excerpt from Becoming a Contagious Christian, a book by Hybels and Mittleberg
"Religion is spelled D-O, and is all about trying to DO enough to please God.
The trouble is we don’t know if we ever do enough, and the Bible tells us we never can do enough (Romans 3.23).
But Christianity is spelled D-O-N-E.
Jesus has done what we could never do. He lived the perfect life and died on the cross to pay for all the wrong stuff we have done.
But it’s not enough just to know this. We have to receive what he has done. We have to ask Jesus to forgive us and to be the leader of our lives.
Then you could ask them what they think, whether they understand the difference, and if they see the need for Jesus."
Most religions claim that salvation can be attained through human effort, we DO - that is we use our own human resources to save ourselves. They offer us various ways, through our own inner strength and capacity, for attaining liberation/salvation: through the use of meditation techniques, accumulation of wisdom, physical asceticism, rituals, good deeds, following the moral law, etc. In other words, according to religion, if we know the right things and DO the right things, we can be saved through our own means.
But Christianity says that it is God who took the initiative to come down to His own creation to set us free from our own sinful, broken, and rebellious state. The Bible makes it clear that our personal efforts aimed at earning the favor of God are downright useless. So God has DONE everything needed. We do NOT earn it, we do NOT deserve it but in His great love for us, He acted on our behalf. It is His grace, through the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ, that makes a way where there was no way. We are then given the opportunity to accept His free gift in Christ through faith in what He has revealed, and then we live by faith and obedience to God.
Salvation is not a wage to be earned – as if you could work for it
It’s not a prize to be coveted – as if you could win it
It’s not an honour to be sought – as if you were worth it
It is a gift – and you must take it freely.
David Gilliland, a preacher from Ireland
"It is critical... to recognize this fundamental difference between the gospel and religion. Christianity's basic message differs are root with the assumptions of traditional religion. The founders of every other major religion essentially came as teachers, not as saviors. They came to say: "Do this and you will find the divine." But Jesus came essentially as a savior rather than a teacher (though he was that as well). Jesus says, "I am the divine come to you, to do what you could not do for yourselves. The Christian message is that we are saved not by our record, but by Christ's record. So Christianity is not religion or irreligion. It is something else all together." - Timothy Keller (from book, The Reason for God)
Bible Verses on this Free Gift of God
"For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." - Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV
"...yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. " - Galatians 2:6 ESV
"But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life." - Titus 3:4-6 ESV
"When people work, their wages are not a gift, but something they have earned. But people are counted as righteous, not because of their work, but because of their faith in God who forgives sinners." - Romans 4:4-5 NLT