Evangelicalism is full of people who are very religious in the eyes of men, but who are not righteous in the eyes of God. The significance of this is between going to heaven or hell. Hell will be full of religiously unrighteous people, while heaven will be filled with those who are truly righteous in God’s sight. What is the difference?
The difference is Jesus Christ. While Christianity is a religion, it is unlike any other religion. In fact, it is more than a religion. Christianity boasts of a Savior who is God enfleshed, who died on a cross for our sins, and who rose from the dead the third day. Jesus of Nazareth is that Savior. He is the eternal Son of God, who became a man for the purpose of dying on behalf of men. Because of our sinfulness, mankind deserves to die, both physically and eternally in hell. However, because of His great love for us, Jesus Christ died in our place, taking the penalty of death for us. His resurrection is what secures eternal life for all who repent and believe on Him alone for their salvation. Those who have received Jesus are declared righteous in God’s eyes and are promised eternal life in heaven.
Other religions cannot claim these truths as the Bible describes them. Other religions may use some of the same terminology, but with different meanings, thus making another gospel of a different kind, which then makes it a false gospel. Today, there are “religious” people all over our world who claim to follow some kind of man-made religion, but who are in fact unrighteous before God because they have not believed in the Biblical gospel.
Within broader evangelicalism itself, though, there are those who have adopted an unbiblical view of Christianity and have, in essence, revealed that they are also religious, but not righteous. For instance, some do not believe they are in need of a Savior per se, but they are willing to attend local churches, and even be involved in various causes of the church. Others may appear to be righteous, but are in fact religious hypocrites, whose hearts have never submitted to the truth of the gospel, and who are therefore not righteous before God. This is one reason why it is important for pastors to proclaim the truth of the gospel even to those who regularly attend their corporate worship services.
While being religious receives more positive responses from men, being truly righteous before God is what secures a person’s eternal home in heaven. Are you just a religious person, or are you truly righteous in God’s eyes?