Live With Eternal Perspective Podcast Episode 025 Relationship or Religion
Welcome to the Terri Hitt – Live With Eternal Perspective Podcast
Episode #025 – Relationship or Religion?
Thank you for entrusting and investing your precious time with me to grow in Jesus together. I am blessed to be back with you today to discuss more ways to live with eternal perspective.
If you have listened to a few of my podcasts, you probably already know that I am not a cold weather person and you understand how much I love spring and summer! I am filled with absolute delight this time of year. I’m really not that fond of the color green, but I definitely adore seeing all the lush leaves on the full trees outside.
There are several plants in my kitchen, bringing in the feeling of being outdoors. Each one was specially chosen by a friend or family member who gifted it to me when I lost a loved one. I deeply appreciate the generosity of those who chose the special gifts, and it is nice to think of my loved ones when I see the plants, but I am absolutely not gifted with a green thumb. Watering my plants keeps them alive, but I don’t research the best care or do anything more than give them a drink them once every week or two. Because I don’t take the time to know and understand their needs, my poor plants merely survive, not thrive.
This parallels what happens to each of us if we forget we are supposed to have a relationship with God, not serve Him through the motions of religion. Our Heavenly Father intended for us to experience so much more than many of us know with Him. Jesus came so that we would have a rich and fulfilling connection and build a life of reliance on God. Jesus is our living model, our sacrifice who came that we can experience a rich and generous life of joy and peace.
John 10:10 says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
I don’t want to merely survive like my plants, but to flourish and prosper the way God intended when He sacrificed His life to set me free.
John 15:5 says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
Without a living connection to Jesus we wither and fade to a useless leaf ready to fall from the branch.
Have you ever been asked whether you are a religious person? A few times strangers have asked me that question after we meet and chat. I believe my answer surprises them. No, I tell them. I am not religious, but I do have a relationship with Jesus.
Through Him, I am able, just as we are all able, to remain connected to the Source. Despite the conditions of our life, we will be able to enjoy the beneficial fruits of joy and love when we abide in Him through relationship.
John 15:7-12 says, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be My disciples. As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you. Abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
The Lord wants us to have a reciprocal relationship with Him. His words must abide in us, His attitude and motives must abide in us because we abide in Him.
Next, He requires that we model and extend that relationship to others. Jesus does not desire relations with one person over another. He longs for deep connection with every single one of us. Jesus wants every one of His followers to be the image of Him, live out His word and ways, share Him, and influence others for Him. We plant the seeds in the garden as we allow Him to shine through, transform, and work through us. He brings forth the harvest.
Apart from Him, we can do nothing.
If we just carry a spiritual mindset or religious motives, we miss the benefits of growing a true relationship with Jesus as life-long, mature disciples of our Lord. We risk walking with only casual or lukewarm lifestyles, or as unbelievers. Jesus, through His deep and purposed love for us, desires that we experience abundant lives, rich in Him. The definition Jesus held of abundance and what our culture believes it to be are not the same.
The world preaches “self” or “abundance prosperity.” God word teaches us that He wants us to prosper, to have abundant lives. Abundance as defined by God would be hearts and souls tied to Him, drawing us nearer to Him, gaining fruits of the spirit and connecting us to Him in deep, supernatural ways through our body, mind, and spirit. Prosperity as this world craves is material-based through affluence, success, and wealth.
Jesus came to the earth in the lowliest of ways, and lived a life without worldly wealth. It is not His desire that we follow Him in order to live a life of ease, comfort, or wealth. He wants us to follow Him because we trust, believe, and love Him, and want to spend the rest of our lives getting to know and following Him. He warned us that in this world we would suffer persecution and we understand that there is no guarantee of happiness, but through Him, there is joy. Deep and lasting joy that comes through a purposed and growing relationship.
Let me add, there is nothing wrong with having wealth, but the sheer desire of money and the motivation to do anything to get it, forsaking the Lord, our family, or what God calls us to do is unbiblical.
A true relationship with the Lord is not dissimilar to what we attempt with those we love and care for here on earth. We desire closeness and connection, we long to be understood, and we want to feel needed and appreciated.
Those intimate connections and desires live within us because we were designed that way. God placed those needs inside us because He wants us to fill those longings with Him. He made us for relationship.
Instead, we often forget Him and strive to fulfill our fleshly, worldly wants, giving little thought to God. We also fail to connect the emptiness we feel inside or our longings to possess more junk to our casualness and lack of relation with Him. Our walk with the Lord then slides down the slippery slope of little more than traditional holiday rituals or an occasional thought or prayer for something we want. Sometimes our walk with God is nothing more than a hollow attempt at mindless communion during Sunday services with no other thought of or connection with Him until the next week.
