expects him to buy her flowers and chocolates on a regular weekly basis. Her condition of staying with him depends on what he does and if he fails she will leave him. His devotion to the woman is motivated more by fear and obligation, not genuine love. Well suppose the old hag dies and then the man finds another, and this woman’s name is “Grace” He loves her because he knows what a treasure she is, she is gentle and kind. He fears doing anything to hurt her or damage their relationship because he loves her too much to do anything to put distance between them. He buys her flowers as often as he can and is actually excited and will go out of his way to express his love even if it costs him.
Can you see the difference? The Law as Paul described it was a temporary fix until Christ came. It was something kept in place until the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises. When I was younger, my dad was trying to glue something in place for a project he was working on and as a temporary measure he use a clamp to hold the board in place until the glue dried. Another example is a steel plate to fix a fractured bone, the plate in some instances is only necessary until the bone fuses and the fracture is healed.
In the same way the law had the power to set a man’s behavior in check but could not do anything to correct the heart issue. It might have restrained and contained evil, yet it could not eliminate it inside the man. It was a quarentine but no cure.
Remember the analogy of the man, Wife number one we will just say used the method of nagging and it got him to maybe behave how she wanted but it didn’t really cause her to love her anymore, in fact if I were that man, then I would venture to say he would be rather resentful. She could really accomplish no inner change in him. Wife 2 however won over his heart and out of an overflow he bent over backwards to love her and serve her.
There are really two ways to serve God, and only one is effective. The first way is the Law, and the second way is The Spirit.
Jesus always seemed to get on the Pharisees even though they did all the things right to the T almost, yet Jesus condemned them and said that they neglected the “weightier matters of the law” such as “mercy, justice, and the love of God”
Jesus then quotes the prophet Isaiah and says “These people worship me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me” Isaiah 29:13
Jesus equated the religious Pharisees of his days to beautiful tombs with dead mens bones on the inside. They looked righteous and acted righteous but the attitudes of their hearts were vile, self seeking, prideful, and not a result of genuine love for God.
Some say, “Actions speak louder than words” but even truer is this “Motives speak louder than actions”
Deuteronomy 6:6 The LORD your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live.
Jeremiah 4:4 Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, circumcise your hearts, you men of Judah and people of Jerusalem, or my wrath will break out and burn like fire because of the evil you have done– burn with no one to quench it.