A quick note on what how “religion” is used here. We’re not using “religion” to describe a dedicated Christian who attends a church service. Rather, Religion here really means religious performance, trying to attain God’s salvation by your own goodness or works. The diagram above, I believe clearly shows this, yet I felt it necessary to make the distinction since so many are caught up in the delusion that one can belong to Christ and not be part of his Church.
That said, seeing the distinction between religon, irreligion and the Gospel is pretty important. We daily fall into disbelief and need to examine ourselves as to where we aren’t believing the Gospel. I often use the 4 G’s for this. Yet this diagram is helpful to check your motives and attitudes to see if they’re in light with Gospel belief or are the result of falling to the left or the right.
Tim Keller’s in his book, The Prodigal God, draws this distinction from the Parable of the Prodigal Son. He talks of how there’s really two lost sons in that story: The irreligious younger son who runs away from home and disownes his father by trying to make his own way, but also the prideful religious Pharisaical son who stays but really wants to replace his father through his own performance and hard work. Keller says the Story leaves you yearning for a true elder brother who would go out and look for his lost brother. He says it leaves you yearning for Christ.
The Gospel is the answer to both religion and irreligion. Only in the Gospel can you rest, trusting in your true Elder Brother, Jesus, to save you and bring you home, and trusting in the gracious love of your Heavenly Father to run and accept you when you arrive.
Picture found Here along with some great Gospel-Centered resources.