Religion vs. Relationship
Posted on 06/10/2007 by Rev. Benjamin R. Faust D.D.
Good morning and welcome!
Are you glad to be here in the house of the Lord today?
Have you come with a heart that is prepared to meet with the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords?
Have you come ready to glorify and magnify his holy name, and to just spend some time in his presence, pouring out your love upon him?
Let's all stand to our feet and open today's service with prayer.
We pray for Bev's request for healing in her body, healing from anxiety, and weakness. Lord, she's not asking us, or some human being for help; she is asking you, and we join with her in this request, that you bring health, peace, and the strength of your joy to Bev. May she overflow with the blessings that can come only by your hand, and may your hand be upon her life, in Jesus' name.
We pray that you will grant Missieman's request for wisdom. And as we seek for wisdom and guidance, we know that you will guide our feet, bring the light of your Word to our path, and we will fulfill the destiny you have place before us.
Now pour out your Holy Spirit upon us. As we worship you, may our praises be as sweet incense rising up to your throne. Lord, we lavish our praises upon you, we reach out and embrace you, Daddy God!
Surround your children with your loving embrace, and reveal your unending love to everyone here and listening later.
We ask these things in the name of Jesus.
You can click-touch the pulpit for a notecard, or follow along with the overhead. Let's raise our hearts, our hands, and our voices to the heavens, as we worship the Lord together in spirit and in truth!
I LOVE TO BE IN YOUR PRESENCE
I love to be in Your presence
With Your people singing praises
I love to stand and rejoice
Lift my hands and raise my voice
You set my feet to dancing
You fill my heart with song
You give me reason to rejoice
TAKE ME IN
Take me past the outer courts
Into the Holy Place
Past the brazen altar
Lord I want to see your face
Pass me by the crowds of people
And the Priests who sing your praise
I hunger and thirst for your righteousness
And it's only found one place
Take me into the holy of holies
Take me in by the blood of the lamb
Take me into the holy of holies
Take the coal, touch my lips, here I am
I LOVE YOU LORD
I love you Lord
and I lift my voice
To worship you
O my soul, rejoice!
Take joy, my King
in what you hear
May it be a sweet, sweet sound
in your ear
Lord, we do love you! Thank you for delighting in our praises. Thank you for singing over us with shouts of joy! Thank you for loving us so much that you would sacrifice yourself, your glory, your splendor and majesty, and that you would come to earth and shed your blood for us, just so that dividing wall could be broken down from between us, and so we could enjoy the indescribable wonders of having a deep, sweet, everlasting love relationship with you.
Speak to us now through your Word, and may we be drawn ever closer to you.
And it's in Jesus' name we pray.
You may be seated.
Today's message is titled, "Religion vs. Relationship."
This is a response to something I'm sure most of us have encountered a number of times, possibly every single day. And that is the statement, feeling, or idea that "Christianity is just another of many religions."
What is your response? This idea must not be the easiest one to counter, since it continues to spread even into the church. IS Christianity just one of many religions?
Let's take a look at what Scripture says about what is really religion, and what is simply religiosity.
In James chapter one verse twenty-seven we read this:
"Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to help orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world."
So if we want to know what is real religion according to God, we will discover that it is not religion at all.
Truly giving of yourself to meet the needs of those who do not have a father or have lost a husband requires we shed at least part of our religious garb and clothe ourselves with a little bit of servant's clothes.
Some of us might might have expected this Scripture to read,
"True religion is performing the rites and ceremonies of the church, honoring the traditions, and living according to the guidelines given us by the church fathers."
And yet this is not included in God's definition of what is the only pure and undefiled religion.
We tend to feel more "holy" when we're arguing about a doctrinal point of view, or when we're attempting to demonstrate how well we know the Bible. But we just might consider that this can often be religiosity.
