By Elizabeth Prata
How often do we hear that all we need is a personal relationship with Jesus? That it’s a relationship, not a reltigion? I read so often that ‘Christianity is not a religion’, as if participating in our religion is bad, or that its principles and commands are not needed. They are needed and it is a religion.
It’s easier to have a relationship than a religion. In a relationship with Jesus, who is not physically present, we can have our druthers all in one direction. No rules to follow. No study of the word. No prayers to discipline ourselves to make. No submission to perform. Just feelings, all the feels. “I love Him”, “I feel his presence”, “I know He loves me totally and He embraces me with an everlasting love.” “I know I can achieve the victorious life through deep dependence on Jesus.”
The relationship people rest in simply receiving His love and attention, but that’s not all a relationship is. It’s a two way street, plus rules. We do have a religion, one full of commands and creeds and actions, and resisting actions, and thinking.
So…how will you ‘achieve victory’ unless you understand what victory is? Unless you understand what it truly means to stand in His presence? Unless you know His love but also His holiness? And where do you discover those things? The Bible. Where our religion is written.
You know, demons have “a personal relationship with Jesus.” Satan, that old fallen angel/serpent, has an especially personal one with Jesus. (Ezekiel 28:14 calls him the anointed cherub). Satan calls Jesus by name, communes with Him (tempting him in Matthew) and comes at an opportune time. So, this mantra about “relationship not religion” is a little deceiving. We need to understand the WHOLE religion of God, Law & Gospel, Sin & redemption, Bible, not just the relationship part.
Not to mention that God is GOD, worthy of worship because He is holy, creator and sustainer of the universe and allows us to draw our next breath. We were created to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever. You worship and glorify a deity (in our case, the One TRUE deity) in a religion.
James 1:26-27 says that we Christians DO have a religion, one that is “pure and undefiled.” Now, it’s true that the word in James means an undefiled religion in terms of love manifested from the heart, as expressed by our actions toward widows and orphans, and love for one another. But it’s a religion.
Our faith is also obedience to the word. The word tells us how, when, and why to worship the one True God. He does not accept our relgiosity if we make an offering at variance from what He expects and demands. It must be acceptable worship, and the place to discover how to worship acceptably is in His word.
Jesus said this: “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.” (John 4:23)
Christianity is a religion with one key, distinct difference: its relationship of its adherents to the Christ. The relationship is thus a key component of our faith, but it is a component. There’s more to just communing with Christ and basking in His love for us. Again, satan has a relationship with Jesus. The difference is that he fell outside the bounds of the religion. It’s what happens when there is ONLY relationship.