News and Views
RELIGION OR RELATIONSHIP?
Thursday, September 06, 2012
Religion is defined as, "a belief in God or gods; a system of worship and faith; a formalized expression of belief." in Webster's Canadian Dictionary. The atheistic religious humanism, upon which our present secular culture is based, regards all religions as equal constructs of human thinking.
Another idea which I have read or heard in a number of places says, "Religion is humans searching for God, but Christianity is God's search for humans." This is based on the fact that God created us to be His companions, and when we chose to rebel against Him, He continued to love us so much that God the Son came to earth as Jesus to live, to die as the sacrifice for our disdain for God, and to rise again as proof of His identity and a promise that we, too, will rise again to eternal life.
To the extent that we think of Christianity as a religion, we may fall into the trap of thinking the recognition of the truth of Christianity is sufficient, but James states in 2:19, "You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe--and shudder." James makes it clear that our faith must be lived out, as he says earlier in verse 18, "Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do." Compare this statement of James with Paul's statement in Ephesians 2:8-9, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast." From the above, it is clear that Christianity is more than recognition of the truth of its beliefs, but a life-changing experience which must be lived out. The living out, the good deeds, the works, flow from the changed life of faith.
This brings me to one of my favourite quotes from one of my favourite pastors (with whom I was privileged to have lunch in Victoria a couple weeks ago) who says, "Christianity is not a religion; it is a relationship." Relationship is the key. God created us to live in relationship with Him. Jesus came to restore our relationship with God, Father and Son and Holy Spirit. When we accept that Jesus Christ died in our place and accept Him as Saviour, Lord, and Friend, we come into a personal relationship with Him and through Him with God. Then the Holy Spirit comes to live within the God-shaped vacuum within us to love us, to teach and guide us, to empower us, to bring us joy.
We find great joy and delight in being in the company of the family and friends with whom we have good, mutually loving relationships. We can have our greatest joy and delight in our mutually loving relationship with God through Christ as we seek to know Him better and better. God is so great, so wonderful, majestic, magnificent, so far beyond us, that we will keep learning more and more about Him through all eternity, but we can dwell in His loving presence here and now. It is out of our loving relationship with Him that we recognize that in His love for us He both knows and wants what is best for us, so we naturally respond by seeking to align our wills with His will, by seeking to let Him change and guide our attitudes and actions. The good Christians do is loving response to God's love and goodness, and rightly grows out of relationship. The healthiest, happiest life that a human being can live grows out of a loving, obedient relationship with God through Jesus Christ, a relationship which will continue to grow and get better and better through all eternity. May this be true in each of our lives.
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