Religion or Relationship

I have been described by others in many different ways, but when someone describes me as being a “religious person” I get this gnawing feeling in the pit of my stomach.  I know the person means well, but the last thing I would ever want to be described as is a “religious person.”  Now, before you become overly shocked at my comments, just slow down and listen with an open mind.

Contrary to popular belief, Christianity is not a religion following a set of rules.  It is not even about “following” the Ten Commandments per se, because honestly, none of us can perfectly keep the Ten Commandments. Jesus said that if these things are even in your heart, you have broken the law. There are many religions that have been created by man where the foundation of their teachings are about following a list of rules and regulations in order to achieve eternal life or even happiness in this life.  This is not Biblical.  The problem with rules and regulations is that people are imperfect human beings living in an imperfect world and no human being can follow a set of rules perfect enough to achieve eternal life.  It is impossible.  Heaven is a perfect place and if one imperfect person enters Heaven, it is no longer perfect.  Jesus even teaches us that if we even think sinful thoughts in our minds, we are just as guilty of committing that sin, or breaking that rule or commandment.

“But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”  Matthew 5:28(KJV)

Christianity is 100% about relationship – a relationship with a true and living God through Jesus Christ.  When we have a real relationship with Jesus Christ, the desire to follow Him and live our lives for Him in every area replaces a need to check off a list of “do’s and don’ts.”  

“You are so proud of knowing God's laws, but you dishonor him by breaking them. No wonder the Scriptures say that the world speaks evil of God because of you.” Romans 2:34-24(TLB)

Having a true relationship with Jesus Christ brings us into a life of holiness, which again is not a set of rules.  True holiness is being of one mind with God causing a person to strive to be like Jesus.  A mentor of mine recently told me that holiness is having God’s attitude in any given situation.  If we are striving to be like Jesus we have no desire to disappoint Him by breaking rules or commandments.  A person with a true relationship with Jesus Christ has a mind bent toward God with a desire to do only His will.  They will have a greater fear of displeasing God than a fear of displeasing the world. Do we mess up?  Sure, but that is where Grace comes in.

“For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.”  Hebrews 10:26-27 (NKJV)

Many people have walked down the aisle of a church “accepting” Jesus into their heart but in reality did not actually surrender their lives over to Him.  As a result they spend so much effort trying to be a Christian by following all the rules man has set that a Christian is supposed to do.  What ultimately happens is the person gets weary in trying to be a “good Christian” that they soon fall away.  That is hard work!  We wonder why so many people come to the front of the church making a public profession, get baptized and soon stop coming to church.   If their life was not truly changed as a result of receiving Christ, then what they may have experienced was only a time of feeling guilty or an emotional impulse and not a true surrender of their life to Christ.  I have heard countless testimonies of people being baptized as a child only to live the rest of their lives without peace as they try to be a “good Christian” finding it so hard to do.  

"Not everyone who calls out to me, 'Lord! Lord!' will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. 22 On judgment day many will say to me, 'Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.' 23 But I will reply, 'I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God's laws.'”  Matthew 7:21-23 NLT

Sure, authentic, real Christians make mistakes and poor choices at times, but the stirring of the Holy Spirit who lives inside of that person draws them back on the path of holiness.  If not, there is question whether or not one is truly a Christian.

Examine your Christian life.  Is your life focused on following rules to be a good Christian or a good church member, or is your life focused on having a true and fruitful relationship with Jesus Christ?  Only you and God know the answer.   By the way… was the “religious people” of Jesus’ day that sentenced Him to death and crucified Him on the cross.  Do you want to be a religious person or have a friend in Jesus?

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