Warren Wiersbe once wrote:
The fundamental problem lost sinners face isn't that they are sick and need a remedy. The problem is they are dead and need resurrection. Religion and reformation may cosmetize the corpse and make it more presentable, but they can never give life to the corpse.
Wow. I love that statement. It encapsulates the difference between religion and a relationship with the Living and Sovereign God of the Universe. It's really quite sad that there are so many "churches" and "Christians" who don't get this truth.
Those of us who are in student ministry probably see this played out more than anyone else. Parents look for churches with a thriving "youth ministry" that will train their kids to grow up to be good, moral, and well-adjusted adults. Even beyond youth ministry, this is the attitude of many (most?) people who go to church. They want to become moral people. The problem is that Jesus didn't come to make moral people. He came to make a different sort of personal altogether. He came to raise dead people back to life.
The Bible teaches that before Christ you were spiritually dead, but God, in his great love, made us alive together with Christ (Eph. 2). Sadly, many churches have become more like mortuaries than churches. They are just putting makeup on corpses. Rather than being about true life transformation and spiritual resurrection, they are more about teaching people the right things to say and do. "Religion and reformation may cosmetize the corpse and make it more presentable, but they can never give life to the corpse."
It may look good… but it still stinks.