Blessed

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Religion or Relationship?

on August 12, 2013

Today, one of my best friends referred to me as being “more religious” than he. I had to stop for a second before responding, because to be quite honest, I was insulted. Religious? Is that how people see me?

All over the New Testament we see religious people being put down left and right, by none other than Jesus himself (Check out the story of the Sinful Woman in Luke 7-it’s one of my favorites). Why? Because religion is a man-made thing, not a God-made thing. God intended us to have a relationship with Him. A loving relationship, where we communicate all day every day, where we love Him and adore Him and thank Him for all the blessings He has bestowed upon us. Perhaps, in the Old Testament, we catch a glimpse of a God who wants His people to be religious-to follow certain rules, and to hold certain festivals (although we recognize that “rules” such as The Ten Commandments were given to us out of love, to help us to live better, holier lives). The New Testament, however, tells the story of a loving God who sent Himself-His Son-to DIE for us…while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8). 

Romans is one of my favorite books of the Bible (I know, I know…I’m supposed to like the “whole story” and not just “part of it,” but just hear me out). Literally, in my Bible, over the years, I have marked up almost every verse in Romans because I think it’s such a tremendous story. In his letter to Romans, Paul dives right in and writes about God’s wrath against mankind. Right there in Romans 1, Paul tells us that, “(21) For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened….(24) Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies for one another. (24) They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator…” 

What? God gave them over to the sinful desires of their hearts? At first, that doesn’t look like “God’s wrath” but instead, it looks like a very kind thing of Him to do. However, as we read on, we see that when God (who was hurt, angry, jealous, sad, loving, disappointed -probably all emotions wrapped up in one at this point) gave the people over to their desires, they became “filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed, and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them” (Romans 1: 29-32). 

Did you catch all that? When God took a step back and let the people do as they pleased, they invented new ways of evil! Paul calls them “God-haters.” I’ve only felt hate a couple of times in my life, but both times it reigned as the strongest feeling I’ve ever had in my being-even going so far as to trump love. 

Paul goes on to write about God’s righteous judgment, and how we’re all the same deep down inside (even pointing out that we’re all hypocrites at one time or another), and then he writes a passage about Abraham’s faith-though he and Sarah were “as good as dead” in terms of being very old, he held fast to God’s promise that he would be the father of all nations. All this can be found in Romans 2-4. 

Then comes the pinnacle of Paul’s letter to the Romans……Romans 5. Paul writes that we have been “(1) justified through faith , we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ….” He goes on to say that we should “(3) rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. (5) And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us. (6) You see, just at the right time, while we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. … (8) God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” 

So many things I have to say about this passage. 1) We rejoice in our sufferings because we know that they bring about changes in our character to make us more Christlike. 2) God gave us the Holy Spirit -He gave us part of Himself to live in us all day every day! 3) Christ died for us. Not only did He die for us, but he was humiliated and tortured and went to hell for our very sins (Matthew 27)! He was sinless, and perfect in every way, and He died so that a bunch of God-haters could live and have a relationship with Him. 

Being religious isn’t the goal. Being sinless isn’t the goal. If it is your goal, you’ll fail! 

Being able to rejoice in your sufferings, and to allow the Spirit to make you more Christlike every day-now that’s the goal. To have a working, two-way relationship with God, the Creator of the universe, and Christ, who sacrificed Himself for your sins, in constant fellowship with the Holy Spirit to help you live better here on earth-that’s what God wants-not for you to be “religious” but for you to be hopeful, joyful, and loving towards all, and in all circumstances. 

Then Paul continues to write in Romans about how our lives should be changed because of Christ’s sacrifice, but that’s the next blog, because I think this one is deep enough to keep you thinking for a couple of days. 

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2 responses to “Religion or Relationship?

  1. […] Religion or Relationship? (loveslongears.wordpress.com Yes, “religion” is the biggest obstacle to knowing God. […]

  2. […] Religion or Relationship? (loveslongears.wordpress.com) […]

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