Relationship Over Religion

A widespread misconception is that one must be religious if they proclaim Jesus. We hear of religion often. Everyone knows the mainstream religions and the many denominations of Christianity. Religion typically draws extreme reactions in that it’s either highly revered or it’s despised.

My take might be somewhat controversial but I personally view religion in mostly a negative light. It brings to mind ritualistic behavior, rules and division. Many religious practices are man-made. Subsequently, each religion typically has its own version of holy scripture.

You must be thinking, ‘Christianity is a religion and you’re a Christian, so what’s your point?!’ Yes, Christianity is defined as the religion derived from Jesus Christ, based on the Bible as sacred scripture, and professed by Eastern, Roman Catholic, and Protestant bodies. However, there is a very distinct difference in practicing a religion and having a relationship with Christ.

1 John 14:6 tells us that, “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” This is the fundamental belief of true Christianity. Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation. 1 Timothy 2:5 also states, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” The world tends to complicate things when in reality, it’s quite simple. Romans 10:9 gives the instructions on how to be a follower of Jesus. “Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” That’s extremely clear! There are no hoops to jump through; no man-made rituals to partake in. Ephesians 2:8-9 confirms this. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” There is nothing we could ever do to earn the sacrifice that Jesus made for us on the cross. His death was the ultimate selfless gift for our eternal salvation.

Religion without a true relationship with Jesus is simply tradition. James 1:22 calls us to be doers of the word and not just hearers. We must live according to the Bible, not just sit in church on Sunday and listen to the preacher talk about it. It goes on to say in James 1:26, “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.” This simply means that faith without works is dead. We cannot claim Jesus in words only. We must live according to His word and seek Him in prayer. This is true of any relationship. Would you consider someone a true friend if you never spoke to or spent quality time with them?

Another key misconception is all the ‘rules’ of Christianity. Some don’t want to commit to Jesus because they don’t want to change their lives to follow all these ‘man-made’ rules. But there is freedom in living for Jesus. Romans 8:2 says, “For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” When He saves us, He covers our sin in His blood and He sends us the Holy Spirit to help guide us in the freedom that only comes from Him. Should our lives change when we commit to Him? Yes – but once we understand His love for us and the grace and mercy He shows us, we will actually want to live according to His Word. You won’t think of it as living according to rules; you will realize it’s the least you can do for the man who died so you can live.

Examine your heart, friend. Do you go to church because you’re supposed to? Do you say you’ll pray for someone because it’s the right thing to say while knowing deep down you’re not likely to follow through on that promise? Are you just going through the motions of ‘Christian life’? If so, you’re not alone. I have been there. Often times, it happens before you even realize it. But don’t worry, you do not have to remain in a state of complacency. Turn your heart fully to Jesus. Dig into His Word. Pray sincerely and often. He will reveal himself in your life. Psalm 37:5 says, “Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.” Draw near to Him and He will draw near to you.

Until next time,

Erica Lee

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