“Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen. ” – 1 Timothy 6:12-16
People often ask me “How important is religion?” There are a lot of religions out there. There are so many versions of the Bible. They find that confusing. Which religion is the right religion? How can I be sure that I picked the right religion?
Those are very good questions. But I would like to answer the question of which religion is the right religion by ignoring what the religions are all together. That requires some explanation so let me start with the bottom line: It is not about religion, it is all about a relationship. God sent his beloved Son to earth so that he could die for our sins and we could have a relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It is that relationship we should be pursuing not a religion. And that is not easy. I think most people would agree that it is easier to practice religion than it is to be in a close and intimate relationship with Christ Jesus.
There are numerous biblical passages on having a relationship with God and with each other. One example is John chapter 15. In that chapter, Jesus seeks to impress upon his disciples the importance of relationships. Throughout God’s Word, God is depicted as a God who wants a relationship with His people. God loves us and wants us to have a personal relationship with Him. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) Read also Romans 8:31-32; 1 John 4:19; John 3:16; 2 Corinthians 6:18; and Romans 8:14-17. You won’t find anything about religion in all those verses. It is all about relationships.
John 13:35 says, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” It doesn’t say, “They will know you are a follower of Christ if you carry the right Bible,” or “if you go to the best church,” or “practice the correct religion.” Our unique distinction should be our love for one another.
1 John 4:9 says, “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.” He created us for relationship with Him. Not a forced – “you will love me” – relationship, but rather, one established by our own free-will choice to accept Christ as personal Lord and Savior.
The reality is that practicing religion will not necessarily lead to a close and intimate relationship with God through Christ Jesus. There is no doubt that the religious authorities who lived in the time of Jesus were faithful to their religious practices, but their relationship with Jesus was anything but close and intimate.
So let’s take our example from Christ, the one we follow. Jesus cared about people, not about being right. If he had only cared about being right, he would never have allowed himself to be crucified. Jesus looked into the hearts of men and women and had compassion for their needs. What would happen in today’s world if every Christian would follow his example?
It is all about the relationship.
- What do you think religion is all about? What is Jesus all about?
- Do you agree that it is all about a relationship and not about religion?
- How do you tell the difference between Jesus and religion?
- How can your relationships in church and/or small groups help you in your relationship with God?
- How do we intentionally pursue a relationship with God? What barriers will we face? How do we overcome them?
- Pray and ask God to help you build a better relationship with Him?