Relationship versus Religion 2016-44

Relationship versus Religion   2016-44

I feel I try to get “closer to Jesus Christ” in my relationship with Him. It is not easy for me and I am continually striving to do so. I wander and find myself straying away at times, even though I do not want to do so. Hey, “I am human” is my excuse, but a bad one.

What is Being Religious?

Anyhow, I have some points of view to think about. Someone told or actually asked me, “You are religious?” I thought and admitted to him that was so, probably. I stopped to think about the question. What is being religious? Is it being Lutheran, following doctrines of the church, going to church, doing the right things, being moral in my actions and thoughts, or WHAT?  Does God want me or us to be religious or does He want us to have a relationship with Him. Which is more important?

I refuse to say I should be less religious or not at all. I feel I am also Spiritual and perhaps that does shove me more towards having a better relationship with God; maybe….

Is it Enough?

Doing or being more religious does have problems for me at times.

Do I feel that when I am doing all the religious things I am on God’s “good side” and am saved because I am doing what I did or do for Him. Hmmm…. Then, if I do not pray enough, do enough service, attend church all the time; do I start to feel guilty? I would think then with this rationale, I can NEVER pray enough, read the Bible enough, and do enough for the church to earn God’s love.  Then I thought, God doesn’t love me for what I do, God loves me for what my Savior did for me… He loves me because of my relationship with Him not my obligations I feel I must do for Him. Another Hmmm… I read Romans 8:1 and that Scripture sort of sums it up for me.

Do I, or do others , censure others for not being or acting perfect? THEN, do we start to make comparisons with these same others? Does it become sessions of comparing our spiritual life to others and when we start to condemn ourselves do we then start to condemn others?  I think we should NOT compare ourselves to others but instead compare ourselves to Jesus Christ and in reality there is NO comparison in that comparison. All we have to do is accept His grace and allow Him to bridge the gap where we do not measure up.  In Romans 2:1 it states, “Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things”, which somewhat explains what I just said.

Does God Owe Us?

Being quite religious can make us feel like God “owes us”, which is not true. If we do all those religious things I mentioned beforehand, why would God allow all or anything bad to happen to us? This is where we feel that we can achieve righteousness, which is something we cannot do. In Romans 3:10-12 “ as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one;   no one understands; no one seeks for God.   All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” Anyhow, I believe that He has given us all that he has when he died on the cross for our sins, and owes us nothing more..

I do not want my ego to allow any of my religious ongoing dealings to make me prideful of myself and take my thoughts away from Jesus and my relationship with Him. As it states in one of my favorite books of the Bible, James 5:16, Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” This idea may be what I want to do. Also, do I, or we, allow ourselves to think our being good is from US, instead of God’s grace alone, and if we do, we may become subjugated by this.

No Strings Attached!

Lastly, I think we should NOT be thinking about how much we pray, go to church, read the Bible, but instead, ponder and focus more on the who, instead of the how of being religious. By getting closer to Jesus Christ, this is more that really matters, the WHO of the One we worship, because God wants us to come just as we are, no more. He invites us to an abundant life, defined by relationship instead of just a religious setting. Religion doesn’t save, Jesus does. I do NOT feel that there is not a place in our lives for religion; just not allow it to rule us. Community is a part of showing our love for God and not to be excluded, but let it be part of the relationship.

Den Betts

 

 

I acknowledge Tyler Speegle for his comments that I used for info in the above. I made it more personable to me and not him for these views on religion and relationships.

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Getting Closer to Jesus Christ 2016-16

                                          Getting Closer to Jesus Christ 2016-16

If we believe in Jesus Christ, we could do many things that would allow us to get “Closer to Jesus” in a way that would solidify our relationship with Him. Why use the word solidify? I do so; to say we could make our unity with Jesus stronger or to be reinforced in the process of our living as a Christian.

I can only express my own trials of doing so, to give others an idea of what it is like to do this. First off, it is NOT easy! It is a process to a degree. We are all, in some way, in different stages of being closer to Jesus.

I remember an exercise a number of years ago called REVEAL. This was something that was put out by a religious group, for many churches of different faiths to participate and find out where the church as a whole belonged, and, where as individuals at the church were in their relationship with Jesus.

I remember a chart that showed “stepping stones” for where each person was in life. Remember, we are ALL in various stages of growth and maturity:

Stages of Steps

First was a stone called “Exploring Christ” where people in this group had a basic belief in God, but they were unsure about Christ and His role in their lives.  I wonder how many of us have this way of thinking. I would think that a new member or a younger member would normally fit in this group, without any criticism at all about them.

The second stone was “Growing in Christ” and people in this group have a personal relationship with Christ. They had made a commitment to trust him with their salvation and for their eternity, but they are just beginning to learn what it means to be in a relationship with Him. I believe countless number of people are balancing on this stone, clinging and hovering at this junction of their lives.

Another group and thirdly, were those people that were “Close to Christ”. These folks depend on Christ daily for their lives. They see Jesus as someone who assists them in life. They turn to Him on a daily basis; they look to Him for help and any issues they face on a regular basis. Quite a number of people belong or believe they belong to this group and stand on this stone.

Lastly, the last stone are those that are “Christ Centered” and these people identify their relationship with Jesus Christ as the most important relationship in their entire lives. They see their lives as fully surrendered to Jesus and his agenda, subordinating everything to His will and His desires.  Actually, this stone is not crowded and probably the percentages of people on this stone are few or very low.

So, where do we belong on these rocks of life? The thing is, sometimes we change our position in life and where we stand. We move forward and backward and it depends on circumstances just where we are in our relationship with God and Jesus Christ. So, the stones or rocks remain in place, but we skip from one to another.

A Simile

I remember reading about Teresa of Avilla. She was a Roman Catholic nun who lived in the 16th Century from 1515 to 1582. She wrote an autobiography and what was called “The Interior Castle” which described SEVEN rooms in a mansion, which really somewhat parallel what the FOUR stepping stone segments.  If you get a chance, read about Teresa and her mansion with the SEVEN room concept.

I bring this up because Teresa of Avilla suggested that people go from one room of spiritual growth to another and sometimes back track to the previous room or to others they left behind. This is normal and the stone positioning is not linear and one way. Ultimately people in general tend to move toward a relationship with God and Christ. But, as individuals, their pathways can be very non-direct at times. Birds head south for the winter, but not necessarily in a straight line path and people do not take giant leaps from one stone to another in their faith either; it is a slow process at times with many ups and downs in the journey.

Where are We ?

I will leave you here to contemplate what I have stated. Think about it and try to understand where you are in life as a disciple of Jesus Christ. As you think, realize the following in your thought process of living as a Christian.

Now, in the Christian life the same stages of growth seem to apply for growing to Jesus Christ. People seeking to understand God and his plan come to a point of responding to the invitation to be born into God’s family. With the right nurturing (1 Peter 2:2), a newborn Christian becomes a spiritual infant. Jesus taught his early Kingdom converts and helped them grow into young disciples. He invited them to follow him and he would make them “fishers of men.” They had a time to learn and grow and begin to serve. Ultimately, as he was leaving this earth, he prepared his men for maturity by inviting them to remain in him.(John 15:7-8).These men went on to reproduce their lives and see many other new believers trust in Jesus and grow to maturity.

God’s Peace be with you,

Den Betts