"Religion says 'I obey therefore I am accepted.' The gospel says 'I am accepted, therefore I obey.'" - Tim Keller
When I'm asked "What's your religion?", I reply "I'm Christian." It's the easiest answer and, in most cases, it answers the broad question that was asked.
I'm not the guy who replies "I'm not religious, I'm Christian." This tends to confuse people. I know what they meant to ask. If they have any questions about my faith, they're going to ask whether I warrant them with a confusing response or not.
However, there is a dividing line between being a follower of Jesus and a "religious person," in the worldy sense.
Being a believer means the Holy Spirit starts in us and works its way out. Not the other way around.
Many world religions teach that if you engage in certain activities and behave a certain way, you'll have access to a heaven, of sorts. The gospel doesn't teach that.
Many Christians believe that doing good things is how they get into heaven. That belief is an unbiblical misconception that builds a wall between a deed-busy Christian and their faith's true potential.
It's a wall that has to be broken down.
It's an others-oriented way to present oneself as unbroken to impress people and God. God's not impressed by actions. He doesn't want deeds. He wants the real me. All of it.
Matthew 11:28 says "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." At your core, do the words "tired" and "burdened" describe you? If not, I need you to tell me your secret.
When amazing things happen in our lives, we should turn to God. When the bad things happen, even the most devastating, we should turn to God. He wants all of us; in our entirety.
Ephesians 2:8 says "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God." Give yourself to Christ; go to heaven. That's it!
Giving yourself to Christ will inherently draw you closer to him. That's the core behind that "behavior shift" you'll see in new believers.
They have less of a desire for earthly wealth or substance. Their attitude shifts in a positive direction. This is the work of the Holy Spirit, not the person. Christ is the root of their new life.
We can't behave our way into heaven.
That's the best news I've ever heard. Nothing we can do can bridge the gap between us and God. That gap has already been bridged by Jesus. If we follow him, he'll lead us directly into the life we were born to live.