Saved From What
Religion fosters a "cause and effect" mindset:
Do good get good – treasure – riches in Heaven.
Do bad get bad – torment – roast in Hell.
If you tithe… if you don't swear… if you go to church regularly on Sundays… if you inwardly forgive a brother before partaking communion… if you don't smoke… if you believe right… these and a myriad more are the 1001+ religious hoops that one is required to jump through to attaint a supposed more righteous standing before God. No wonder people get exacerbated. Now some of the many hoops in and of themselves are not detrimental – if that's what you like; but none make any of difference as to how God loves and sees each one of us – whether we believe it or not.
Paul gives an example of "cause and effect" religion:
1Cor 1:20-22 Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? [the Old Covenant age] Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? [the Old Covenant age] For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe [from the Old Covenant]. For Jews require a sign [works], and Greeks seek after wisdom [beliefs].
From what were those who believed being saved? From the age and the world of the Old Covenant i.e., adherence to the Law of works and or beliefs for righteousness.
Neither works nor beliefs [cause and effect] affect the redemptive reconciling power of God toward mankind as demonstrated in Christ. Today's evangelical mindset is beholden to the "cause and effect" mentality of a combined Jewish-Greek reasoning i.e., it requires a right set of beliefs to attain life with God beyond this world.
Now it might be argued that the Gentiles were never "under the first covenant" [Heb 9:15] True enough initially, however law observance for righteousness was the number one problem that Paul tackled in the first-fruits church [Gal 3:1-3] – the imposition of law observance by the Judaizers upon Gentile converts was being promoted as the real sign of salvation [Act 15:1, 5, 24; Gal 2:4].
"Works" of, not for righteousness help bless others, AND beliefs are important in the outworking of this – but they are part of a life experiencing the transforming grace of God, rather than trying to attain it.
Should not our message be one of acceptance, just as in Christ God has accepted us. It was Christ's work and his faith that secured this restored relationship. It is as we share this Gospel of acceptance that those in darkness can experience the beauty of God's light in life.
Act 15:8 NKJV So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us,
Act 15:8 NIV God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us.
In kingdoms past when subjects came into the presence of the King it was not until receiving the royal nod or raised sceptre [Est 4:11] that one could approach in full acceptance. The words translated acknowledged or accepted in the verses above are the Greek word [μαρτυρεω – martureo] elsewhere translated as witness [Act 1:8] – so the Gospel really is His testimony that we are accepted by Him. Not only that, but this word "witness" is where we get our word martyr from; showing how much man's redemption cost Him:
Act 20:28 Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.
Again, Paul gives an example of God's acceptance:
Rom 11:15 For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world [by God], what will their acceptance [by God] be but life from the dead?
No matter the brand, the requirements of religion for the securing of redemption are bound up in a rigorous raft of rules and regulations, rites, rituals and rote; yet it was for relationship that Christ came, to restore the visage of man in God's eyes.