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Attempting to obey God and follow Jesus Christ our Lord

Religion vs. Relationship – Don’t Miss the Point (Part 1)

My personal history is similar to that of the Pharisees. I was so busy with my religious checklists (keeping the law) that I missed the Savior. I did not have a relationship with Him, but I was certainly religious about Him.

For instance, the Lord’s Prayer was my checklist for “conversations” with God (a monologue rather than a dialogue, the way I did it.) Prayer time was when I presented Him with my “to do” list. On top of that, I was very critical and judgmental of those who did not take their religion seriously.

Like the Pharisees, I had missed the point.

I missed the most important list of all, probably because it’s so short. We find it in Matthew 22:36-40. Jesus states that the greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind. The second greatest is to love our neighbor as ourselves. I had all the appearance of a good Christian, but I lacked love…and love happens in relationship.

Something I discovered is that I couldn’t “work up” love for others – especially certain groups of people who broke the Scriptural laws I tried to live by. To me, they were the enemy, standing in the way of what I thought ought to happen.

I’ve watched “them” dismantle the country I love one brick at a time. I tried to show them the error of their ways using Scripture, but my loveless words were a blaring trumpet and crashing cymbals in their ears. Not one of them saw a need to change “parties” and follow my rules.

I despised them for their ignorance.

Over the past several years, though, God has been drawing me into a relationship with Him. He’s been inviting me to get to know Him, not just know about Him. The closer I come to Him, the more things change in me – and not because of my own efforts to be good. The changes come naturally.

As I hear His heart for the lost, compassion for their blindness begins to grow. As I become more aware of His presence, I don’t want to do things that would displease Him. By spending time with Him and hearing Him speak to me, I learn that He is not angry with me but loves me with an everlasting love – that He is pleased with me.

To realize that I am secure in His love has allowed me to grow in grace and love for others. I don’t need to prove – or believe – myself better or more deserving of heaven than another person (a lie I believed most of my life. Which of us “deserves” anything from God?).

I don’t see Christianity as a competition anymore.

This kind of growth did not come from all the check-lists, bullet points, and “10-steps to Christian maturity” programs that I’ve followed for over 40 years. It’s new to me, and very noticeable to others, and began when I left off being merely “religious” and began to pursue a relationship with the Lord.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34 We have to know His love before we can truly love others.

I can know all the rules in the Bible and live by them, yet not know the Author of the Book.

Then I will have truly missed the point!

I will learn from Him best through His Word, as the Spirit prompts me to surrender the unholy parts of my heart to Him. The sinful areas are revealed as I study His Word.

This is not a call to dump the Bible and “feel the love.” To dismiss our Bibles is to silence the Lord’s most powerful way of communicating with us.

Does this make sense?

It is my heart’s desire to call people away from empty, vain “religiosity” and to an intimate relationship with our Lord.

Don’t miss the point!

Don’t miss Part 2 on Wednesday!

Visit my blog: Lessons by Heart

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