We each also need to be careful not to fall into the trap of believing our attempts to do the “right” thing saves us. Simply moving through motions or checking off spiritual boxes on our mental to-do list will not give us a heart, mind, or spirit connection to the One who desires us above anything else.
Not one of us can ever be good or righteous enough. That is the deception of living a religious lifestyle. Jesus paid the price for us to reach God. Our personal relationship with God is sanctified through Jesus alone. Our lives are permanently altered and transformed through His sacrifice, life instructions for us through the Holy Bible, and the Holy Spirit deposited inside us when we accept Him as our personal Savior and life mentor.
When we do not understand the simplicity of God’s plan, it can cause us to thoughtlessly recite prayers or do actions that we believe make us appear holier. It can cause us to strive to do more performance-based activities for Him instead of finding and following the life mission He has specifically and intimately purposed for us. When we yield to Him and allow Him to transform and complete us, He will direct our lives and enable us to experience true freedom and joy as we mature through Him.
A religious lifestyle mentality cripples our growth and understanding of God. Our Heavenly Father created us for relationship with Him. He is personal. He is intimate. He desires that we seek Him above all else.
Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
Galatians 1:10 says, “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
Simply going to church or being active in church or being kind to others does not make us a Christian. A changed heart through the sacrifice of Jesus and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that continues to transform us moment by moment as we yield to Him secures our eternal future.
Matthew 7:21-23 says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”
We must desire and intentionally pursue true relationship with God through Jesus in order to live with Him in eternity. God desires a deep, authentic relationship with us. He sees into our heart and understands our motives far better than we do. Without Him we are broken and incomplete.
With Him, our hearts and minds are miraculously transformed. Have you seen the changes He has made on your life? In your thoughts? In your actions? If not, please begin to analyze your life, your desires, your motives, actions, and words. When the Holy Spirit indwells a person, change is inevitable as we yield to Him.
Religion is defined as a set of beliefs concerning the purpose of the universe, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs. It is also described as a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects of a specific organization such as the Christian religion or the body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices. It is also defined as the practice of religious beliefs or ritual observances of faith.
Relationship is an emotional connection.
Can we have a personal bond with our Heavenly Father through the observance and accomplishments of religion? Of course. Is our heart penetrated and our walk with the Lord strengthened through Jesus through the observance of religion? Maybe. Not necessarily.
Relationship with God through Jesus is certain. The Bible tells us so.
John 14:6 says, “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Relationship through Jesus is the key to heaven and life.
John 1:18 says, “No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.”
Relationship is heart-based. God wants our heart, then He will transform the rest as we allow His work to continue in us.
The battle between relationship versus religion may be one of the biggest hurdles non-believers face as they watch Christians to see if they can view a glimpse of Christ in us. Why?
1. When they see Christians attack other Christians.
2. When they feel attacked by Christians.
3. When they do not see a difference in the way we live.
4. When they sense that we are judging them.
5. When they feel like we only preach to them.
Non-believers need followers of Jesus to stop following religion and reveal the relationship.
1. They need to see and believe that Christians can get along.
2. They need to feel safe around us.
3. They need to see a difference in the way we live (that matches what we say).
4. They need to feel that we accept them as valuable humans, even if we do not have the same beliefs.
5. They need to hear our words surrounded by love in action.
When we fail to know Jesus through relationship, we cannot show Him with truth and love.
Each of us have undoubtedly made mistakes in trying to show or share Jesus. The more time we spend in His word, in private time reflecting on and studying His word, in speaking to Him and listening for His words to us, in walking through obedience, and in serving others how He calls us to, we are better equipped to reflect and shine Him in a broken and dark world of people looking for what Jesus offers.
Isaiah 41:10 says, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
Psalms 46:1-3 says, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.”
As we ponder the differences between relationship versus religion, and the universal benefits of lavishing knowing Jesus through time invested in our relationship, let us consider this verse from 2 Corinthians 9:6, which says, “But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.”
In a world where none of us wish to reap sparingly, let us exhibit the difference between religion and relationship. May we intentionally sow for a bountiful return in and through Christ. Many on this earth are hurting, seeking relief from pain, anxiety, betrayal, and loss. They are in search of love, friendship, companionship, understanding, and much more. May we purpose that our lives be so rich in the abundance of Christ that others linger to learn more of what is within us because they cannot pass Him by.
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