Religion vs. relationship – checklist God! (part 1)

Posted: 10/05/2011 in God
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I am struggling at the moment with distinguishing when the time I spend with God goes from relational to religious. It is such a difficult place to be in because for so long I lived my Christian journey not in freedom, but in self-made religious bondage. My faith was a checklist of guilt induced “doing” rather than a relationship with the God that loves me unconditionally. But then I began to discover what it was to have that beautiful relationship with the Father and have hungrily sought time in God’s presence since. Seemingly the religious aspect of my faith dissipated but every now and again old thought patterns creep back. I think that’s part of what Paul is talking about when he says “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” (Rom 12:2). He is not talking about being or not being religious but about transforming our thinking and for me one of those areas relates to being religious. The world, even the Church, tells us how to be religious and this can become our thinking. We need to renew our mind, change that thinking and consider what it is that God has to say about doing life with Him.

Of course God desires that I spend time with Him. The clearest indication that God desires me is the lengths he went to, to bring me into His presence and into a relationship with Him (John 3:16). As we seek him we find Him (Jer 29:13) and as we draw near to Him He draws near to us (James 4:8). Jesus prayed that we would be with him and see his glory (John 17:24). And most amazingly he calls me his friend (John 15:15). How does one friend get to know another friend, by spending time with them. I can’t identify one personal and close friendship I have that has not come about from quality time and sharing. Nor do I recall making a ceremony out of the time I spend with those friends. Imagine having a set order of “how to do coffee” or a checklist of things to get through every time we caught up with a friend! Why then do we make a friendship with God so complicated? What if, with our friends, we did or talked about exactly the same thing every time we caught up? It remains a superficial friendship and catching up almost becomes something done out of a sense of duty.

So then what are the benefits of spending time with God? We learn (Matt 11:29), find rest and renew our strength (Isaiah 40:31, Matt 11:28-30) and find our way lighted by reading His word (Ps 119:105). But we also get to know the trinity; that is, God the Father, God the son and God the Holy Spirit, as we read, pray and meditate. It’s easy to get confused by theology and the concepts of our faith and we may stay confused unless we make a concerted effort to get to know God. The best way of getting to know Him is through the bible. CH Spurgeon put it this way. You can’t enjoy the hunt unless you roast it, you can’t taste the honey until you squeeze it from the comb, and you can’t sip the wine until you press it from the grape (paraphrased from CH Spurgeon – sermon 2690). There is a difference between just reading the word and reading it then meditating on it. We can read much but know little and I can testify to that. For years I read the word of God, “religiously” at times as if by doing so I could check it off my list of things to do, stroking my religious ego. But I learnt so little, it was mostly a bunch of memory verses. Now as I meditate on the word, asking God to give me the Spirit of wisdom and revelation (Eph 1:17) it comes to life just as the writer to the Hebrews says it is (Heb 4:12)!

Great, so I know that God desires I spend time with Him and I know that there is so much benefit in spending time with Him but I’m still stuck in not making this wonderful relationship a religion! How has God been teaching me in this area? What am I learning about this? I’ll write more on it in my next post.

  1. Jim Thornber says:

    I preached on this last Sunday. I call it the difference between being devoted to God and being devoted to my devotions. I’m devoted to God when I come without an agenda — I just like being there. I’m devoted to my devotions when I’ve got to read so many chapters of Scripture and spend so many minutes in prayer of I feel I’ve failed — not in my relationship, but in my DEVOTIONS!!! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Only Jesus, and keeping eyes of my heart upon Him.

    Thanks for the post.


    • mels33 says:

      Hey Jim. I like that….being devoted to our devotions. Your spot on about shifting our focus from devotions to Jesus. Thanks 🙂

  2. I am a friend of God…Thanks for this article. Nice.

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