Faith · Truth

Scripture Rightly Divided: “There is no true relationship without religion, neither true religion without relationship.”

I am fully aware that many of you will click into this blog on the defense, but I expect nothing less. I do encourage you to read this blog all the way through before making any haste to respond. Let the Holy Spirit lead you and let the Word of God minister to you. Your experiences, feelings, opinions, or even the teachings of your pastor or favorite blogger are not the final authority in anything. Only God, and I want to express to you why if you believe religion and relationship are to be separate you may want to reconsider your foundation of that belief. May the Lord guide my words in His truth and may every sentence be seasoned with His grace.

Amen.

First, what is religion?

Religion, in its most comprehensive sense, includes a belief in the being and perfections of God, in the revelation of his will to man, in man’s obligation to obey his commands, in a state of reward and punishment, and in man’s accountableness to God; and also true godliness or piety of life, with the practice of all moral duties. It therefore comprehends theology, as a system of doctrines or principles, as well as practical piety; for the practice of moral duties without a belief in a divine lawgiver, and without reference to his will or commands, is not religion.

Long version made short:

Religion is a practice in the beliefs we proclaim to have and an understanding of the theology in said beliefs. It is order, and not a free-for-all (to do as you please even if it is to your detriment).

For example, for those of you who may need an analogy as the people in the biblical days better understood parables, let us say you come across a man who says he is a soldier, but as you take in this man you start to question his proclamation. He is not dressed like a soldier headed into battle, but more like a man getting ready to sunbathe on the beach. He does not even know the terminology of battle or how to wield his weapons. Even worse, he actually speaks contrary to love for his country, but walks, talks, and even believes like the enemy. His moves are much contrary to the side he claims. Yet, however, he still convinces many guillible people that he is fighting for this side simply because he continues to say it. Do you see the issue here? There are laws, beliefs, and a basic understanding of the foundations of our faith that have to be expounded upon as we grow in Christ. We do not get to believe whatever we want and say we follow God. Follow is action verb – there must be actual following and how can we follow if we do not uphold and reverence His Word, which lays out for us His will and His way, as the God-Breathed and Living Word it is.

So, is God against religion?

Well, I can assure by Scripture that God is against man-made religion(s) that cause unnecessary divisions between His people. However, I can also assure you by His Word that He is not against religion itself and actually encourages us to walk in it – not to be a divider among His true sheep but to guide us in our own personal walk being empowered by the Holy Spirit to walk uprightly and to divide and warn us from those who are truly not of Him. If it were not so, it would not be found in His Word. We need religion of Christ just as much as we need relationship in Christ – for neither is true without the other.

“Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”

James 1:27

To visit the fatherless and the widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world – this is pure and undefiled religion before God. What does this mean? Well, the beginning is simple enough, but is also neglected often. But we are to care for others in their times of trouble. Visit the widow, pour into the fatherless, stretch out your hand to the poor and reach forth your hands to the needy, speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves, be present in caring – especially for those who are also of the Body. Esteeming others higher than ourselves and looking also to the interests of others {Philippians 2:3-4}. God also instructs us to keep ourselves unspotted from the world. This means in plain terms not being adulterous in your beliefs nor relationship with God. Not going against Him and entertaining sin or coddling others in sin because you still have a place yet surrendered to Him – even if that place is a fear of man or being disliked by people. We must stand firm. A person who stands for nothing will fall for anything. We must walk unwaveringly in the faith we profess {Hebrews 10:2}. One body. One Spirit. One mind. One accord. We cannot do that without religion, the basis of our very beliefs and practices. God’s religion is not to be despised and I tremble for those who do so because of their love for lawlessness and/or popularity and acceptance of men.

“Let all things be done decently and in order.”

1 Corinthians 14:40

What is a relationship (with God)?

A relationship with God begins the very moment He begins to work on your heart by His Spirit and draws you nigh to Him unto your surrendered belief and professing of Christ who came as the Word in the flesh and died in your place that your sins may be washed away by the spilling of His blood; and that He rose again and will return again to bring judgement to all – those who are in Him will be judged as faithful only because of what He has done then on Calvary and even now in us and His imputed righteousness, and those who are not in Him and rejected Him will be cast into eternal torment in the lake of fire. The wrath of God the Father satisfied. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them {Ephesians 2:8-10}. You cannot have a true relationship with God lest it is a work of Him. Many try to imitate a relationship with God but a seasoned believer or in-tune Christian who walks intimately with God will easily draw it out and recognize if the tree is really of God and if there is true growth (even if it is slow) in deed, in speech, in theology, in spirit, in truth, and in love.