Instead God demonstrates his own heart very clearly in this verse. He could very well have said,
"You argue about religions and what is true and false, but I'll tell you what religion is pure and undefiled, and all others are impure and defiled. In fact, what I consider pure and undefiled religion isn't even religion at all.
"Rather, it is to humble yourself as a servant and help those in need. Reach out to the widows, those who in some societies are outcasts. Reach out to the orphans, those who in some places are considered a burden.
"You keep arguing about whose doctrine is better, but you don't seem to be interested in what is dear to my heart. The broken, bleeding, hurting, abandoned, forsaken, destitute, the widows, the orphans, those forgotten and in need -- THESE are what is dear to my heart. If you want to be great in MY eyes, do this.
"And keep yourself unspotted from the things of the world that keep you away from me.
"After all, true religion is not religion at all. It is seeking after and knowing my heart, and becoming one with my desires and my will, and being my hands, my feet, my mouth, and my mind in the world."
When's the last time we sacrificed something and humbled ourselves to help someone even if no one else on earth would ever know? When we do this to the ones who are least in the eyes of man, we do this to Jesus.
We see this clearly in Jesus' parable of the Sheep and the Goats, which we read in Matthew chapter 25, beginning with verse 31:
31 "When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.
32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats.
33 And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.
34 Then the King will say to those on His right hand, 'Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
35 for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in;
36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.'
37 "Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink?
38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You?
39 Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?'
40 And the King will answer and say to them, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these, My brethren, you did it to Me.'
41 "Then He will say to those on the left hand, 'Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels:
42 for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink;
43 I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’
44 "Then they also will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?'
45 Then He will answer them, saying, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.'
46 And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."
First we see that all the nations will be gathered before him in the Great Judgement. Many have speculated who this will include, but since we don't know and most of us here are believers, we'll just take this personally as applying to us. And Jesus did not say, "You sheep followed me, and you goats followed the world," rather he says to one, "You met my needs by meeting the needs of others," and to the other, "You ignored my needs by ignoring the needs of others."
This ties in very well with God's response to the whole idea of religion. And since the issue of Jesus' authority to rightly say he is the only way to the Father cannot be brought into question during this time of his revealed authority as absolute judge, we can safely conclude he isn't handing out passes to the Father to anyone who ever did anything good for someone else.
This brings us to our third Scripture passage, found in Matthew chapter 7, starting with verse 21 where Jesus says,
21 "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.
22 Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?'
23 And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'
Didn't both the sheep and the goats call him "Lord?" And yet here in Matthew seven, we see that Jesus replied, "I never knew you."
"Knowing" is a two-way street, and is different from "knowing about." If I were to talk with someone who knew you growing up, and if they were to tell me everything about you, I would know about you. But regardless of how much I know about you, if someone mentioned my name, you could very well say, "No, I don't know him."
Even if we meet in the same building once or twice a week, along with millions of other people, our paths might even cross, I might be in the crowd in front of or beside you. But when we meet face to face, you could very rightly say, "No, I don't know you."
Even if we spend time together and get to know more about one another, if you love nature and I hate it, if you hate darkness and I seek it out, if you yearn for peace and quiet and I cannot stand anything but noise and discord, you could very rightly say, "I was around him, but I don't really know him, we never connected. We're certainly not friends. We never got past the point of knowing about, and we never got to the point of intimate knowing."
On the other hand, if I love what you love and hate what you hate, if I seek to see what is inside of you and abandon my own sinful tendencies to instead take on the good nature that is in you, if I love those who you love and who love you, if I stay away from those things that are despised by you and that destroy the ones you love, and if I do all this by spending time together with you, talking, walking together, eating together, and having a personal, intimate relationship with you, then you would not hesitate to say, "Yes, I know him very well."
And so it is with God. He's not interested in dead religion, in man-made traditions, in religious ceremonies, in arguing over speculations, and in our outward appearance of holiness.
In fact, God is not interested in our religion at all. Rather, he wants to KNOW us. He wants to know us INTIMATELY. And he wants to know us as one close friend knows another.
