Monday, September 19, 2016

Relationship or Religion. . .

It happened once too often and now you must be subject to my rant against those who insist upon contrasting relationship (good) with religion (bad).
  • Jesus did not come to start a religion but to have a relationship with you.  
  • Christianity isn't a religion but a relationship with Jesus.  
  • Jesus is my savior [or insert favorite other word) not my religion.  
  • God hates religion but would love a relationship with you.
  • Being a Christian does not mean being religious but having a relationship with Jesus.
  • Christ does not offer redemption to the religious but to those who want a relationship with Him.
  • I am not religious but I have a relationship with Jesus.
  • Jesus is all about relationship and not about religion.
  • I gave up a religion in order to have a relationship with God... et al...
Let me say it up front.  You have a relationship with Jesus whether you want to or not.  It may be a bad relationship (the one framed by sin in which you stand in need of redemption and under the destiny of mortal and everlasting death) or a good one (baptized, believing, regular in worship and prayer, and active in witness and service).  The point is that you do not have to want Jesus to be in a relationship with Him.  You already are and on judgment day you will discover that relationship -- though it will not necessarily turn out good for you.

Jesus does not want to simply have a relationship with you.   We banter about this term relationship like it is the end all.  On Facebook we proudly announce that we are "in a relationship."  Jesus does not want to be in a relationship with you that you can turn on and turn off like you do friendships and romances (or hook ups).

What is so wrong about saying religion?  We are by nature religious people (even religious about being against religion).  We invent religions to take the place of the true religion.  We borrow from religion in search of a personal deity and an individual religion that fits just us.  Why not admit that there are true religions and false ones and Jesus is the author of the one and only TRUE religion?

Jesus is not content with a mere relationship.  He wants us to know, believe, and confess doctrine -- the doctrine of the Scriptures that does not change and is once forever.  Religion is about doctrine and truth and no relationship substitutes for knowing the truth and confessing the doctrine of the Scriptures.  Jesus did not come to establish individual relationships but to establish His Church, His body, of which we are member members or parts.  Scripture does not describe us individually as priests but as a royal priesthood.  Faith is neither invented by the individual or defined by the individual.  We enter into the faith and become numbered among the faithful by baptism.  This baptism does not inaugurate a relationship but kills the old sinful man, dead in trespasses and sin already, and raises us up a new person in Christ Jesus, created for good works.

Sometimes I think I will scream the next time somebody writes or says "I am not religious but I do have a relationship with Jesus."  Really?  Jesus did not become incarnate, suffer, die, and on the third day rise so that you too might have a good relationship.  You were dead in trespasses and sin, claimed for the grave, without hope or the possibility of anything better until God the Father sent forth His Son born of the Virgin by the power of the Spirit to cover us with His righteousness, die in our place on the cross, and rise to bestow upon us new and everlasting life beyond our imagination.  He gives us these gifts through means of grace that transcend thought and desire and present us with grace and mercy in concrete and unmistakable forms.  Now you live in Him by grace through faith that must be fed and nourished in the weekly gathering on the Lord's day, in the Lord's house, around the Word and Table of the Lord.  If that is not religion, I don't know what is!

So bear me the pious platitudes about religion being bad and relationship being good.  It is a smokescreen of words that dissipates into the air as fast as smoke and leaves nothing behind except the momentary scent of what once was.  That ain't enough for me.  I need real truth, real doctrine, real living water, real absolution, real body and real blood in and with the bread and wine.  I don't need a relationship.  I need a Savior and a Lord who will count me as His own unworthy though I am and will address me through His Word and feed me with His own flesh and blood or I will surely be lost forevermore.  Christianity is not only religion but good religion and the only one in which the words deliver what they speak.  Anybody can claim a relationship with anybody but I want a religion in which Christ has claimed me from death and marked me for everlasting life by the power of His blood that cleanses me from all sin.

BTW I am not in a relationship.  I am married. 


ErnestO said...

I have no patience with "contrasting relationship (good) with religion (bad)." Being a layperson of little intellect and eloquence I would offer the following as better articulating my thoughts than my own words:

The end is determined by the beginning. Our salvation is secure to the end because our salvation was predestined in the very beginning to be completed.
We’ve all had to deal with the fact that while we have volition, and we have choice, ultimately it is not independent of God.
How could God ever be called “unjust” for choosing to save some, because there are none who deserve to be saved?
Know this text, 2 Thessalonians 2:13. 2 Thessalonians 2:13. Paul again says to the Thessalonians, “We should always give thanks to God for you.” You don’t thank the person for being smart enough to come to Jesus, you thank God. “We should always give thanks to God for you, brethren, beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.”
John F. MacArthur

John Joseph Flanagan said...

How many bitter arguments take place over words these days? I agree with the writer...."religion" is an accurate description of Christianity, a body of beliefs. Oh...some people like to make the word "religion" appear to be a perjorative and negative thing, too stifling, too formal and not quite accurate to describe our special body of beliefs centered upon Christ, Our Lord and Savior. They have it wrong. The word "religion" is fine, and it describes our faith, what it is, just like politics, economics, and other terms are used. This verse in scripture comes to mind. "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction and keep oneself unspotted from the world."