Some people have a dead version of a relationship with a god, but it is not with the Only Living God. Why is that? They do not even know who God is and do not care to. That is why religion is of equal importance; for relationship without religion is feelings-based and loose to do what it wills and a breeding ground for blaspheme. On the other hand, religion without relationship is works-based and vain and a breeding ground for pride of every kind. Unlike other religions, which are defiled and dead, genuine Christianity is not just about rituals and rules and creeds – it is about loving God and doing what He says willingly and joyfully because of the great love for Him we have because He first loved us. It is beautiful. It is not a bore nor a burden. He abides with us and us with Him. He calls us sisters and brothers, friend, sons and daughters, and much more terms of endearment. He is not afar off or a stranger. He speaks to and visits the very least of these and deeply cares for us – so much so He knows the very number of hairs upon our heads and reveals His wonderful attributes, plans, and wisdom with us in the most simple, yet profound ways! You are not some servant under cruel punishment by an abusive master – as you are when you are still lost and under the influence of Satan. But you are a bondservant who is loved and thought of so highly that your Master died in your place that you should live and be with Him for eternity. I could go on and on, but somethings are better learned when experienced.

So, where did the “It’s a relationship not a religion” originate from?

This is a saying that made it’s debut very recent, within the last two decades or so. Though I cannot pinpoint exactly who began this erroneous saying, I do know growing up around many professing Christians, even if some were not really believers, I never heard it. When I was first saved which was several precious years ago, even I would sputter this everywhere. I had grew up in church and knew all the songs, laws, and even of grace – but I never had that relationship and it was such a beautiful moment when God revealed to me Himself in this now complete way. So, please do not feel like this post is meant to bash you if you are one who has found yourself doing the same, I have been there.

The phrase sounded inviting and trendy. Catchy to those who found dead religion off-putting as I did, and rightfully so. I wanted everyone to experience what the Lord had done for me, a true relationship with Him, and know He can do it for them too. With good intentions, yes, but I still caused more harm than good by doing so. No different than the popular phrase “I’m not religious, I’m spiritual.” But we must be specific, for even demons are spiritual. Our walks with God is more than a relationship, though equivalently of importance, and the moment we only emphasize that aspect we do the Gospel a disservice. Religion and relationship are inseparable in growing – my faith was rounded once I had them both – the theology and the intimacy that allow that theology to be lived out in full and applied to the glory of God.

Where do we go from here as a Church, and why is it crucial we put far from us this way of thinking?

With the New Age movement and many like it in full effect, which are feelings-based and blend different concepts of various religions, we must be very cautious of not supporting apostasy. Remaining undefiled and pure and unspotted by the world. There are not many ways to heaven, there is one. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. Be not deceived. Though God is merciful and so gracious, it does not mean He stops being all His other attributes and neither stop leading us into righteousness. Two things I AM do not do: Lie and change. Being in the Lord is not a free-for-all, but instead is an invite to all He calls to come, lay down their lives that they may have life, and be free in Him. To have no religion is to not deny your flesh anything and/or to pick and choose what you deem “right” and worthy of following – becoming your own god. Do you understand, dear soul? The Church to abstain from every appearance of evil must purge out all that is not biblical, including “It’s a relationship, not a religion” no matter how good it sounds to a sinner or floating around evangelical circles. The Word of God does not need to be dressed up, only presented in truth, in spirit, and in love. It reveals truth and breaks the yokes of bondage all on it’s own {Hebrews 4:12, 2 Timothy 3:16-17}. Religion is not bad as the world and the devil has tried and succeeded in making it seem so, but you can start today by living as God says and not being ashamed of the full Gospel of Jesus Christ in your growing relationship with Him.

To sum up what this blog is about once again: Relationship provides intimacy with Christ. Religion provides accountability and wisdom in Christ. And they both are authored, approved, and rewarded by, of, and from God. To teach anything else is a lie. Do not follow man and their traditions or even their denominations, but genuinely follow Christ and by doing so heeding to His Word and will know pure religion. Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth {2 Timothy 2:15}.

May the Church arise.

With so much love for you,

The Redeemed Wife

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