All too often we approach our live with the attitude of, "What can I do that's not a sin?" instead of "What can I do to please God?"
Perhaps we should not ask ourselves, "Is this a sin," but rather, "Does this make God happy?"
And as we humble ourselves daily and spend time reading his Word, seeking his presence, praising and worshiping him, speaking with him, and seeking a deeper and deeper immersion in his Holy Spirit, we will begin to know his heart more and more.
We will begin to approach things differently when we have a relationship than we did when we simply had a religion.
And this is tied in with our first passage for today, to "keep one's self unspotten by the world." In Scripture, the world is often used to represent the carnal ways of thinking and living. It is the way of the fallen human nature, those things which are contrary to the nature of God. Those things which, even if they may seem good and Godly, are twisted, and deviate from God's nature only slightly.
It's like a glass of tall, cold water that has only a drop of lethal poison in it. It looks pure, it feels pure, it tastes pure. But the result of drinking it is death.
Don't compromise with those things that God despises. Don't be friendly with things that destroy the people God loves and for whom he sent his only begotten Son to suffer and die.
Seek not to live a good religious life, but to get closer and closer to God, listening intently for his heart beat, pressing your ear closer and closer to his chest until your heart's rythm begins to be tuned to his.
When you have this kind of relationship with the True and Living God, the one who knit by hand everyone who has ever been conceived, and the one who can only be reached and known through Jesus Christ; when you have this deep, daily, growing, and truly loving relationship with him, your life will be transformed in a way nothing else can.
The effects of religion will be seen as surface and defiled.
The effects of new age meditations, experiences, and healings will begin to smell like death and deception.
The seeking after this god and that, after this false prophet and that, and after all the philosophies, religions, and esoteric knowledge of all times, will begin to feel like committing adultery against the one you love and to whom you have committed every ounce of your very being.
So if you wish to choose religion, or philosophy, or human intellect, or human relationships as your god, you have the freedom to make that choice. And along with the heart of God, I grieve for your unspeakable loss, for you have no idea how complete and alive you would be if you would only throw all that junk away and seek instead a living, growing, real and intimate relationship with God through his Son Jesus Christ.
And in the words of Joshuah 24:15, "And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD."
I'd like for the ministry team to come stand across the front now.
Today is a day of decision for many of you. God is holding out an option, "Choose man's ways or mine. Choose death or life. Choose religion or relationship."
And here is the decision God is asking you to make today, right here, right now. And you don't know if you will have the chance to make this decision ever again.
The decision is this:
Do you choose the intellect of man, or the wisdom of God?
Do you choose the pleasures of sin for a season, or the everlasting peace and joy of true righteousness?
Do you choose man-made traditions, rituals, and ceremonies, or a real, daily, intimate walk with God?
Do you choose religion, or do you choose relationship?
You may have made this decision some time in the past, but every moment and every situation presents you with that choice again.
Whether you have never made the decision for the wisdom of God, the everlasting peace and joy of true righteousness, and a real, daily, intimate walk and relationship with God, whether you have made it at one time but drifted away, or whether you are walking in that relationship today; if you choose a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, stand to your feet right now.
If you would like prayer or ministry, or just to stand or kneel in the presence of the Lord, this altar is open, and you're free to step out of your seats and gather at the front.
If this is the first time you've made this decision to walk with Jesus, or if you've strayed and are coming back to the Lord, please instant message someone on the ministry team.
In a few minutes we'll meet in the room to your left for fellowship, and when you're ready to leave, please make your way over there.
Lord, thank you for speaking to us today. Thank you for loving us, and for sacrificing your Son, placing the blame and guilt of our sins upon him, so that through him we could be reconciled to an all-consuming relationship with you.
Pour out your Holy Spirit upon all those who have chosen you today. And draw them into your presence in a measure they have not previously known.
And we ask these things in Jesus' name.