Written by His Grace,

Kevin K. OíConnor 

Aug. 20, 2004

 

Main thought: to explore the contrasts between religion and Relationship

 

Religion or Relationship?

 

Main Entry: 1re∑li∑gious http://www.m-w.com/images/audio.gif
Pronunciation: ri-'li-j&s
Function: adjective
Etymology: Middle English, from Old French religieus, from Latin religiosus, from religio
1 : relating to or manifesting faithful devotion to an acknowledged ultimate reality or deity <a religious person> <religious attitudes>
2 : of, relating to, or devoted to religious beliefs or observances
3 a : scrupulously and conscientiously faithful b : FERVENT, ZEALOUS
- re∑li∑gious∑ly adverb
- re∑li∑gious∑ness noun

 

To love, truly love, involves our whole heart and not just a piece of it. Anyone can be religious, but not anyone can love. To love from an unselfish heart takes a death of pride that must accompany it. And, seeing that weíre all born into sin and its selfish ways, itís easy for us to be zealous or fervent to anything that may help us satisfy our own selfish lusts. James 4:1-10 1What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? 2You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. 3When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. 4You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. 5Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely?[1] 6But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."[2] 7Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. It seems that we have perfected the art of being religious for the sake of appearing to be something that weíre not on the inside. It seems that many times we would allow our lives to be burned at the stake to protect our self made appearance of holiness rather than to allow our pride to be yielded to the One from Whom we all exist. Sometimes, we tend to be more fervent in service when itís for the purpose of trying to earn our righteousness rather than to accept the fact that our righteousness is but filthy rags; Isaiah 64:6 6 All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. Itís not the quantity of religious devotion God is looking for, but quality. That which springs out of a heart of gratitude for what Christ has done and to accept the fact that not one reward in heaven will be due to our own acts of so-called righteousness but will be given due to our response to what Christ has done.This is why those in glory will so easily be able to cast their crowns at the feet from Whom all things exist; Revelation 4:9-11 9Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, 10the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: 11"You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being." So, itís easy for us to be religious (fervent or zealous in whatever we believe), but if that fervor or zeal is not springing from a heart of Love and Gratitude for what Christ has done and Who He is, than itís wasted energy. Love, Godís Love, is the most important reason for being. Our hearts need to unite with this incredible, self-sacrificing, Love. The more of our hearts we have to give to Him, the more of this incredible Love we may experience within ourselves. The problem is that we end up giving our hearts to the cares and concerns of this life or to others or to our service to Him and end up having nothing to give to Him of ourselves. I love this verse in Proverbs; Proverbs 4:23 23 Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Those who give away their hearts to others before they commit their hearts to their spouse have practically nothing to give. Itís the same with our relationship with God. We get so consumed with our activities of service to Him or to others or the cares of this life and totally miss the most incredible existence of all time and eternity and that is a Loving, Intimate walk with the creator of ALL THINGS! Blessed are those who are rich in intimacy with Him even though they may be poor in their activities of service to Him. The measuring stick God is going to use to measure out His rewards, is the not the quantities of our service, but the depths of our intimacy with Christ our King! Their will be many there who have laid down their life for the poor, given away all of their possessions to help others, protected the earth and its occupants from many disasters but the bottom line will be ďHow have you loved my Son?Ē Then again, there will be those that the world didnít even notice who will shine brilliantly in the presence of God and His creation because their hearts will be full of the Love of Christ in intimacy with Him. Many truths of scripture require intimacy with Him to look below the surface and to see the heart of what He is saying, but, concerning the most important thing that any living creature can do, He spoke plainly; Matthew 22:36-3836"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" 37Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'[1] 38This is the first and greatest commandment. Many people are aiming their hearts at the outer rings of the bullís eye of the target of our existence, like the second commandment to love others as ourselves, or to give our possessions to the poor, or whatever. But just like a hub on a bicycle tire, if the hub is centered, all of the spokes are balanced and the tire runs smoothly. In the same way, if we truly focus our hearts on loving Him with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, than all of the spokes of our fruits will take their proper place around that most important state of being and relationship. Wobbly tires are those whose emphasis is not on the hub but on one of those outlying spokes. God help us to get our hearts and eyes off of ourselves, our works, His revelations to us, His Blessings of health, wealth, or whatever, and may ever teach us how to love him as Job of old whose heart was centered on the hub when he said; Job 13:1515Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him. Job hit the bullís eye dead center, Our Faith not our feelings should govern our walk with Him and though He may choose to allow our lives to be filled with sickness, disease or what have you, To God Be the Glory! So, itís very possible for us to be very religious (fervent or zealous in whatever we believe) but we may not all be able to love. Oh we can find ourselves wanting to be close to someone because we find our needs met while weíre with them, but that is not the love that stands the test of time. The love that rides the waves of time and trials is not based upon our physical, financial, emotional, or egotistical needs being met. It is based upon the character of Who God Is, not what He can do for us. Those who live for tomorrow or eternity with Christ will find themselves full to overflowing with more than they could ever imagine, Those who in this life focus on today and this life will find themselves very lacking in the day of rewards.

 

Heavenly Father, teach us how to be passionate for Your Son to fill every part of our being not because of what You can do for us, but because of Who You Are. Unto Your Glory, Honor, and Praise in Christ our King, Amen.

 

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