If you type “religion, gospel” into the Google search bar, you get 3.6 million results in about 0.22 seconds. Search on WordPress and the results are even more along the lines of “Religion vs. the Gospel” and such like. Lots of people are aware of the shortcomings of religion compared to the Good News of Jesus Christ. But even for the believer, and certainly for everyone else, the temptation is still there to not fully trust in the concept of grace.
In Mark’s Gospel (Mk. 5:1-20) Jesus and the disciples land on the coast of the Gerasenes. They encounter Legion, a mad man filled with demons. After Jesus casts the demons into a herd of pigs, the locals are amazed to see the man formerly known as Legion clothed and in his right mind. Rather than allow him to follow, Jesus commands him to go back to his home town and tell them what God has done. In this case, the man does so. Ergo: You don’t have to fix all your problems before coming to Jesus. How many people plan to come to church as soon as they quit drinking, stop smoking, get back with their ex-wife, find a job, etc. etc. We cannot fix our own problems, and if we could then we wouldn’t need Jesus in the first place. Remember what Jesus told the Pharisees; it is the sick who need a physician, not the well.
The rich young man (Mk. 10:17-22) come to Jesus with one simple question; What must I do to be saved. Religion is about what we do. We could substitute Law if we were comparing the Law to the Gospel. Keeping the Law, very religious. This man claims to have keep each of the commandments since his youth. Unlikely. David was a man after God’s own heart, and he failed all kinds of ways to keep the Law. We simply cannot do what is right, just like we cannot in and of ourselves fix what is wrong. Religion is what we do; grace is what God has already done.
We can’t. That’s the story of fallen man. We can’t keep the Law. We can’t be right. We can’t fix what’s wrong. Religion is our attempt to either be right or fix the wrong, and we the human people are epic failures at both. Religion is bad news; the Gospel is Good News. Tell the world.