A religion is by definition a set of beliefs in something beyond one’s self, usually in some kind of higher power, and includes a set of rules that govern behavior. A religion can be a belief in a god or gods, the universe, the environment, money, power itself or the great pumpkin if you like.
If you look at Christianity in that way, you could call it a religion as most of the world does, but they miss the point. When you take the teachings of Christ and the Bible and boil them down to a list of do’s and don’ts you do a disservice to them and to the God behind them. If all you have in your Christian faith is a sort of belief in a God who is out there somewhere and a list of rules, then you don’t even know what you are missing.
True Christianity is NOT a Religion, it’s a Relationship.
Having a relationship with the God who created you and everything around you is the whole point of the Bible.
From the very beginning of the Bible God was working on building a relationship with His creation. Sadly for us, there is one who is committed to destroying that relationship. Satan came into the garden and lied to Eve and she to Adam and God’s perfect relationship with His creation was torn apart. He has been working to reestablish that relationship ever since.
I don’t want to get into a study of Satan at this time, but I will leave you with what Jesus said about him in John 8:44 when arguing with those who could not believe Him.
You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
Satan is a deceiver and will do anything he can think of to keep you from the relationship God wants to have with you. His biggest lie is to make you think there is no way you can have a relationship with God, that you aren’t worthy or that God is just too busy to bother with someone like you. Even if you believe and go to church, Satan will whisper in your ear that you aren’t good enough to approach God. He will tell you that you cannot know God; He’s just too big and has other things to do.
“And besides,” Satan will whisper, “how can you have a relationship with someone who you can’t see or hear?”
One of Satan’s other big lies is getting you to not believe in him at all. If you don’t believe there is a Satan, then it’s much easier for him to work on you and drive you away from God.
I’ve given enough time and space to that old devil for now, just remember that he is real and he doesn’t want you to truly know God.
So here’s the question, how can you know God?
The answer is simple; you can know God by coming to know Jesus.
In the books of the law back in the Old Testament, those long boring books that you probably skip past when reading the Bible, (Numbers, Deuteronomy and Leviticus) God laid down rules for worship and for governing His people, rules that the Jews over the years added to again and again, until they were impossible to follow.
When Jesus came, things changed.
24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. 26 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. (KJV)
What that means is that we are no longer under laws that we cannot keep, Christ has come and we are under the New Covenant through Him and His work on the cross for us. The price of not keeping the law has been paid, paid by Jesus.
Jesus tells us why He came in Matthew 5:17.
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”
What He means by this is that He is the only one who has ever or could ever keep the law. Therefore the law is fulfilled in Him.
In the next verse Jesus tells us that…
“…until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.”
What does He mean by that?
For if the law is fulfilled in and through Christ, then why do we still have the law?
We have it to show us that we still need Christ. We cannot in this life keep all of the law and we need Jesus to forgive us when we mess up. The law will never leave us, until Christ returns at the end of the age. At that time we will all truly be one with Christ and He with us and the law will not be needed.
In the meantime, we can only try to do the best we can. And Jesus is there waiting and wanting to help us.
Jesus tells us something about our relationship with Him in John 15:15.
I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.
Jesus calls us friends and how can you be a friend to someone if you don’t have a relationship with that person?
That brings us to the question of what is a relationship?
A relationship is an association or connection between people, countries or businesses. And part of the relationship is communication between the parties in the relationship. They talk to each other. When parties are in a relationship, it can’t be one sided. It’s the same with a relationship with Jesus. It can’t be one sided.
Most people who call themselves Christians pray at least once in a while, but that just makes the relationship one sided. They are talking to God, through prayer, but they never stop to think they can hear God’s response to those prayers. They never try to let God speak to them, guide them or lead them.
A relationship is a two way street, a give and a take. To be in a real relationship both parties must be hearing from each other.
God hears us through our prayers, but how do we hear God?
God speaks to us in a variety of ways; through people we know, through songs, movies and through the Bible. And then there is that “still small voice” the Bible talks about. In my book, “Christ in My Life: Called to Wake the Churches” I talk about hearing from God and building a relationship with Him. The whole purpose of writing the book was to wake people up to the realities of God and His Christ, that the Bible and God, Jesus, heaven and hell, the devil and his demons are real.
So how do you start building a relationship with God, with Jesus?
You start by inviting Jesus into your life, by accepting His death on the cross as payment for your sins.
You start by asking Him to forgive you and then you repent of those sins and ask Him to help you overcome them.
You start by opening your mind to Christ and His word, by reading His word and letting Him speak to you out of it. The Bible is a living book, and God will speak to you through it, if you let Him.
I remember a story of a teacher lecturing his class on the foolishness of the Bible, how it’s all myth and hearsay. A Christian student in the class stood up and spoke in defense of the Bible, telling the teacher that the Bible was God’s love letter to His people. He ended his defense by telling the teacher that of course he couldn’t understand the Bible, he was reading someone else’s mail.
If you want to hear from God, if you want a real relationship with Him, then you have to be open to it.
Don’t fight the Bible and God’s word, let it wash over you. Allow Him to speak to you through it.
Read Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, then the book of Acts and so on. The more you open yourself up to God, the more you will understand what God is trying to tell you through His word.
Don’t forget about the Old Testament, for in that you will find God speaking through his prophets about Himself and His son Jesus to come. One third of the Bible is prophecy and most of that prophecy is about the coming of Jesus, His first coming and His second coming.
Before I opened myself up to God I never would have thought I could hear from Him. God was just out there somewhere, I could pray to Him, but I never knew I would or could hear back from Him.
But I have and I do hear from Him.
In that “still small voice,” in songs, in movies, in words spoken by others, in Bible verses that I know I have read many times, but suddenly see something new in. There are times when God speaks to me and to my wife in the things we find that please us.
One thing we like to do is go antiquing, we never know what we will find, and that is part of the fun of it. It’s an adventure of sorts. Many times we will find little things that please us or are just what we needed for that special place in our home. We both know when that happens it’s a little gift from God, a blessing if you will, a small way for Him to show us that He is pleased with us.
God speaks to us in so many ways if only we are open to hearing from Him.
There have been many times that we have prayed for things to work out or to be with us as we go into a meeting, or for help in some aspect of our lives and God has come through for us. That is also a way of His speaking to us. There have even been times when I just quickly ask for something, not even thinking I was praying and wham my prayer is answered before I even realized I was praying.
God is Good and He does hear prayers and answer them and He does speak to us in many ways.
This world is full of darkness, it seems that everywhere we look people are hurting each other or killing each other. We could solve most of the world’s problems if we could just open ourselves up to Christ and listen to Him when He speaks to us.
Sadly, that will never happen, not until Christ returns. Until that time God will not force Himself on us, we must come to Him and open ourselves up to His word. Jesus is waiting, knocking on the door, waiting for us to open it.
How I wish it could be true of us as Jesus prayed to His Father in John 17:11 “so that they may be one as we are one.”
The point of this whole exercise is this; you can have a real relationship with the Living God through Jesus Christ His Son, if only you will open yourself up to Him.