The Gospel is the Real Thing

discipleship steve norris Apr 25, 2022
The Gospel is the Real Thing | Dr. Steve Norris

In the South, Coke is the Real Thing; everything else is an imitation. Years ago a friend and I were walking in downtown Chicago. We came upon a booth comparing Coke and Pepsi. The booth was sponsored by Pepsi. People tasted both samples without knowing which cola they were drinking and then decided which was better. After the choice was made the Pepsi employee would reveal which sample the person chose. Did we choose Coke, the Real Thing, or the challenger called Pepsi? Having been raised down South, I knew what the Real Thing tasted like. It was an easy test. I tasted both and chose Coke. My friend was fooled. He chose Pepsi. His taste buds weren’t as trained in knowing the Real Thing. 

The Real Thing is the Gospel

The same thing can happen in being a Christ-follower. There is the Real Thing called the Gospel. It’s the entry door into an intimate relationship with God and the foundation for building a lifelong journey as a Christ-follower. There is a competitor who looks and sounds like the Real Thing. It’s called religion. If someone isn’t clear on what the Gospel is they can fall for the imitation. 

Jesus Versus Religion

During Jesus’ day, there were competitors who peddled their brand of religion. People had lost the taste of a true relationship with God. They became easy targets to drink from bottled religion. When Jesus came on the scene, religion was winning at the taste test booth. Jesus’ mission was to open people’s eyes to see it’s about a relationship, not following a set of meaningless rules. But the problem was that religion had become ingrained into the fabric of their lives. It was going to take more than just an infomercial to initiate change. Jesus had to be intentional, blunt, and persistent to help His disciples see and change from chasing after the imitation for the Real Thing—the Gospel.  

Religious Crutches

Think of a crutch. It can be a very helpful recovery tool. But if someone who doesn't need crutches is using them, they become a hindrance to walking. The best thing someone can do is take the crutches away to help them learn to walk on their own. Likewise, religion is an unnecessary crutch. It hinders a person’s walk with God. Jesus from the very start of His ministry began knocking the religious crutches out from under people: healing on the Sabbath, talking to a Samaritan woman, picking corn on the Sabbath, instruction on prayer and giving, challenging the rules, and the list goes on. Oh yes, and He called the Pharisees whitewashed tombs. No wonder they didn’t like him. He was intentional, persistent, and clear. 

Religion has always been a cheap imitation that changed this. history. What is religion? It is anything that keeps a person from having an authentic relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Even something good can be religious if it becomes an end in itself.  Reading the Bible can be religious. Yes, reading the Bible.  If you read to check it off your list of things to do to impress God and others, it’s religion. If you read to hear the voice of God, then it’s about relationships. 

Religious Crutches and Disciple-Making

As a disciple-maker today, we deal with the same problem of religion being peddled as the Real Thing to the unsuspecting crowd. Like in the day of Jesus, most young disciples don’t know that religion has a stronghold on them. Our role, like Jesus, is to intentionally, persistently, and clearly separate religion from a relationship with God through the Gospel. It can be painful at times, but that’s okay. It’s for their good. 

My Top Ten List of Crutches:

  1. Religion is about doing. The Gospel is about being in a relationship with Jesus. 
  2. Religion is about knowledge. The Gospel is about obedience.
  3. Religion is about being a Christian only at church. The Gospel is about being Christian 24/7. 
  4. Religion is about giving only enough to appease God. The Gospel is about being a good steward of all God has given.  
  5. Religion is about making me happy. The Gospel is about making God happy.
  6. Religion is about me. The Gospel is about others.
  7. Religion is about my comfort. The Gospel is about my character. 
  8. Religion is about accomplishments. The Gospel is about my identity in Christ. 
  9. Religion is about self-righteousness. The Gospel is about humility.  
  10. Religion is about doing life alone. The Gospel is about doing life together. 

Listen to how a young disciple prays, acts, reacts to life situations, and how they relate non-Christians and to other believers, but especially with those closest to them. The course, Discipleship: As You Go Out Your Door Each Day, Change The World, is about identifying and knocking out the religious crutches in young disciple’s life by encouraging, modeling, instructing, and putting them in situations to challenge their religious status quo. It’s a lifelong journey. It can even be a little fun at times if you like being that grain of sand that irritates inside the oyster shell to produce the pearl. 

Make a lasting impression on whom you’re discipling by demonstrating, coaching, and preparing them to confront their religious traditions and status quo in challenging situations. Teach His truth to others, no matter where you are or what you're doing, and show them the Real Thing. Disciple-makers are tasked with making a difference in the world by making disciples. Enroll in our Discipleship Certificate Course at Grace On Demand and learn to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, the greatest disciple-maker.

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