Religion vs. Relationship

By Paula Wheeler

I love it when I get to church, after wishing I could stay on the couch or just hang out at home, and it’s something I REALLY needed to hear and more importantly to learn. It’s like you know the enemy is on the prowl trying to get you to stay home so the truth won’t be revealed, but you obey the Lord instead and in the process you are blessed beyond what you ever could have been by laying on the couch. That’s what happened to me yesterday. I fell asleep when I got home from dance around 3:00 pm and it took everything I had to pull myself out of bed at 5:30 pm to wipe the sleepies out of my eyes to get ready for church. I kept telling myself “I NEED rest because my body is so worn down!”

I am so glad that I went to church!

Eric started teaching and within the first or second sentence it was like “Yep, this is why I am here – I need this right now!” We were in Luke 6:1-19. He was talking about having a religion with God versus a relationship with God. He said “When we have a religion that is separate from a relationship with God, it’s a very selfish, self-righteous ACT.” In this passage of Luke the Pharisees were wondering doing what he called sin sniffing. They were looking and anticipating for Jesus to “mess up” so they could expose His sin and find a purpose to crucify Him. Have you ever done this, or is it just me? No, not the part about trying to have someone put to death, but looking to expose THEIR sin? There are times with certain people in my life that I just want to know the scoop on them. What evil thing they are up to now or any dirt I can find out on them. This leads to me being appalled of what their lives have become. Yes, I JUST confessed that – UGH! I am in sin when I do this. It tends to consume me and it takes away from the time I should be doing more important things like, oh let’s just use the example – being in God’s word to know that this is CLEARLY sin! It’s ugly and there is no use for it. It doesn’t edify that other person or group of people. It breaks them down and ultimately I am looking for a way to destroy them.

Pastor Eric then confronted the church and asked if when we discover that someone is in sin, do we confront them in love and humility, or do we spread it around like gossip? Do we automatically start judging them? I started thinking that it is harder to confront someone about sin than gossiping about them to someone else. It’s so easy to bring up someone’s “issue” in a prayer request or as just being “concerned” for their well being as I talk (i.e. gossip) to my circle of friends and family. This has sin all over it! SIN, SIN, SIN! Just thinking about it makes me want to go scrub it from my hands with soap and hot water! It’s gross. If we care (and even when we don’t care so much) for another human being, but we have our religion, we have missed what God intended and that is LOVE! A man by the last name of Hughes (sorry, I didn’t write fast enough to get his first name) said “God omitted is evil committed”. WOW! Did you read that – “GOD omitted is  evil committed”  To me that means that when I take God out of the picture or the circumstance I am committing evil. There is one situation in my life right now that I can’t just go to this person and confront them. So, what should I do? In this situation I believe I am to pray! I believe that the worst thing I can do it gossip about it.

If Jesus (perfect in every way) took the time to get away from the people and this the things of this world to pray to His Father, how much more important should it be to me, unperfect sinner, to spend time in prayer? I shouldn’t wait until my world comes crashing down to seek my Father in prayer.

There is so much more to be said about this passage of scripture but I have to tell you what happened next. I left church on a high! The Holy Spirit really spoke to me last night and I was so thankful to have been there, but what is the use of learning something if you don’t put it into practice – like right away?!It’s like all of those stupid word problems from elementary math…why do we learn those in elementary school? You don’t get to practice them until later in life. So, you guessed it – God wasn’t letting me off this easy. He wanted me to learn something here. I was confronted with what I was just taught. Would I participate? How am I going to get out of this one? Ok, what did I JUST learn? Time to put it into action. Only by God’s grace, I did it – I didn’t participate in this gossip circle. It was so hard. I wanted to know the scoop. In fact, I wanted to be the person to know the dirt first and be like “Oooo look at me!” But my desire to glorify God was much deeper. DISCLAIMER- I know that I will continue to struggle in this, but I also know that it comes God’s mercy – one at a time. This is what I know 1 John 4:20-21 (from The Message) says “If anyone boasts, “I love God,” and goes right on hating his brother or sister, thinking nothing of it, he is a liar. If he won’t love the person he can see, how can he love the God he can’t see? The command we have from Christ is blunt: Loving God includes loving people. You’ve got to love both.”

I love the part that says “Loving God includes loving people. You’ve got to love BOTH!”

Some questions I have to ask myself include:
Do I add “rules” and layers to the commandments God has given when “sin sniffing” on others?
Do I have a religion but not a relationship with God. What is boils down to is am I playing church and overlooking the relationship that Christ called me to?
Does He speak clearly to me through His Word and am I choosing to listen?
Am I loving in humility? This is what I expect from others, right?

Is your religion more important to you than your relationship with God and others?

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