An imaginary conversation between an early Christian and her neighbour in Rome:
“Ah,” the neighbor says. “I hear you are religious! Great! Religion is a good thing. Where is your temple or holy place?”
“We don’t have a temple,” replies the Christian. “Jesus is our temple.”
“No temple? But where do your priests work and do their ritual?”
“We don’t have priests to mediate the presence of God,” replies the Christian. “Jesus is our priest.”
“No priests? But where do you offer your sacrifices to acquire the favor of your God?”
“We don’t need a sacrifice,” replies the Christian. “Jesus is our sacrifice.”
“What kind of religion is this?” sputters the pagan neighbor.
And the answer is, it’s no kind of religion at all.”
(From a sermon by Dick Lucas, cited in: Tim Keller, King’s Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus, 48. H/T Justin Taylor).
Although the Bible does refer to genuine Christianity as ‘pure’ or ‘undefiled’ religion (James 1:27), it can be helpful to distinguish between Biblical or gospel centred Christianity and false religion. In Biblical Christianity our trust is in Jesus and what he has done to make us acceptable to God through his life, death and resurrection. This is what motivates our love for God and obedience to him. In false religion the focus is on what we must do to make ourselves acceptable with our god/s.