Mothers for Prodigals

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Religion or Relationship?

We hear so much about religion: religious differences, religious freedom, religious fervor, religious people, religious this, religious that. Guess what? It’s not about religion at all, it’s about relationship—relationship with a personal Savior and His name is Jesus Christ. 

Religion places rules and regulations on people, trying to generate morality. In Jesus’ day the Pharisees and Sadducees were concerned with laws to create godly people. We too get caught up in our own religious duties, trying to earn our way to God with our goodness. When we regularly observe religious rituals, we tend to become prideful and judge others. Religion does not produce saints, only sinners. As Paul tells us in Romans,

There is no one righteous, not even one.
There is no one who understands;
there is no one who seeks God.
All have turned away;
all alike have become useless.
There is no one who does what is good, not even one.
 Romans 3:10-12 (HCSB)

Paul goes on to say that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). He continues his discussion of sin in chapter 7 by saying that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For the desire to do what is good is with me, but there is no ability to do it (vs.18).
We can’t save ourselves; we need a Savior. We need someone to show us how to relate to God. That’s the reason Jesus came to earth—to save us from our sins and to demonstrate the reality of relationship. Jesus lived on earth, testifying to His relationship with the Heavenly Father and with the people who followed Him. He exhibited true faith and desired true followers. Paul says in Romans 3:26 that God presented Him to demonstrate His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be righteous and declare righteous the one who has faith in Jesus. 
So how do we begin this relationship with God Almighty? The Bible spells it out for us loud and clear. Jesus quotes the Old Testament to His disciples in the New Testament. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all tell us what Jesus said. Here is Luke’s version: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself  (Luke 10:27).
Jesus was quoting Moses who spoke to the Israelites: “Listen, Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart.” Deuteronomy 6:4-6 (HCSB)
Relationship was explained thousands of years ago. In fact, God created Adam and Eve for relationship, but sin entered in. Our holy God cannot look upon sin, so He sent Jesus to exchange our sins for His righteousness. Once belief in Jesus takes place, the relationship begins in love. As Jesus says in John 14:12, 15, “I assure you: The one who believes in Me will also do the works that I do..... If you love Me, you will keep My commands. True religion is relationship with the Savior Jesus Christ. He is the only way (John 14:6)!
Our Heavenly Father loves us very much. He loved us so much that He sent Jesus into the world to save us from our sins (John 3:16). Revel in His love as He delights over you: Yahweh your God is among you, a warrior who saves. He will rejoice over you with gladness. He will bring you quietness with His love. He will delight in you with shouts of joy.” Zephaniah 3:17 (HCSB) Just as He delights in us, we should take great delight in Him: Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4 (NASB)

It takes time to develop relationships. Don’t we spend time getting to know our friends and family? Jesus wants to be your Friend; get to know Him daily through the Word of God. As Simon Peter said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.” John 6:68-69 (NASB)

When we are in relationship with Christ, we don’t need to worry about the rules and regulations of religion. Because we know Him, we will desire to follow Him completely and we will delight to do His will. I delight to do Your will, my God; Your instruction lives within me. Psalm 40:8 (HCSB) We will follow the law of our Friend. Make me walk in the path of Your commandments, For I delight in it. Psalm 119:35 (NASB) I’ll say it again....True religion is relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 

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