Religion Over God
I know your heart. It’s a sacred thing.
And you’re a comedian.
You hide behind your funny face.
Every time. Every time.
For those of you who listen at all to Kathleen Edwards you know these lyrics well. But I think for all of us, no matter our music preferences, we know these words. Maybe not as lyrics, maybe not to a certain tune, but we live out their meaning every day. We smile, we laugh, we respond to all the other lives being lived around us, and we forget that our heart is a sacred thing.
Our hearts aren’t sacred because its a poetical phrase to say but because our God created us — intricately and specifically. Where our soul ends up for eternity is one of the most important questions we will ever need to answer.
More important than where we go to college.
More important than that pass or fail question on our exam.
More important than saying yes to a proposal from our favorite man.
More important than who we are friends with or where we choose to move — where our soul will live is a greater question than all these.
So let’s talk for a minute about religion.
No! you say, Please nothing about religion or politics!
Well, we will leave the politics out, but now we’re taking off on a topic of pursuing religion as we end our third and final discussion on pursuit.
Ready to go?
When I was a teenager, in high school and effortlessly taking in the world around me, a very prominent question situated itself at the front of my thoughts: What is the difference between being a moral person and being a religious one?
For me, there was no difference, though I should have known better.
I had the privilege of growing up in what is termed the “Bible Belt of America.” Living on the West Coast of the Mitten, aka Michigan, Christian bookstores and churches are pretty much on every street corner. Christian music festivals are definitely a part of the culture here as well: Unity and Big Ticket being two of the more notable. Missionaries such as Don Richardson (author of Peace Child), Jim and Roni Bowers (If God Should Choose), and others were all present in my family’s home at one time or another.
Somehow in the midst of all these Christ-focused activities, I lost sight of who is the center of these activities — Jesus Christ.
I started pursuing religion, you could even call it morality, almost as a hobby. The numerous events I engaged in were all positive, mostly Christian activities but I was not focused on the one aspect that differentiates religion from morality.
This one aspect is what I want to focus on.
When we think of living religiously versus living morally, what comes to mind? I don’t think I need to give examples as most of us have at least a short list of what we think should be on our dos and don’ts list.
The key here is quite simple: a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Notice I didn’t say a knowledge about Jesus Christ.
Several months ago one of the youth pastors I’d had in high school was preaching and gave an example on this from his days at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. He was in a store downtown just killing some time and ran into the popular singer/actor Justin Timberlake. Now Cal (my youth pastor) knew a lot about Justin Timberlake. He knew his songs, the different verses and the lyrics, and maybe even his birthday. However, if later that day he’d shown up at his house and said “Hey, Justin! What’s up want to hang out?” Justin Timberlake probably would have called the police and had Cal escorted off his property. Why? Because these two men had no relationship.
On a much grander scale, it is the same with Jesus. We can research Him through Scripture and systematized books on the Scripture. We can go to church to glean facts about His life, death, and His resurrection. We can attend small groups and talk about all He seems to be doing in people’s lives around us. But until we know Him, until we have a relationship with this God who formed us in our mother’s womb, we do not truly “know” Him.
The Psalms portray a very clear example of King David’s relationship with our powerful God.
He “hungers” for God (Psalm 63).
Above all else, He desires to know God (Psalm 73).
David chooses God (Psalm 16).
He literally cries out to God when he is afraid, knowing God is his shield (Psalm 3).
He praises God for creating him exactly how he has been crafted (Psalm 139).
This does not represent our knowledge of famous celebrities, but rather an intimate knowledge and reliance on someone who stands in the parent or close friend role in our lives. When we go to God we have no fear that He will turn us away saying He doesn’t know us because we’ve talked to Him before. We’ve cried our worries out to Him in the night and rejoiced in His salvation of our souls during the day. We know He is for us and that He will never leave us alone.
Because of this we go to Him.
But before we go to Him on these occasions and truly enter into close intimacy with Him we must first have the relationship with Him.
But how do we get this? Its very simple and summed up in one word: Gospel.
Until we believe the Gospel, accept it and act on it we cannot have the relationship with God that we were created for.
So what’s the Gospel?
We can’t do it (Ephesians 2:8).
Jesus did it for us (Romans 3:25).
We are only changed in and through Him (Acts 17:28).
Maybe we understood this at 3 years old. Maybe we finally got it at 13. Maybe we’re 30 and still don’t understand. But wherever we’re at in this journey called life, if we accept this today we’re guaranteed that close relationship with Jesus Christ.
Pursuing religion is a waste of time. Unless you want to look like a moral person, showing up in church every week, on Easter and Christmas, and maybe sometimes working at that mission near your house is pointless. Yes, you might look good but who in the world really cares? We’re all broken, messed up people and we’d have to be lying to ourselves to not admit this.
Living in relationship with Jesus Christ is what we were created for. Experiencing His love in our lives everyday is what should get us going every day. This morning I put my feet on the floor because Jesus rose from the dead and therefore I have Someone to live for — Someone greater than myself.
Pursuing religion will lead us to ultimate failure.
Realizing our failure will show us our ultimate need for Jesus’ success.
We all need to let Him save and change us.
So what do we want? To realize our failure and never change, or to realize our failure and embrace Jesus’ salvation?
The choice is yours.