Religion vs. Relationship

Much of our lives we have been presented with religion.  We have seen the Pope on tv, or Billy Graham, and many other tele-evangelists.  Or we have friends, family, or co-workers, or even strangers who have talked, presented, or even brow beat us with God and our need for Him.  Loads of rules and regulations, and empty promises of  a “bed of roses” happy life that has gotten many of us turned off God.  And yet the question of the reality of God continues to go unanswered in many of our hearts. Does God exist, and does He really want to know me?

And many of us have tried to answer that question.  We have spent time in church, or read bibles and tried to live up to the standards we see portrayed in the bibles, and talked about be Christians.  We hear about the “pious” life we are to live, and don’t often see the people who are declaring this “religion” living up to it.  Or they are living hastily propped up “pious” lives that don’t bear any close scrutiny.  Their lives resemble a hastily put together Hollywood set, where if you look beyond the surface what you see is not what you get.  Jesus Himself reserved the harshest words in scripture for these people.  He called them “whitewashed tombs”, clean and presentable on the surface and full of death and poison on the inside.

And yet is this what we were to be living?  Paul says “God forbid”. It was not the life God intended for us at all.  I have been reading my bible in a new version as of late, and reading the scriptures worded a little differently has given me new insight, and is helping me grow in my understanding of God and what He truly intended for us.  I have said many times that God intended us for relationship, not a religion.  He intended us for a connection of hearts, not an outward expression of rules and regulations that promote us before men.

Our problem is that we have tried to fulfill what God wants on our own, in our own strength.  And it has caused us to become discouraged and very disenchanted with our creator.  We keep trying to “become” what we think we should be, and when we consistently fail we eventually give up.  We cannot get into a relationship with God by following rules and regulations.   And yet we struggle and struggle.  Paul said “Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?”. People have been having this struggle for centuries.  It is not a new struggle.  Our problem is not that we sin.  Watchmen Nee stated it best when he said “We are not sinners because we sin, We sin because we are sinners.” It is our basic nature that is the problem.  And it requires an act of God to change it.

This is where I  come to the scripture I was reading.  Reading Matthew 3:11 in the Message version I read this The main character in this drama(being Jesus)will ignite the kingdom life within you… changing you from the inside out. He’s going to clean house—make a clean sweep of your lives. He’ll place everything true in its proper place before God; everything false he’ll put out with the trash to be burned.” It is God’s “Kingdom life” that changes us.  All we have to do is respond.  No more struggling to achieve some standard of living.  No more searching ourselves for wrong behavior. God will put everything in our lives in proper order.  We simply take His hand, follow His lead and obey His direction.  We simply do what Jesus said “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Simply responding to God, in our daily, intimate relationship, following His lead and learning the “unforced rhythms of grace”.  It definitely takes a lot of pressure off.  Our job is not to attain right standing with God by our actions.  That is provided by Jesus alone.  Our job is to simply to get to know Him who loves us without restraint or reservation, and then to allow Him to change and direct our lives.  Not an easy task, but one without pressure or struggle.  We simply get to love Him who first loved us and keep in step with Him.

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